Art and an essay from Norman J. Olson

Portrait of the late Les Barany

June 2016, ballpoint pen
Family including view of the old farm
thoughts on recognizing images in my art 

by:  Norman J. Olson 


the way I  make art is that I start making marks on a surface and try to let my mind, eye and hand put the artwork together without thinking about it a lot or wondering what it means…  when people ask me what an artwork of mine means, my stock answer is, “it is an oil painting (or a watercolor, or a drawing), it is up to you (the viewer), to figure out what it means…” 

my art is made up of images and patterns… the images are traditionally rendered in standard art mediums like pen and ink, watercolor and oil paint…  and sometimes in ballpoint pen… and the images are often separated from each other by cell like boxes, like a comic artist would use… except, of course, the images are not generally continuations of each other… sometimes when I am finishing a piece, I will recognize images…  the images in my mind, are of course, based on things I see every day…  landscape elements, faces and bodies of people…  also, I think some images come from secondary sources like movies I see or television… but the images are usually more or less distorted…   I often carry a small sketchbook in which I record quick sketches of people who interest me...  I sometimes copy these sketches directly into a drawing I am working on or, more often, use the memories gleaned from the drawing of the face or figure to inform an imaginative face or figure I am working on....

anyway, I have had a few experiences where I felt like I recognized a person who was important to me in an image as I was making it…  that happened recently with a ballpoint pen drawing I was making…  as I was finishing up the drawing I realized it was a portrait of my late friend Les Barany…  it is not a realistic representation or hyper realist rendering of his face but rather an image based on my memory of his face that seems to me to have captured something of the man I remember…   

another example, is a painting that I made shortly after my dear friend Glen Blomgren died…  as I was finishing the painting, I realized that it was a portrait of Glen, although, again, not a realistic representation of his face…  more a portrait of my memory of him and my sadness at his passing… 

I lived until age 11, on a dairy farm in rural Wisconsin, about 40 miles due east of St. Paul, Minnesota… my memories of the way things looked on this farm have seeped into my paintings many times, the old red barn, the lopsided silo, and even the Wisconsin landscape…  in fact, whenever I drive along I-94 east from the twin cities when I get to the exits around Baldwin, Wisconsin, I have a visceral reaction to those rolling hills, woodlands, farmsteads and fields…  it feels like home…  so, I have included images of some of my artworks that use images from the old farm…  

I have also included some sketches of random strangers from my sketchbook and some pieces that seem to me to be actual portraits of people in my life, including one memoir/self portrait of myself as a youth...  

for anyone interested in more information about me and my art, here are two links… an interview with the Wilzig Erotic Art Museum and my website.

Portrait of Harry Wilkins
View of the Old Barn, Oil

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