Sunday, 21 September 2014

Returning to My Hometown- Dividing Creek

It is great because I have an aunt and cousins who live in my hometown.  During this visit I was keen to go down and visit them, but also walk around the little town of Dividing Creek, NJ.  This is really something that I never did.  I went on bike rides but never just walked through town.  I really didn´t have much to do with town except for going to church and driving through to get out of town.  It was always a 20 to 30 minute ride to get anywhere worth getting to.  Now after being away for over 20 years, I had a real urge to go home, not just to my parents house which they moved to 10 years ago, but to my hometown.

I parked the car at my aunt's house and my cousin armed me with bug spray because she was sure I would be eaten alive.  I set off with my camera, sketchbook, and a bottle of water.  Those nasty green eyed stinging flies known as green-heads to South Jersey locals, were bouncing off of me like crazy... I thought I ought to invest money in this bug spray company because they weren't biting.  I wandered around the town trying to remember who lived where and was in awe of the condition of some of the buildings and more so of the fact that they were still standing.  Some places were abandoned when I was a kid.

I took lots of photos of natural scenes and some of groupings of houses and buildings.  I had painted the Dividing Creek bridge as a child.  Later I took photos of signs on the bridge and made a painting while living in Leipzig, Germany.  That was also a time when I was feeling quite like reestablishing a connection to home.  I found the spot where I must have made those photos from before.  The signs have since changed but the message was still the same- condemning anyone for stopping or standing, swimming or fishing, and now you couldn't even use bad language!  I remember when these signs eliminated any signs of life on every bridge in town.  I am sure the mayor at the time, who owned one of the boat renting crabbing businesses, saw the weekend crabbers on the bridges more as a business loss than a traffic hindrance.

I crossed the Dividing Creek bridge and headed down to Dragston Road where the house that I grew up in is now the home of the neighbor's daughter.  Most things looked the same but some things seemed completely different.  I left her and her parents postcards in their mailboxes.  Mainly to say hi, but also to let them know that I was the weirdo that was taking pictures of their houses.  A few cars suspiciously slowed down as they passed me standing along the road with my camera.  Snapping photos while walking along small town roads seemed to make many people uneasy.  I was lucky to be carrying postcards for recently past exhibitions in order to explain that I was a painter looking for inspiration for sketches and paintings.

Up until now, I have not looked through the photos I took on that walk through my hometown.  Shame it was just about impossible to even think about standing still let alone sit and sketch with all those bugs.  Another cousin I met on this walk spoke wisely when he said that the folks who live there can't wish away the bugs or they would be chased out by tourists and fancy resorts.  The bugs are the sole reason for people not to come in and turn the place into a sort of popular fishing and crabbing resort, if there is such a thing.  I hope to use some of the locations in paintings that visually introduce the beginnings of an odd narrative or romantically depict the ordinary.  I thought a lot about the local artists who visit these small towns regularly to paint or make photographs.  I thought it would be interesting to try and meet a few.  So that is just what I did.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Visiting Artist Teachers from My Youth

Judy and Me

Before taking off to New Jersey, USA for a family visit, I made a list of things I wanted to see and do in order to make the most of my time.

One of the things on my list was to contact two art teachers that helped me grow as a person as well as an artist.  The first day of my stay I decided to call Judy Scull, my high school art teacher.  I had not seen her for several years.  We had become friends on Facebook so she knew about my new paintings.  I was excited to tell her all about my plans while visiting and the preparation of new ideas.  Her and her husband had my son and me over for lunch the next day.  It was such a nice time.  We saw their art collection and pond, my son played with their dogs, and we had a chance to catch up on who's doing what from my high school class mates!

I knew that I wanted to also get in touch with Elsie Donaghay, the art teacher that I took private lessons with as a child as well.  One day I stopped by her house.  She was out doing yard work and I was so glad that she recognized me.  We hadn't been in contact for about 15 years.  She still gives lessons at her house which is still the wonderful place that I remember.  She told stories about me to my son when I was his age painting in her studio.  It was great to see her again and be able to spend some time with her.

Elsie and Me
  I am looking forward to seeing them both again when I go home at Christmas.

I was happy to see that the press release about my June exhibition had finally been posted in my hometown local paper.  I had tried for two previous shows.  I wanted to surprise my parents, let people back home know that I was painting and exhibiting again, and acknowledge Judy and Elsie for all their support.  I think that also writing about visiting my former teachers on this trip became the neighborhood connection that helped get it published for the June exhibition.

Vineland Daily Journal, July 30, 2014

Monday, 23 June 2014

The Closing Reception Opened New Exhibition Possiblilities

Visitors at the Westbesuch 2014 in front Westwerk- Plagwitz, Leipzig

The "Meta-Triptychs" closing reception was a great success.  Hundreds of people poured into the Webervogel from 11 AM to 9 PM.  They made their way back to Catherine Chalk's newly opened weaving factory during their stroll through the Westbesuch event or were purposefully seeking out the lady who is bringing the textile industry back to Leipzig's cultural centre- Plagwitz.  Having my paintings exhibited there during this event was perfect.  So many people came and saw the work.  It was wonderful to talk to them and hear their reactions to the work.  Some shared their interpretations, opinions and even memories that the images conjured up.

 It was amazing how the flow of people followed a constant pattern.  It seemed there would be five walking in and then they would be followed by 20 or 30 rushing behind.  This went on all day.  After 6 PM the reception started and many that I invited came to celebrate with me. 

 The best part was speaking with people about exhibition possibilities later this year.  One in a language school, one in a soon to be opening arts centre outside Leipzig, and one in an art gallery in Plagwitz, Leipzig.  I was excited with the first, by the third I just wanted to jump for joy!  It has been a long time working without showing.  This has been such a great year so far.

The success of this show, the reaction to my work, and three exhibition proposals make my trip home to America so much more exciting.  I have already been planning ideas for new paintings and trying to figure out all the studies I would like to do while back in the States.  Now there is a new surge of energy making me want to take full advantage of my stay.  What stories can I tell, which locations and people can I include, what small details can I hide around the corners or behind the trees.  The beaches and shore spots are on my list.  Philadelphia, Jersey City or Hoboken, a trip to Rutgers in New Brunswick, a ride around my home town of Dividing Creek, I can not wait to get out, sketch and record places that I can use in the paintings.  I want to get in touch with my former art teachers to go out sketching and talk to them about my new work and plans for the next pieces.

I need to do more research on Edward Hopper.  Several people have mentioned his work while looking at mine.  The Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC has the largest collection of his paintings and drawings.  I want to go study his painted surfaces and the brush techniques that are not apparent in reproductions or online.  I want to note his use of light and dark and the soft edges of the forms.  I read that he had his first break at the age of 42, so perhaps this shows it is not too late for me.  It has been quite intense over the

 (Many thanks go out to a dear friend for the photos & videos.)

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Writing a Press Release for "Meta-triptychs"

I decided to try again to have an exhibition written about in my home-town paper.  I will let you know how it goes this time.


STEVE LEWIS art exhibition, "Meta-Triptychs"

Organized by: Webervogel
Exhibition at : Karl-Heine-Str. 93b (Westwerk)
  Leipzig, Germany

June 5 - 25,  2014
Opening Times:  9:00 AM-5:00 PM weekdays
Reception: June 21, 2014
Opening Times:  6:00-9:00 PM

In Leipzig, Germany on June 21, 2014 the Reception of "Meta-Triptychs" by Steve Lewis will be held at Webervogel from 6-9PM.

Steve Lewis, who was born and raised in Dividing Creek, New Jersey and now resides in Leipzig, has been invited to exhibit paintings during the grand opening of a new weaving factory in the art district of Leipzig, which was formerly known for the textile industry in East Germany.   Lewis first moved to Leipzig in 1994 after graduating from Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University.  He was under the tutorage of Judy Scull at Bridgeton High until he graduated in 1990 and studied oil painting with Elsie Donaghay in Cedarville as a child.  The show opened on June 5 and runs until June 25.

Lewis had been invited to display his work after previously exhibiting three paintings in a 24 hour group exhibition in April called "Optimaler Schnitt." The paintings are the first of a series of what he is calling meta-triptychs.  Each painted composition focuses on 3 visual elements or narratives within one scene. The paintings are planned in a manner whereby the viewer feels as though they are part of the environment or could easily imagine stepping into the scene – where they become part of the narrative for that moment and begin to contemplate what to do next.

More information can be found at:

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Reflecting on the Year After the Artist Teacher Workshop

Back in May 2013, for professional development, the Leipzig International School sent me on a course called "Artist Teacher Workshop" at La Vigna Art Studios in Pisa, Italy.  The course was designed and run by Heather McReynolds, an IB Visual Arts Examiner.  The main focus of the workshop was to rejuvenate the artist within art teachers and help them realize the benefits of being an artist teacher who teaches by example in the classroom.  The course was wonderful.  Heather was so inspiring, encouraging, and generous with her knowledge.  It has changed how I see myself as a teacher but more importantly it has made me realize I need to rediscover myself as an artist.

After returning to LIS and starting the school year of 2013/14, I thought about ways of making good on the professional development and keeping the energy felt while on the workshop alive.  How could making art more regularly help my students?  My grade 11 IB Art class has been a great encouragement.  By meeting their deadlines for critiques and sketchbook entries I was able to grow artistically along with the group and lead by example.  Grade 9 IGCSE used my new work to practice written analysis and we traded linoleum prints.  I collaboratively worked with grade 10 and 12 students on their ideas and created work that demonstrated possible solutions.  I even attended drawing classes with a few grade 12 IB Art students.  Becoming an artist teacher has been very positive in the classroom.

The blog I started,, allows me to record the steps taken to stay artistically productive and to share images of the art works when they are completed.  Producing my own art again has been vital to me feeling complete and has strengthened my teaching.  The highlights of the year have been working on a series of new paintings exhibited at a 24 hour group exhibition called Optimaler Schnitt in April and exhibiting  at Webervogel and Linguarama in June.  I can not thank LIS enough for supporting me as a teacher and valuing me as an artist.  This year, I have undergone a great transformation and I am looking forward to being an artist teacher next year, sharing all the benefits that may come in and outside the classroom.

Exhibition view at Webervogel, Leipzig.  Running June 5 - 25, 2014

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Searching for the Next Show Opportunity

Since taking down the Optimal Schnitt show in April, I have been trying to sort out the next show.  It was so important to have that deadline.  I searched on for open calls to artists.  I was pleased to discover an opportunity right here in Leipzig!

The Kunst Kraft Werk (Art Power Station) had an open call for exhibitions to start in 2015.  The deadline was on May 1st.  I worked the week after Easter holidays on the proposal.  It was great to get the CV ready and concentrate on thinking about a site specific exhibition for the KKW.  The factory is at the moments being cleared out and will be renovated to house the art exhibition space.
My proposal for the KKW was similar to the work described for the “Optimaler Schnitt” exhibition but on a grand scale.  I proposed to immediately visit the space in order to experience first hand the remnants of its past, hopefully before the renovation process is completed.  By visually documenting the building’s halls, passageways, dark corners, both interior and exterior via photographic means as well as sketches and quick paintings, I would hope to realize the essence of the space.  I desire inspiration from its vacant obsoleteness for still moments that can be explored visually in a series of painted meta-triptychs.  I can imagine work that is specific to the space in terms of scale and rendered form.  A series of paintings focusing on three narratives where we see lonely explorers in the abandoned space, figures overcome and “swallowed into” the “rough atmosphere” of the space, and figures triumphantly revitalizing their environment.  These paintings exhibited within the very same space would allow the viewer to see past its renovated version and experience its former neglected period consumed by time’s natural decay.

I was excited after coming across the KKW Open Call 2015 on because of it possibly being the next step forward in terms of my current transition from art teacher to artist-teacher and establishing myself as an artist.  I feel a strong symbolic connection between the transformation of the former power plant into an experimental factory for art and my own artistic development.  This blog,, presents the journey I began last June at the Artist-Teacher-Workshop in Pisa.  I saw an exhibition at the KKW as an opportunity to not only display my work, but metaphorically express my transformation via visual images inspired by the power plant, all of which would have been documented through postings on the blog.  The process of making the work would have become part of the art itself.  Links to updates could have been added to the KKW site during the production of studies through to the completion of the artwork that would have been exhibited.

To encourage other art teachers to rejuvenate their own artistic endeavours, I would have offered an artist talk and workshops.  I envisioned giving an informative artist talk open to the public about my work and also share my personal experiences about the value of becoming an artist-teacher.  I also proposed a separate series of workshops that would allow for art teachers to jump-start their own art making in and outside the classroom. This could have initiated further programs for local art teachers. Helping them redefine their position to that of the artist guiding students by example is the first step to them rediscovering their own artistic self and fulfilling their creative desires.
Applicants were notified about the decisions on May 15th.  Unfortunately my application was not one of those accepted.  There were over 300 applications for only 6 spots in the year.  14 applicants were selected to take part in the 2015 calendar.  The experience of getting the proposal together and sent off was great.  It also forced me to get my CV and Artist Biography up to date.  I am ready for the next application. 

Friday, 11 April 2014

Writing a Press Release for my Home Town Paper

 I thought it would be nice to let the folks at home know what was going on as well.  I wrote to the The Daily Journal, the local paper where I grew up, and asked if they might be interested.  I got a response and was told to send more information and a picture.  I can't wait for my father to come across this as he is reading the morning paper!  I have not told him about it yet so please don't ruin the surprise!

24 Hour Show:  Optimal Cut

Organized by: GallerieRieRiemann,
Exhibition at : 88 Hermann-Liebmann St.,
  Leipzig, Germany

April 12, 2014
Opening Times:  24 hours, Midnight to Midnight

This coming Friday is set-up day for a 24 hour group art exhibition in Leipzig, Germany.  The title of the show is Optimaler Schnitt (or Optimal Cut).  Steve Lewis, who was born and raised in Dividing Creek, New Jersey and now resides in Leipzig, is one of the artists who has been invited to participate.  Lewis first moved to Leipzig in 1994 after graduating from Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University.  He was under the tutorage of Judy Scull at Bridgeton High until he graduated in 1990 and studied oil painting with Elsie Donaghay in Cedarville as a child.  The show opens on Saturday, April 12th, 2014.  The exhibition officially runs for 24 hours from midnight to midnight.

Lewis has been allocated a space to display his new paintings, which he began to paint in early February.  The paintings are the first of a series of what he is calling meta-triptychs. Each of these paintings include 3 narratives within one scene. The compositions are arranged in a manner whereby the viewer feels as though they are part of the environment or could easily imaging stepping into the scene – where they become part of the narrative for that moment and begin to contemplate what to do next.

The exhibition will be held in a 5 story apartment building which was last inhabited probably 5 to 10 years ago.  The rooms still look as they did when they were occupied.  The room Lewis selected seems to have been last used as a baby's room (the wallpaper design and growth marks on the door frame are evidence).  The three paintings that he has completed for this show have images of children that are central to one of the narratives depicted in each scene.

More information can be found at:

In Between Time, oil on canvas, 75x160 cm, 2014.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Getting Ready for the "Optimaler Schnitt" Exhibition

Since February I have been working on 4 paintings for the "Optimaler Schnitt" exhibition.  This coming Friday is set-up day and then the show opens on Saturday, April 12th.  The exhibition officially runs for 24 hours from midnight to midnight.  I am happy to have finished 3 of the 4 works so far.  I knew that the space I had been allocated would hold 3 paintings nicely and this was the target I wanted to reach.

The exhibition will be held in a 5 story apartment building which was last inhabited probably 5 to 10 years ago.  The rooms still look as they did when they were occupied.  The room I selected seems to have been last used as a baby's room (the wallpaper design and growth marks on the door frame tipped me off).  It is interesting to think that the child who slept there is now maybe 10 years old.  The three paintings that I have completed for this show have images of children that are central to one of the narratives depicted in each scene.

These paintings are to be the first of a series of what I am calling meta-triptychs.  I came up with this idea after reading about metamodernism and the Notes on Metamodernism by Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van den Akker.  Each of these paintings presents a single scene in which 3 narratives are playing out, all of which are in a state of flux.  The composition may also be arranged in a manner whereby the viewer feels as though they are part of the environment or could easily imaging stepping into the scene – where they become part of the narrative for that moment and begin to contemplate what to do next.

I am really looking forward to this 24 hour show.  It will be the first time exhibiting since I attended the Artist Teacher Workshop and the first time showing my new work with the meta-triptychs.  I hope the show is successful.  That being said, no matter how it goes on Saturday, completing at least 3 new works means that for me it has already been a success!

In Between Time, oil on canvas, 75x160 cm, 2014.

Liberty, oil on canvas, 160x145 cm, 2014.

His GTO, the Raccoon, and You, oil on canvas, 105x160 cm, 2014.

Exhibition space, room 409, awaiting installation.
Exhibition Poster.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Meeting Students at my Studio

Months ago I came across an advertisement for a weekly PBS Digital Studios production hosted by curator Sarah Green that would be run on Youtube.  It is called The Art Assignment.  I subscribed and had been waiting for the first program to be aired.  In February my gr. 11 art class and I decided to do a variation of the suggested assignment called Meeting in the Middle which was suggested by Christopher Robbins and Douglas Paulson.

Rather than meeting in the middle, we decided to meet at my studio.  I had not had a group of my students there for quite some time.  There was no sense in visiting it when there was no work being made.  As suggested, we set a time, the place, and developed an idea of how to document the journey and/or visit.  The students were excited because they had asked about visiting my studio before.  I was happy to try out using The Art Assignment.

I decided to take photos of the students in the studio and to add their documentations to this blog.  The snap shots are very quick and simple but a record of the event.  The students seemed to also use photos and videos to record their journey.

The students got there pretty much on time and I had coffee, sodas, and chocolate waiting for them.  They wandered around a bit and were keen to know the meanings of particular paintings and different techniques used.  I was surprised at a few of the students' reactions when they saw my work.  One student said it was discouraging to think that her work was not as good and two other students wanted to try to figure out a way to make me famous, which I am very interested in of course!  I began this school year by letting this group know that I would try to make work in line with their deadlines and they have been supportive in my creative efforts, so it was nice to have them over to see the new and old work at my studio. 

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Preparing for the "Optimaler Schnitt" Exhibition

Soon after completing my masters and moving back to Leipzig, Germany , I was fortunate to stumble across an amazing event one evening in the summer of 2001.  It was a GallerieRieRiemann 24-Hour-Exhibition titled "Sieben" (Seven) due to it being the seventh event.  Artists were invited to exhibit artwork that explored the topic "Sieben."  There were so many people and different types of art.  A collection of video projections, paintings, installations, films, and performances were on display in and around an empty building, that was formally a printing company, from 0:00 to 23:59.  I was so excited that I could not wait to find out if there would be another one and how I could take part.

Last Sunday I attended the introductory meeting of the  16th edition of the 24-Hour-Exhibition.  I was so excited to hear there was another one planned because the last one was 4 years ago and I was not able to take part.  While at the meeting, which was actually sort of a pot luck breakfast that went from noon to evening, I was asked by one of the organizers how many times I participated in the exhibitions.  I was surprised to recall that I was actually in 6 of the 8 that I could have possibly signed up for.

The title of the next exhibition is "Optimaler Schnitt" (Optimal Cut).  I must propose my idea for work to exhibit.  It should be new work that goes along with the titling theme.  I have had several discussions with my students in gr.11, my family, and friends about how I could interpret this theme.  It is amazing how some things just come together.  I immediately felt that the current transition of art teacher to artist-teacher and establishing myself as an artist was metaphor that truly expressed the theme.  This blog and the series of posts since October seemed to be screaming "Optimaler Schnitt!"  Therefore this 24 hour exhibition should become the first exhibition of new work produced under this new mindset.  It will be the first exhibition since attending the Artist-Teacher Workshop in Pisa.  It has given me a deadline.  April 12th at 0:00 a collection of work needs to be completed and on display!

The  "Optimaler Schnitt" seems to be a break or a change in the flow of a normal event; where a surprise or something unexpected takes place.  The paintings that I am planning are of frozen moments where the viewer is visually invited to become part of the scene or situation.

I am trying to set the elements in the paintings' compositions in a series of three.  The paintings should have one main narrative but three possible separate parts.  Each part represents a different perspective in the events taking place.  Some paintings will allow the viewer to experience the third point of perspective, encouraging the viewer to then become an integral part of the narrative and forced to not only view a set of optimal cuts, but be forced to contemplate their own.

All five canvases have a maximum length of 160 cm.
All five are stretched with canvas and primed with gesso.

Here two of the five with similar colours have been completed with the first coat of oil paint.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Joining Art Classes

One day a month ago, I decided to check out if there were any evening art classes that I could join.  I was really not wanting to be taught something but to have the opportunity to attend a class where I could just create, with a group, at a set time.  It seemed to be a good idea to schedule some time where I would make art.  I am finding it difficult to start making art on a regular basis.  Although I have produced more work in the past few months than I have over the past few years, I will not get a serious body of work without dedicating more time on a steady basis.  So I searched for print making classes, drawing circles, and nude model sessions.

Leipzig has several options that sounded interesting.  Two of my grade 12 students were interested in working from a model and so we tried an hour and a half drawing circle at the Kreative-Spinner in Halle 14 at the Leipziger Spinnerei.  We had a good time and made drawings of each other with coloured pencils.  Although we had expected to have a model, we enjoyed the session.

During the following two weeks a student and I tried a two hour figure drawing class at MÜHLSTRASSE 14 e.V..  It was great!  It was the first time drawing a nude model for my student.  I told her of my experience having a nude model at a summer arts camp when I was 14 years old.  I had not drawn from a model since being in graduate school 15 years ago.  It was such a fun challenge.  I am really looking forward to next weeks' session.

Attending these two sessions just happened to precede the drawing trip we had planned before Christmas.  We took the three grade 7 classes to Leipzig's natural history museum.  My colleague and I took the students to do drawings of the stuffed wildlife.  It was so nice to sit among the seventh graders and sketch the images of different animal types.  The task of recording form, pattern, and texture was so rewarding and having the drawings to use as demonstrations for the students worked really well.  It was a very relaxing hour with the students and a good time to get some practice in myself.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Being Active Now

While searching sites on hyper- and meta-modernism, I came across a quote from Marina Abramovic, who recently had a retrospective in the MOMA.  She was urging artists to work in the present, to just do something, take part in any event, to be active.  I had just heard about a small 3 hour Christmas market at a local cultural centre near where I live.  So I signed up to have a table for €5.00.  I thought I would sit and draw holiday cards at customers' requests.

This led to ordering card blanks and thinking about ideas to illustrate.  When a person from the centre contacted me to inform me about being allowed to take part on the event, I was informed that the card idea may compete with the production of cards as a children's activity at the event.  I had the idea of creating cards with snowmen on them and actually had a few practice versions completed.  The blank cards were set aside for a future event and the snowman idea had to be developed off of the card and onto something different.

I wanted to have something that children could create as well, but at the same time being able to sell a product.  One that had something to do with snowmen.  I came up with the snowman kit.  The children could create the face of a snowman with chestnuts and pieces of sticks on a blank drawing of a snowman head and then store them in bag for use when it snows!

It was a great creative kick!  I didn't make a lot of sales but it was fun painting the 19 Snowman Bags and participating at the market.  With a bit of thought and early planning, I think it may be worth trying again next year at a weekend long arts and crafts Christmas market in an art's centre in Leipzig.