With any form of artistic expression, the importance of daily practice promotes the mastering of techniques. The practice of creating a Painting a Day, which was introduced by artist Duane Keiser in 2004, for the purpose of selling his work through an Internet blog, has led to a movement of artists who thrive in this discipline.
The Peninsula School of Art in Fish Creek, Wisconsin approached Shelby Keefe and asked her if she would be willing to participate in this 30 paintings, 30 days challenge, and Shelby jumped at the opportunity.
Looking at the pieces of art in these collections, some artists prefer to do a series of a single subject while others simply put their brush to canvas and create whatever inspires them on a particular day. As for our Artist-in-Residence, Shelby Keefe, she’s looking for your help for inspiration.
This is where you come in.
From now until September 19, Shelby is looking to her fans for visual inspiration. Her approach is to paint the figure in an urban landscape but she needs some extra photos to choose from.
The theme here is “People in Urban Landscapes.” So please try and follow the following criteria.
People focused yet in an urban setting – Being figurative, the people are the subject but they will not be painted in any detail with no telling identifiers. (ie people walking down the street, people talking at an intersection, or people enjoy coffee on a cafe patio)
Urban Landscape – Looking at Shelby’s previous work, you can see the talent she has in painting urban architecture. So see if you photo can include some buildings or city skyline in the background.
Please do not submit photos of posed people in front of landmarks or backgrounds. The people aren’t the direct focus, they are just part of a whole.
So send in your pictures and help provide some inspiration to Shelby and as a thank you, if she selects one of your photos to paint, she’ll also provide a digital print that you can have as a keepsake.
Shelby Keefe put on quite the show on Gallery Night on Friday, July 29 at the Pfister Hotel.
With a great display of a few of her current pieces and a live performance of a completed piece in 20 minutes to the tunes of a local jam band, Shelby put on quite a show.
From the Pfister Narrator: “I meet Deena who says, with the feathers in her hair catching the colors from the stage lights: “She has a way of looking at reality that is so colorful, with such an elegant spin.” And, in one sentence, she captures the entire night: a colorful reality with an elegant spin.”
While the evening was waning for most of Gallery Night attendees in the Third Ward — and elsewhere around the city — in the main ballroom off the Pfister lobby, Rouge, the party was just beginning. In the center of the room, quite literally taking main stage, was a set-up ready for a rockstar. Elevated dais, multi-colored lights on metal scaffolding, a screen to the left featured a close-up of the canvas and easel standing center and a screen to the right featured a close-up of a paint palette. The canvas center stage was awash in colors – shaded in diagonals, melting into one another, from the left corner down to the bottom right.
The contrast was striking: flashy, rainbow-colored lighting in this techno-savvy art presentation vs. crystal chandeliers, huge mirrors and gilded edging around the room where the ceiling meets the walls. It was old meets new in spectacular fashion.
A woman steps up onto the stage and people, many with wine glasses or beer bottles and plates of appetizers, all hush as they turn to face the stage. Even those looking at the paintings hung on the back wall turned around to pay attention to what was about to happen. The woman was slender with bobbed blonde hair and dressed in all black – cropped pants, comfy black sandals; a collared shirt, and loose vest swaying with her movements. It was clear she wasn’t dressed to be the main attraction, though she was the reason everyone was here – even the band, set up to the side of the room adjacent to a dance floor where some people sat so they could have a clear view of the stage.
Shelby Keefe, the current Artist-in-Residence at the Pfister Hotel, announces what she’s going to do: For the next twenty minutes, she’s going to paint, to music, an entire scene on the canvas set up for this purpose. She’s never painted this scene before and is using a photograph to work from. A computer screen offstage left is set up with a counter on it – 20:00. Shelby introduces the band: the Mali Blues Group, and begins.
20 minutes to go.
Initially she starts out painting white, and then teal, circular strokes in the upper left corner of the canvas. Less than four minutes in and she remembers to put on her painting smock. More color – browns and tans, followed by black lines with reading glasses at the ends – no, wait, not reading glasses: it’s a streetlamp! The painting is coming to life and it feels like Pictionary while everyone buzzes to their neighbor about what they think they are seeing.
The band grooves away on their instruments: a drum set and guitar with African percussion and a wooden, stringed instrument called a kamelon ngoni. Their “One Love” banners are draped on either side of the stage, at their feet, and the love is definitely in the air as several people move to the dance floor.
Shelby bobs to the beats and rhythms put out by the band, while her hands move floridly with such smooth, practiced motions that the effect is as incongruous as patting your head and rubbing your belly at the same time.
12 minutes left on the clock.
Buildings are taking shape. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but this Milwaukee streetscape is being built in less than 20 minutes. Now half a dozen dancers are on the floor, sashaying and spinning. Shelby glances at the photograph in her hand as she swashbuckles paint onto the canvas.
9 minutes remain.
A dancer whips her ponytail around while lifting her knees high to the beat of the percussion, her Chaco-clad feet are barely on the ground for any length of time as the music picks up. There are several pairs of bare feet and one guy is even in socks.
The tension has been building, the music matches the pacing, more dancers arrive, and the painting is really coming together now. There’s a clear depiction of flowers in purples and pinks, and a distinct red canopy that is clearly the Wisconsin Avenue entrance of the Pfister.
As the timer ends and the music winds down, the grand final flourishes are applied to the painting and the room is filled with applause. Shelby takes a moment to thank everyone, and says “I’ll be out there dancing!” and when off she goes to the floor, the party goes with her.
Back at the bar on the other side of the room, I meet Deena who says, with the feathers in her hair catching the colors from the stage lights: “She has a way of looking at reality that is so colorful, with such an elegant spin.” And, in one sentence, she captures the entire night: a colorful reality with an elegant spin.
Recently, I got to sit down and have a thoroughly engaging conversation with several people about the nature of art and creative economy, of how to meld creative non-profit ventures with for-profit results – as it pertains to the artist (and now writer) residencies that the Pfister hosts.
One of the things that came up in conversation was how things like the Pfister Artist-in-Residence program offer a chance for the public to get a look at the process of art creation: of how a painting comes together, or what inspires a sketch, and they can watch this process happen in real-time. This discovery of an artist in a public space strips away the intimidation non-artists generally feel when face-to-face with a completed work of art. As someone whose other job is hosting authors in public events where that exact stripping away occurs—bringing readers out of the intimidating space of a book’s interior and into a conversation with its creator—I know that this can be revealing, insightful, educational, or even inspiring.
However, unless you happen to be someone watching me make conversation while sitting at the lobby bar or standing in a hallway, you don’t get to see me actually create my art. The process for these blog posts is virtually invisible. So, as I struggled with the writing of a post, and bore out some conversation with writer friends about writer’s block, I realized that this was an opportunity to do just that: let you see into my process.
Just as each artist-in-residence here has had their own individual process in creating their unique paintings, so the different writers for the blog posts will have different approaches. This is, essentially, mine.
First, I simply spend time at the Pfister Hotel. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:
Make conversation with the employees, get a finger on the pulse and mood of the day.
Write down some notes (Uni-ball Jetstream pen, 0.7, black ink). Snap a photo (Olympus Stylus 770SW or smartphone).
Check out the happenings sheet at the concierge desk, see what’s going on in the ballrooms, up at Blu or over at Mason Street Grill.
Wander. Take notes on sights, smells, colors, sounds, etc.
Sit somewhere. Eat something. Drink something. Eavesdrop.
Catch someone’s eye, gauge responsiveness. If positive, engage in friendly conversation.
Scribble in notebook (red Moleskine, hardcover, lined).
Usually, at some point during the above list, something will have a light shone on it. Whether it’s a story a pianist shares, sounds I heard on a quiet Sunday night, a conversation with two out-of-town businessmen, or a morning in the Café – it’s really about drawing the lines, and connecting the dots, to create a story arc. So, what happens when those hours of time or pages of notes don’t seem to spawn anything? What then?
A writer friend replied to a recent complaint of mine about “writer’s block” by saying “Not. You’re just busy writing the wrong thing in the wrong forum.” Of course, what he meant is that as writers we sometimes get stuck staring at blankness, not feeling as though we have anything to say, despite having plenty to say. It’s a reminder that sometimes a writer simply needs to step away from the material and the delivery system, and try something different. It’s often about simply getting the juices flowing.
So, I will…
…drink my favorite coffee and nosh on mini peanut butter cups (fuel).
…read something else. Or lots of something elses: last week I read three whole books and finished a fourth.
…watch funny videos about kittens scared of apples, or upcoming indie movie trailers.
…call my mother.
…take Vito for a long walk through Lake Park or around the East Side.
Eventually I sit back down, upload the photos I took, stare at my notebook, flip through some pages, until something jumps out at me. I then like to write straight through, and prefer to not do too many drafts or major revisions. I put in links as I write, and add photos where they seem to fit the narrative. One thing is for certain: I’m never short of good material.
When a post is done being composed, I prefer to have a particular friend of mine read it. He points out simple mistakes, like grammar or punctuation, but also offers style observations and even corrects major errors (like one post where I—who knows how this got jumbled up—said that Shaq was retiring from the Chicago Bulls), while still giving the much-needed affirmations and compliments.
Then, up it goes, onto the blog.
It gets posted on Facebook, and tweeted on Twitter.
A copy is saved in a separate file for future archival use.
I close the computer, stand up, stretch, and…go do something else.
Floating around the room, dressed in white linen, her red curls a striking contrast to the layers of turquoise, jade and green crystal beads that encircle her neck and dangle from her ears. She slices pieces from two birthday cakes, after being serenaded by a gallery full of friends, new and old. Melodee, a masseuse and administrator for a healing arts education center, is in town visiting one of her best friends, who also happens to be the Pfister’s Artist-in-Residence, Shelby Keefe. Originally from Milwaukee, Melodee moved to Tucson four years ago to pursue a new life with her “beloved.” Everything about her is light and airy, yet warm and bright. Her hands gesture with careful deliberation, and everyone gravitates towards her when she laughs.
People like this tend to be a magnet for creative people, and the circles of artistic creativity have certainly overlapped tonight. For example, one of Melodee’s friends, the evening’s self-appointed photographer, Sandy, decided to invite another artist friend to tonight’s celebration in the Pfister’s artist-in-residence studio. What Sandy didn’t know was that this young artist was also already friends with Shelby, the evening’s hostess!
Tia and I sat in one of the high-backed wrought iron chairs with their animal print cushions, eating cake and talking about art. A former student of Milwaukee High School of the Arts, Tia was always a “drawer” but her dad, a painter and visual engineer, took her on as a student and encouraged, mentored, and inspired her, to become a more versatile artist. Though his creativity comes out in his engineering work, he most “lives vicariously” through her, she says. Her work, as she went on to college and participated in more art shows and honed her craft, is expressed in a variety of mediums: oils and acrylics, colored pencil, watercolors, even wearable art (though she primarily creates her jewelry for herself, not for sale). While not her favorite medium, Tia really likes an interesting technique known as “gouache.” She describes it as being workable and good for layering, like watercolor, but more substantive, like acrylics.
Drawn to the impressionists, Tia’s art displays a flair for magical realism combined with a strong nod to her ancestral background as a young African American woman. Her website features some incredibly moving portraits of black women in native dress, tribal patterns and color, together in dance, or celebrating children and family. There are some more impressionistic-inspired watercolors where the men and women in them are nearly in silhouette, but bathed in, and surrounded by, so much color. There are works that lend an air of “magical realism,” like the one where a woman’s streaming hair is adorned in flowers, pearls, and then the sun and moon. After the ones of African women bonding together, my favorites are a set of commissioned works that depict jazz artists and blues jams – you can practically hear the scatting, bass-thumping, and complementary audience murmur. I want to be inside these pieces.
As we talked at Melodee’s party about art in the community, Tia told me about the teaching she does in classrooms, after-school programs and Boys & Girls Clubs. As part of her art classes and talks, she incorporates “talking circles” to help her connect to the kids, and for the kids to learn how to better connect to themselves and each other. Tia says she doesn’t see a line between her artist self and her everyday self, and wants to help others be their authentic selves, too. Seeing her work makes it clear how actively true this principle is for her, as her art celebrates circles, connection, a “coming together” of friends and family. The peaceful joy that radiates from her person is the same joy that comes alive in her paintings and drawings – a joy expressed in movement, song and radiant, brilliant colors!
Who knows, perhaps Tia will apply for the next Artist-in-Residence year and you will get a chance to see her vibrantly joyous, inspiring work as it develops and grows. I know Shelby’s encouraging her to throw her paintbrush in the ring, so to speak.
Start and end your night at The Pfister. During our Gallery Night reception on July 29 at 9pm, for sale enjoy live music and dancing, complimentary snacks and a cash bar all while watching a painting performance by Shelby Keefe.
The weather in Milwaukee was (briefly) exquisite this week. Temperatures soared into the low 60’s, the breezes indicated Spring was finally here with their combination of warmth and lakeside coolness, and the sun was brightly shining. Perfection. The daffodils and tulips are in full bloom on, what feels like, every city block. In front of the Pfister’s Wisconsin Avenue entrance, tall, brightly colored pink and yellow tulips are ringed in the low, black, decorative iron that mark the corners of the sidewalk garden boxes. All of this belied the clouds that were moving in, ever so slowly, threatening rain.
It is 4pm inside the hotel and the Pfister’s current artist-in-residence, Shelby Keefe, is about to give a tour* of the Victorian art collection that adorns the public spaces. Starting from her studio, located just off the lobby, between the Pfister Cafe and Mason Street Grill, Shelby grabs the two tools of her tour: a slim paperback guide featuring a gilded frame on the cover and the words ‘The Pfister Art Collection,’ and a heavy-duty silver flashlight.
She starts off, right away, talking about how she dug out an old art history textbook from college in order to gain a refreshed perspective on the various styles and artists on display. One of the first things Shelby shares is her realization that while the majority of the art collected by Charles Pfister comes from the 19th century and is mostly from the classical romanticists, the realists and a fair number from the Barbizon, Millet schools – the impressionists were very active in those same years. By her own description, she is a “contemporary impressionistic painter,” and also a fan of much of the art being produced today that is very different from her own. “A reminder,” she says, “that it’s always been true that artists are not all doing the same thing at the same time.”
Popping from one painting to another, Shelby wields her flashlight like an enormous lecturer’s pointer, illuminating specific parts of paintings which beg her emphasis: the shell being held up to a beautiful woman’s ear in Lenoir’s The Shell (about which a young girl once inquired “Is she holding a cell phone?”); the flirtatious gentleman in L’Eternelle Pomme d’Eve, which hangs over the check-in desk, by Georges Achille-Fould; the gauzy lace dripping from the dress sleeves of Adolphe Piot’s The Rose; how the dress on Clairin’s Dancer practically undulates (“I love how he lets the paint do the work”); or, the ‘Roma’ notation beneath a painter’s signature indicating he had studied in Italy (something which 19th-century painters would tout as a sign of their artistic respectability).
It’s remarkable what else is illuminated in this adjustable circle of light. A painting by Eugene Fromentin, a Frenchman who painted in the “spirit and manner” of the Dutch, simply titled The Cows, instantly springs to the beautiful russet, deep green, and yellow shades of a field and stream on a perfect fall day. The colors are muted in the mood-lighting, but they appear like magic when lit up directly. The same thing happens with Louis Aston Knight’s gorgeous The Poppy Field, Daniel Ridgway Knight’s (no relation) The Rose Garden, and most spectacularly, Chianti by E. Giachi. This last one, features a serving woman being charmed by, or perhaps doing the charming of, a young gentleman with splendid white, floppy hat while two portly men doze drunkenly in the background. A large cask is set off to the right, a stone wall straw litters the ground where thatch-bottomed jugs are spread. It may not sound like a particularly colorful tableau, but the detail is astoundingly vibrant: golden threads, teal tights, pale green sheen on a wooden bench – each detail simply glows.
The tour wound its way to the seventh floor, where the ballrooms are located. A wedding and a school’s anniversary gala were both set and the halls were beginning to swell with guests. A young lady in layers of elegant, chiffon powder blue ruffles eased by, followed soon after by a suited man carrying a little blond girl wearing a sateen dress in bright fuchsia while groomsmen swam together, upstream, in their rose-red ties. Between the art and the events, every shade of every color of the rainbow was painted on the air tonight.
Later, a wander up to the aptly-colorfully-named Blu for a listen to Dr. Hollander’s delightful and charming piano playing results in a glass of the evening’s featured red wine: a velvety soft Domaine du Sac from nearby Wollersheim Winery. Two ladies sit at one of the window-side tables, admiring the view, pointing out landmarks, and sipping from aquamarine cocktails. Suddenly, they pull out cameras and wildly gesture from one side of the vista to the other. The rain had cleared some time ago, though the clouds had rendered the horizon a steel-grey, and a rainbow had appeared, stretching across the sky.
*Tours of the Pfister’s Victorian art collection are given by Shelby Keefe on Fridays and Saturdays, from 4 to 5pm.
Well it’s Meet ‘n Greet Monday! While the Pfister Hotel has housed many celebrities over the years, viagra the true stars are our staff. Every week you will meet a member of our staff, and have your chance to share your memories and interactions with them. Today, case it’s the man who tickles the ivory, Perry, one of our Lobby Lounge Pianists.
Name – Perry
Position – Pianist
How long have you worked at the Pfister Hotel? – 14 years, unhealthy since 1997.
Why do you like working at the Pfister Hotel? – The Lobby Lounge has the best atmosphere, friendly people, whats not to like?
What’s your favorite Pfister memory? – When I first started, Mr. Ben Marcus would stop by the piano, just to say hello.
Tell us something we don’t know about you? – From about 1978 until 1988, I was playing Theatre Pipe Organ in Pizza Restaurants in Chicago and Milwaukee.
What is the oddest/weirdest request that you have ever gotten from a guest? – One late night in the Lobby Lounge, the bartender had stepped out for a moment, and a woman who had obviously been enjoying her beverages that evening, sat right down next to me with an odd request. She asked, “Hey, you, can you stop playing and make me a drink?”
Thank you Perry for being a participant on Meet ‘n Greet Monday.
Have you met Perry before? Tell us a story about meeting him. Thank you so much for being fans of the Pfister Hotel, and look forward to a new person to meet every Monday.
Shelby Keefe put on quite the show on Gallery Night on Friday, here April 15 at the Pfister Hotel.
With a great display of a few of her current pieces and a live performance of a completed piece in 20 minutes on her first Gallery Night, buy viagra we are in for a treat this year with Shelby Keefe as our current Artist-in-Residence.
Listen in to hear about her approach and the culmination of her first Gallery Night as the new Artist-in-residence.