Posts in Category: art show


My sketchbook is a part of “SKETCHBOOK. An exhibition of artist’s books” at the 33 Contemporary Gallery in the Zhou B Art Center in Chicago. The exhibit opens tomorrow on Sept. 15 and runs through October 14, 2017. My sketchbook with the hand painted turquoise green and gold cover (middle sketchbook pictured below) includes a selection of random sketches, art journal pages and color studies created over the past three years. Keeping a sketchbook is such an integral part of my creative process, but I rarely share them. My sketchbook is the “behind the scenes” place where so many of my paintings and other creative activities are generated. 


SKETCHBOOK, NXT Level Projects, 33 Contemporary Chicago, IL

What does it mean to live free?

“Harmony Shift” and “Flourishing In the Darkness” at Art Sail Clear Lake, IA July 2017

Dear Creative Friends,

Over the last days and weeks I’ve been revisiting my “WHY?”

Why do I paint?

Why do I feel the deep need to create?

Why do I share my art?

Why do I love to inspire you to create?”

While it is not out of the ordinary for me to go back to these fundamental questions, I’m well aware that this latest bout of deep thinking has intensified since I’ve been faced with deciding on a title for an upcoming art show at the Ankeny Art Center in October. Over the winter my goal was to concentrate on painting, but now I’m at the stage of stepping back and looking at this body of work and pondering such things as “Is there a cohesive theme here?” and “What are the common threads?”

The reoccurring thought that hasn’t let me go was the word “FREE”.

Close Up of “Unraveled Fears” painting to be featured at Ankeny Art Center show October, 2017.

What does it look like to paint free?

What does it look like to freely live an abundant creative life?

What does it feel like to live and walk in internal freedom?

What does it mean to live free?

I hope I’m never done exploring the answers to these questions. I hope I revisit them over and over again coming to deeper conclusions and convictions. But, for now, I’m acknowledging that this, too, is a journey and I don’t need to have all the answers today.

What I do know is that I long to continue to say yes to my creative freedom, to say yes to painting freely from that which is within me waiting to come out in line and color, and to say yes to living my life free to make choices that are healthy for me.

I’m also keenly aware that the the contrasting side to this journey involves simultaneously exploring the things that stop me from living and freely creating with passion. It is within this juxtaposition that we live as humans-this is where the juice is…the messy middle as we each walk our pathways toward freedom.

With Passion,


Mark your Calendars now: Please join us for FREE: Pathways Toward Freedom, a solo art show by Melynda Van Zee at the Ankeny Art Center

1520 SW Ordnance Rd, Ankeny, IA, October 3- November 29, 2017. Artist Reception Thursday, October 12 5:00-7:00 pm.


Collaborative Painting for Paintpushers "Collision" Show  36 x 36 Acrylic on Canvas Artists Chris Vance & Melynda Van Zee © 2016

Collaborative Painting for Paintpushers “Collision” Show
36 x 36
Acrylic on Canvas
Artists Chris Vance & Melynda Van Zee © 2016

Dear Creative Heart,

Over the past few months I’ve been working on a collaborative painting for our yearly Paint pushers show. I attend a monthly critique group with artists from the central Iowa area and once a year we create an art show together. The goal for the show this year was to pair two artists together to collaborate together to create a 36 x 36 piece of art. Each individual artist was also to paint 3 10 x 10 pieces of work to hang alongside of the collaborative piece so that viewers could see the individual styles. We could also create individual smaller works to be hung on walls with the work of all contributing artists blended together.

First layers on collaborative painting

First layers on collaborative painting

At our monthly meeting in April we drew names out of a hat to decide which artists would be paired together for a collaborative work. I drew the name of artist Chris Vance and we began the collaborative process this fall. Chris typically paints on wood panels so he provided me with the 36 x 36 wood panel and I began the piece by laying down line work with polymer medium. I added a thin glaze of fluid acrylics in turquoise and golden yellow colors and then made myself stop and turn the painting back over to him.

In the middle of the collaborative painting process...

In the middle of the collaborative painting process…

After he finished his first layers, we traded the piece again and I set to work adding multiple layers of translucent fluid acrylics. When finished with my layers, I gave the piece back to Chris to add the final details.

Collaborative painting by Chris Vance and Melynda Van Zee  10 x 10 paintings on the left by Chris Vance 10 x 10 paintings on the right by Melynda Van Zee

Collaborative painting by Chris Vance and Melynda Van Zee
10 x 10 paintings on the left by Chris Vance
10 x 10 paintings on the right by Melynda Van Zee

Friends- Collaboration can be a very useful tool for your work. To let someone else interact with your work while it is being created…to give up control…to release a specific outcome…to not know the final direction…to interact with changes as you go…to wrestle with variety of techniques or art supplies…to face the challenge of colors or vision for a piece…to work with someone else who is not you with different viewpoints, skills, technique, ideas…this is the world we live in. Working together makes us stronger, brings new energy, stretches our flexibility muscles, teaches us new skills, and helps us to see our work in new ways. Collaboration may not be without anxiety or frustration. It will probably push us out of comfort zone. But, I encourage you to look for opportunities to collaborate in your world. If we as creative individuals are going to face the challenges put before us in this generation, we are going to need the skills to collaborate with a wide variety of individuals across our cultural landscape.

With Passion,


“Collision”, a Paintpushers collaborative showcase, hangs from now through Jan. 2 at the Des Moines Social Club with purchases made possible through the Viaduct Gallery.

“Collision”, a Paintpushers collaborative showcase, hangs from now through Jan. 2 at the Des Moines Social Club with purchases made possible through the Viaduct Gallery.


Monster Walleye & Unwinding

Dear Creative Heart,

I’m sending out this letter a couple of days later in the month than I usually write. We just got back from our summer vacation.

This is what I did on my summer vacation…

Monster Walleye Ontario, Canada June 2016

Monster Walleye
Ontario, Canada
June 2016

Yes, we fish. We go to a beautiful cabin by lake in Canada and fish. Fish for “monster walleye” as my boys like to say. What you see here is me with one of my monster walleyes (I caught a few and a nice big pike too). Check out that huge fish in my hand and my big smile of accomplishment, but what I want to point out is what you don’t see in this photo…

What you don’t see is all the hard work to get to this point…all the steps involved in getting this smiling photo with a big fish from a fishing trip…

  1. Schedule: There is the rearranging of the schedule-the saying “No” to some really great things to carve a space for a family trip with the boys.
  2. Time: There is never a “perfect time” to go but putting time on the calendar and committing-there were sacrifices for all of us to be able to set this time away to go and sacrifices for those who prepare for our arrival.
  3. Logistics: Travel, gas, groceries, passports, cleaning out the van
  4. Gear: Rods, reels, heavier fishing line, nets, jig heads, minnow bucket, cold gear, gloves, sweatshirts, life jackets, tackle boxes, trips to Bass Pro and Fleet & Farm, Canadian fishing licenses, live minnows, sunglasses, bug spray, sunblock
  5. In the Boat: Actually getting in the boat-gathering all that equipment, putting on all the cold/wet gear, grabbing the poles and tackle, walking to the dock and getting in the boat (rather than a nap or card game or leisurely breakfast-which we did too:)
  6. Fishing: So many ways this process gets complicated-getting minnows out of the bucket and actually on the hook (rather than swimming in the bottom of the boat!), tying jig heads on line again (getting harder to see that minuscule hole to put the line through), wet socks/shoes, underwater rocks/sticks, poor casting (possibly due to a bad reel-time for a new one!), boat motor issues, bad weather cropping up
  7. A complete circle-all the planning, scheduling, gathering supplies, actual time with pole in the water fishing, persistence amidst obstacles, and then the goal…pole in water, sunshine gleaming off the rocks and waterfalls, shouts of “Fish On”, fish in net and then in the hand, laughter, sharing the catch and the fun.
Unwinding 24 x 48 Acrylic on Canvas Melynda Van Zee © 2016

24 x 48
Acrylic on Canvas
Melynda Van Zee © 2016

And so it is with creativity and making…

When someone walks into my art booth and admires a finished work, they don’t necessarily grasp all the steps required for that piece to hang before their eyes. One of the most frequent questions I get asked is “How long does it take you to finish a painting like that?” That is an extremely difficult question for artists to answer. How do you account for all the of the labor involved in each piece from conception, beginning sketches, gathering supplies, multiple layers of paint and dry time, to stopping and starting and analyzing along the way, to finishing details like final layers of isolation coat, painting sides black, two protective coats of varnish, titles, and hanging wires? How do you factor in the care and feeding of the artist-emotionally, physically, spiritually? What about the sacrifices of others who help and support our creative processes? (Not only did my grandparents teach me to fish as a child, but they also helped me order my first paintbrushes from an art catalog). All of these tasks and steps are hidden inside each of the paintings on the wall and behind each snapshot of a smiling fisherman with a prize fish in hand.

Dear Creative Heart-don’t underestimate the system of tasks and steps that support your creativity. Dedicate time to finding your own “monster walleye” and please share the big smile with us all.