The Witches Hat Experience

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When I was an art student at U. of Colorado decades – many decades – ago, I was introduced to Meininger’s Art Supply in Denver, established in 1881 by Emil Meininger. It was already an institution then and by now it is a monument; family owned and dedicated to the passionate pursuit of creative arts. It is a supply destination with a beating heart. My own artistic soul found every tool, book, easel, paper and paint that it needed there and still does. A trip to Meininger’s, be it the Denver location on South Broadway, the Boulder location on The Hill or the Colorado Springs location is like discovering the art Mecca. You can learn more in this link:

In 1922, Emil’s daughter-in-law, Josephine, bought a cabin in the Insmont area of Bailey, Colorado,  on top of a hill overlooking the picturesque South Platte River about 45 miles southwest of Denver. They named the cabin Blue Jay Bunk after the Stellar’s Jays in the area and Josephine and their four children, including Henry (“Cap”) Meininger, spent summers there without inside water or electricity for many years, while her husband, the elder Henry “The Chief” Meininger, worked at the store Monday through Friday. He took the Denver train to Bailey on the weekends, and the cabin became a popular place where he and Josephine entertained family and friends.

“Cap” Meininger died in 1991, and left Blue Jay Bunk to his children, including Henry pictured above on the left, with his son Judd Meininger. Henry lived in the cabin year-round throughout the 1970’s making improvements and cutting cords of firewood for the winter, while still commuting to work at Meininger’s in Denver.

“Next to Blue Jay Bunk are three houses running down the hill, all built about the same time as the cabin in the early 1900’s. All the old houses, having been built as summer cabins for fishing lodges and summer camps, have needed much restoration and upgrading to keep them from deteriorating. In 1985 Henry married Betsy Palin and together they bought the green house next to the cabin, and Henry’s sister bought the white house next to that. Henry eventually bought the house at the bottom of the hill that has always been called Witches Hat for its conical roof. Henry bought that house and had it restored just in time for his son, Judd, to be married there in 2011.”   excerpted from the brochure titled Meininger’s Insmont Retreat, Bailey, Colorado

Yesterday I was fortunate to find myself arriving at Witches Hat with my artist friend Peter Heineman who was participating in the Golden Triangle Museum District plein air paint out, an event hosted on Sunday by Henry, Betsy and Judd Meininger. Peter remembered the property well, having spent time there when it was owned by Larry Weckbaugh even before the Meininger’s purchased it. Good times were had under that roof, and another of Peter’s friends, Bill Fifield, was the woodworking artist who hand carved much of the interior detail surrounding doors and mirrors, plus adding his personal touch in other areas of the cabin.

The day was perfect with fall colors, Colorado’s deep blue sky, the S. Platte gurgling along across the back meadow, artists with easels sprinkled throughout the property and great stories from Henry and Judd about this legendary property. The whimsical Witches Hat house is like nothing you have ever seen, with old photos and funky art, a well-loved and hard-working kitchen, nooks and crannies, additions and secret places to explore, all arranged around that famous high-ceilinged cone. If those walls could talk! Betsy had a lovely lunch which we enjoyed outside on the deck, topped off with a cookie assortment and a tray of the fanciest, most chocolate-y pastries, contrasting nicely with the rustic rural setting. It was a day to be remembered…thanks to a family that has meant so much to Colorado artists and the history of art in this area. Who knew that some fine day, far into the future of one freshman fine art student at CU who knew to shop at Meininger’s, such a day would come. Life is never dull, is it? Many thanks to Henry, Betsy and Judd Meininger – a family I had always admired from afar – for making some grand memories for me.

Denver‘s Golden Triangle Museum District is home to art galleries, a first Friday artwalk, restaurants, bars and popular arts attractions like the Denver Art Museum …

See Peter’s artwork at

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September Report on the Year Long Canvas


New September YLC copyright Jo Ann Brown-Scott 2014

An eye is meant to see things. The soul is here for its own joy. I am not contained by this universe. – RUMI

If you remember, the last time I posted a blog about the Year Long Canvas my intention was to enter the piece, as it was then, in a juried show at the cooperative CORE GALLERY on S. Santa Fe Drive in Denver. You can see the type of art they show at

My decision was made on impulse, just because I was curious to see what would happen. The gallery is well respected and they had over 135 entries into the open show. The sole juror of the show, Jt Urband, is a well-credentialed professor with degrees from the U. of Penn who now teaches plein air painting at Denver’s Arapahoe Community College. He did not choose to accept either of my abstract entries into the show, but I was rather impressed with most of the 30 paintings that were accepted, with the exception of a couple pieces.

The lesson here is that there is no lesson – usually not a tangible reason can ever be revealed as to why you were accepted or not accepted into juried art shows. I know of shows where the judge’s personal art experience had nothing whatsoever to do with the type of art that he was asked to judge for the show. Some art experts who admit to having no understanding of abstract art or taste for it might be included on the jury panel for a show heavy leaned toward the abstract. Or conversely, abstractly inclined jurors might be asked to judge a representational show. As an artist I find this rather frustrating and I would go so far as to say that I think it is just wrong, or at the very least, pointless. But that’s just me. Actually it is not just me – other artists feel the same way.

One of the primary requirements of being an artist is to develop a thick skin. You will be faced with a lot of rejection as your work evolves and matures. If you are willing to put it out there, get ready to hear what people really think about it. Listen and learn. But very seldom do you have access to why a juror did not select your work for a show – you are left wondering and wondering.

Since then I have slightly altered the YLC and if you are detail oriented you will notice the changes in the above photo. Just a few subtle additions of turquoise green inside the large black area so that it is not so much flat black, then a row of dots descending out of the yellow, and finally a few small geometric areas of the same color of turquoise green added on the right side of the orange ball and in other tiny areas. That’s it for now. I really do like the YLC painting at this very moment in time. It makes me happy to look at it and I think it is full of positive energy,  movement and drama. I see no negativity in it, and most of its areas work singly as well as enhancing the greater whole, as I see it. You can zoom in for details.

The summer has been a significant and important one for me with many exciting new experiences with friends and family, and the good karma of that has been manifested in this painting and others I have done. My paintings have been strong but joyful, powerful yet inviting, poetic and revealing of my happiness. Those of you who know me well understand exactly why and where this energy came from….and I am proud of the resulting artwork. I believe the art Buddha would be proud to hear about that, whether or not the YLC made it into a show. I am smiling as I say all this and all is well here with me. I wish the same for all of you creative ones.





The Second Knowing of Art

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Mosaic from the Grand Palace in Bangkok copyright Jo Ann Brown-Scott 2014

Rumi, the 12th century scholar and poet, is my favorite source of wisdom – as you know I often include Rumi quotes because his words are ageless; he is relevant even now in the chaotic 21st century. Every single time I browse through my Rumi books I am stunned to find quotes that jump off the pages to me exactly when I need them.

Today as I read his words, in speaking of knowledge and practical education, he says:

There is another kind of tablet, one

already completed and preserved inside of you.

A spring overflowing its springbox. A freshness

in the center of the chest. This other intelligence

does not turn yellow or stagnate. It’s fluid,

and it doesn’t move from outside to inside

through the conduits of learning.

This second knowing is a fountainhead

from within you, moving out.

And so it goes with painting. Although the artist might be a realistic plein air artist, a painter of photographic realism, portraits, or even a photographic artist, he or she must always call upon something from inside in order to decide upon and create an image. In abstracted art you must pull from an even deeper place, and you must define your own personal language of art.

Some people do that quite well; others struggle with finding the particular art language that is true to their soul. If you, as an artist, try to speak artistically from a place that is not genuine, I believe your art will be soul-less and uninspired. You can spot art that has no soul – there is a lot of it out there. It is gutless, bland and forgettable.

Rumi also said to me today:

Do you know why your soul-mirror

does not reflect as clearly as it might?

Because rust has begun to cover it.

It needs to be cleaned.

Whatever makes your soul sing, seek that. If you know  the secret of where to go, either deep inside yourself or outside in the real world, and what to look for in gathering mental material for your own artistic soul to become inspired and thrive, you are fortunate indeed. We must all find the source of the food that feeds our creativity.

This We Have Now – New Work by Homare Ikeda

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original art courtesy and copyright of Homare Ikeda 2014

This we have now is not imagination. This is not grief or joy. Not a judging state, or an elation, or sadness. Those come and go. This is the presence that doesn’t.  – RUMI, 12th century poet

You have heard me refer to Homare Ikeda in my blog many times (See my Archives) – my esteemed instructor for Advanced Contemporary Painting at Art Students League, Denver. Friday night was his most recent opening titled REVISIT at Wm. Havu Gallery, in downtown Denver. The stories told in his paintings are more than magical – they are transcendent. It is not unusual for him to work on a painting for years – sometimes as long as 18 years – revisiting it from time to time, enhancing, subtracting, building layer upon layer in order to evolve the image through the years of its life. These incarnations of art reveal stories of each particular time and place the painting is revisited. That is why and how his art lives, breathes and grows, revealing a language of intricate symbols expressed in whimsical playfulness that provide the artist with a means of conversation, and the art becomes a dialogue between the artist and the paint. How fortunate we are to be offered a glimpse of this personal communication.



The Artful Grace of Gratitude


The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.

Friedrich Nietzsche 

I am reminding us all today what Nietzsche had to say on the subject of art. And I so agree with him. Furthermore, you have all heard the quote, “There but for the grace of God go I.” from John Bradford. John Bradford was a prebendary of St. Paul’s. He was an English Reformer and martyr. Bradford was in the Tower of London for alleged crimes against Mary Tudor for his Protestant faith. Bradford was burned at the stake on 1 July 1555. Life’s adversity finally caught up with him, apparently. But he left us with a quote we all remembered.

My Archives contain a blog I wrote titled “This being human is a guest house…..” That is a great quote by Rumi, used for the title in a post where I discuss the experience of being creative and how that gift might be affected by basic human daily moods, life’s worst traumas and all points in between. For some reason or another this blog is recently receiving a lot of attention. People can relate to it – probably because we know that none of what life offers us ever comes our way without meaning attached and/or an implied message that can be learned from it. Nothing is wasted in the universal plan. Everyone has a story and yet what you do with that story is what defines you and your creative work. Where and how do you place a creative reference to the joys of your life and also the troubles you have seen? Have you learned to put the passion from your life experiences to good work? Will you share? Can you reveal yourself for the sake of creativity? Are you a card-carrying member of the human race, having paid your dues of life out in the muddy trenches, or are you merely a side-line observer?

My recommendation in that blog is to use these swings in spirit – these normal and/or difficult human experiences – these ups and downs. Use them to your advantage, be influenced by them, acquire depth in your creative efforts from them and milk them for all they are worth. The gifts that life’s experiences bring to you are the unexpected dividends that feed your creative soul. The best writers, artists, poets, actors, composers, photographers, inventors don’t live in blissful bubbles. They allow themselves to FEEL. They offer themselves up to the universe as vulnerable human sponges, able to absorb and learn and express. If you are going to be blowing in the wind at the mercy of one day’s terrible misfortunes or another day’s earthly delights, then walk directly through the chaos and let the pain or the pleasure wash over you and allow it to bring depth and understanding to your creativity. Paint right through it, write about it, speak or sing or photograph it. For God’s sake express yourself. If you will just feel things, deeply, truly feel them rather than attempting to deny or escape their weight on your shoulders, your creative work will shine as a result, because people recognize soul when they see it.

People who drink to excess out of denial, use drugs for painkillers and to escape, while becoming experts in dodging life’s greater challenges are forever frozen in the hollow status quo of being pitifully without the degree of character development and depth that is earned by feeling deeply. If you want to experience the passion for life we are all meant to enjoy then do not shrink from adversity. And on the flip side, when you are high on life and all it has to offer, decide what you are going to do with that intensity of joy. Even goodness holds responsibility for expression and thanks……display your healthy soul so others might learn.

A kind of gratitude is born in walking directly into the fire and coming out OK on the other side. Someone told me the other day that I seemed to be quite happy now. This was a person who knows my history – and is aware what I have been through….the before, the walking through it, and the after. My art and my writing have become enlightened and enhanced as a result of all of it – they are the total sum of all my parts, because I figured out how to use adversity to go deep. And I know whereof I speak.