NORA CHOQUETTE of Stomping Boot Studios, The Climb, Acrylic and multi-media on masonite, 4' X 4', 2012, Private Collection.

NORA CHOQUETTE of Stomping Boot Studios, The Climb, Acrylic and multi-media on masonite, 4′ X 4′, 2012, Private Collection.

When we hear the word climb, images of mountains come to mind. Yet, climbing assumes multiple meanings and can refer to an escape, a journey, or a success. Nora Choquette’s expressionist work, The Climb, presents such possibility of meaning. It addresses the viewer with vibrant color and a dreamlike presentation of subject matter.

Discussion Questions:
1. List and describe at least three formal elements in the painting that create meaning. Why are they important?

2. What effect does the abstract use of color and shape have on our perception of the subject? That is, how does it differ in impact from a simple representation a woman climbing from a window?

3.  Consider the influence of graphic design.  What influences do you notice?  How do these influences affect our perception of a hand-painted work?

SHAUN NOBLE, The Beatles! 26"x48" airbrush on plate aluminum, 2014, $400

SHAUN NOBLE, The Beatles! 26″x48″ airbrush on plate aluminum, 2014, $400

Comic book characters and figures from popular culture fascinate us.  Think of Superman, Batman, and the Green Lantern, just to name a few, and realize how they invade every aspect of our culture, including movies, clothing, and music.  Famous figures, like the Beatles, also gain a kind of superhero status.

SHAUN NOBLE, Soul, Mind, and Body, 36"x48" airbrush on canvas, 2000, $2500

SHAUN NOBLE, Soul, Mind, and Body, 36″x48″ airbrush on canvas, 2000, $2500

It takes a unique artistic talent to capture this public fascination.  Local artist, Shaun Noble, represents this talent.  According to the artist, “As a kid I was obsessed with cartoons and comic books.  I used to write and draw my own comics all through grade school. In junior high, I was introduced to the art of H.R. Giger, and my world changed forever. It was the first time I was emotionally affected by fine art. It was so terrifying and beautiful; I couldn’t get it out of my head! He was the main reason I put so much effort into using the airbrush. Now, some of my favorites are Chuck Close, Banksy, Alex Grey, Andy Goldsworthy, and Norman Rockwell.”


SHAUN NOBLE, Ethereal Tiger, 22"x30" airbrush on vinyl, 2014, $300

SHAUN NOBLE, Ethereal Tiger, 22″x30″ airbrush on vinyl, 2014, $300

Noble’s inspirations further combine with his varied skill set, including metalworking and graphic design.  “I feel that everything an artist learns in life affects their art. Every skill or experience just adds another ingredient to the recipe of who the artist is. When I learned how to program and operate machines used for shaping metal, I took the boring mathematical approach of the engineer and added the skills I learned while practicing Adobe Illustrator. The computer interfaces were quite similar, and it wasn’t long before I was able to produce complicated shapes (like those used in graphic design) composed entirely out of plate aluminum. Then, I applied what I had learned about painting and composition to add color and the illusion of depth to the pieces. The process was smooth and organic, with each new idea leading to the next with a fluidity that I rarely experience.  Even better, the designs could be saved and recreated as many times as necessary at a reasonable cost. It was art that was smarter, not harder and still comprises much of what I do today.”

Does the artist consider this knowledge of diverse media an advantage?  “The more that you familiarize yourself with various media, the more opportunities you will able to seize. Certainly anyone who dedicates themselves to one medium might become a master in that craft, but they are separating themselves from other industries. Not everyone is meant to be a master painter or sculptor, but there are many avenues that a creative mind may take to create beauty. I think that the more you experiment with unconventional mediums, the more you will stand out from the rest and, hopefully, you will one day create something that no one else has thought of.”

SHAUN NOBLE, The Joker, 26.5"x23.5" airbrush on plate aluminum, 2011, $350

SHAUN NOBLE, The Joker, 26.5″x23.5″ airbrush on plate aluminum, 2011, $350

Noble’s knowledge of various media helps him to navigate a challenging art market.  “Art has always been a difficult industry. When compared to immediate concerns like food, clothing, shelter, or transportation, it’s hard to make a strong case for the essential nature of art. Having said that, I think the biggest challenge for any artist is just getting his/her work seen. It seems that everyone considers themselves to be artists of some kind, and the market is flooded with endless examples of human creativity. It takes shameless promotion, hours of honing your craft to a high level of quality, and the heart to deal with endless criticism to rise to the level of a professional.”

How does Noble directly deal with these market challenges?  “I keep track of my time and development costs so that I can gauge a fair and accurate price. I Never short myself. If you have a good work ethic, and you do whatever it takes to advertise your work (internet, art shows, student/volunteer projects), then someone somewhere is going to see and love your work. If you truly love what you do, and it makes you happy, then you should be able to take on any challenge that you face.”

With such a work ethic, it’s not surprising that Noble does not focus on one project at a time.  “I’m always doing ten things at once. I like the metallic luster that the silver on black sheet aluminum offers, and I love a more graphic, hands-on look that painting provides. Sometimes I combine the two. Sometimes I’ll leave something on the side for weeks, months, or years while I wait for some epiphany to show me the way. Whenever a client has a specific idea about what they want, it helps me out about a million percent.”

SHAUN NOBLE, Zombie, 12"x16" airbrush on Bristol paper, 2014, $100

SHAUN NOBLE, Zombie, 12″x16″ airbrush on Bristol paper, 2014, $100

Among all his various projects, the artist favors portraits.  “I think that faces are the most expressive, empathetic subject that an artist can capture. When you look at someone’s face you can almost see a roadmap of their life. I think that’s why I love older faces the most; every wrinkle and crease tells a story that experience has detailed into their appearance.”

What advice does Noble have for burgeoning artists, portraitists or otherwise?  “Well, like I said before, unadulterated, shameless self promotion is key. You can be the greatest artist in the world and no one will know it you don’t show them. Also, be sure that art is what you love, because it sure isn’t an easy way to make a living. It takes a lot of discipline, practice, and long hours in order to succeed, but making a connection with people who love and admire your work is priceless.”

SHAUN NOBLE, Babies, 22"x38" airbrush on illustration board, 2014, $500

SHAUN NOBLE, Babies, 22″x38″ airbrush on illustration board, 2014, $500

To experience more of the artist’s work, refer to: Shaun Noble’s Art
SHAUN NOBLE, The Joker, 26.5"x23.5" airbrush on plate aluminum, 2011, $350

SHAUN NOBLE, The Joker, 26.5″x23.5″ airbrush on plate aluminum, 2011, $350

“Why so serious?” This line, spoken by Heath Ledger’s character in The Dark Knight, immediately comes to mind when viewing Shaun Noble’s arresting metalwork of the Joker. Noble’s various talents in metalwork, graphic design, painting, and drawing, as well as his fascination with popular culture, create dynamic works that elicit a highly emotional response from viewers. The artist grew up “obsessed with cartoons and comic books” and now translates this childhood passion into his art.

Class Discussion Questions:

1. How does The Joker’s medium affect meaning in the work? That is, how would we respond differently if it were painted, drawn, or sculpted?

2. Art reflects cultural and societal values and concerns. What does Noble’s rendering of a comic book character and movie villain reveal about contemporary interests? (Consider the prevalence of hero/villain stories.)

3. List and describe at least three visual elements that contribute to meaning in the work.

4.  Pretend you exist as a viewer from another time.  How would your perception of this artwork differ without knowing its background in popular culture?




Jennifer Seeley’s portraits of animals delight viewers with their vibrant color and playful theme.  I first experienced her works at the 2014 Urban Arts Festival at the Gateway Mall.  Visitors crowded around her booth and begged for photographs of her paintings.  They fell in love with the charm and whimsy of her style.

What first inspired this playful approach?  Seeley responds, ” I think what first drew me to art is the idea of creation.  I was always creating something ever since I can remember. I believe there is a deep desire within all of us to create. I also feel a had a bit of natural ability which helped me to stick with it.”

Seeley’s natural talent and interest led her to produce works in various media, including printmaking, photography, oil, watercolor, acrylic, drawing, and even ceramics.  She creates portraits and scenes of nature, but she seems most well known for her images of animals.  “There was really never a day when I decided to only paint animals; it evolved into that.  I attribute it to a few things– my childhood as an animal lover and the artistic freedom I feel when I paint them.  When I paint people, I am very critical, but with this animal series, I have really explored style and expression.”

How would the artist describe her working process in creating this series?  “Lately, I have been working very quickly.  A typical painting in this series takes one to three hours.  I work from black and white photographs, so my color choice is not influenced.  I take my own reference photos as much as I can.  I frequent the zoo and take many walks.”

JENNIFER SEELEY, Steve the Baby Rainbow Giraffe

JENNIFER SEELEY, Steve the Baby Rainbow Giraffe

Creating studies and working from nature seems reminiscent of the old masters, who took their profession as artist very seriously.  It meant their livelihood.  Now, we have greater means to network art, but the economy still presents challenges.  “This economy does make it difficult for an artist who makes a living off the sales of their work.  With art being a luxury item, it is one of the first things to go and the first to get cut in schools.   (I’m going into art education).”

Going into art education definitely provides a platform to share one’s love of art and to help students appreciate art’s presence in our everyday lives.  Yet, neither art nor education offers tremendous financial gain.  How does Seeley deal with such challenges?  “Art comes first; money comes second.  I never know when my next paycheck is coming, but it doesn’t matter to me.  I’m doing what I want to do, so it’s worth it.”

Seeley’s passion definitely translates to her paintings.  In a digital age, it’s always refreshing to find hand-made art.  “I feel a greater connection to hand-made art.  I don’t want to put down the skills of graphic designers because it isn’t easy, but it’s not the same to me.”  Viewers appreciate the opportunity to own something made directly by the artist, from hand to brush to canvas.

JENNIFER SEELEY, Foxy Girl, 2014, 18 x 24," $200

JENNIFER SEELEY, Foxy Girl, 2014, 18 x 24,” $200

Considering this interest in hand-made art and her interest in art education, what advice does Seeley have for burgeoning artists?  “Never stop doing art.  There will be times when the world puts you down and you will wonder why you’re still doing it.  Do it for yourself first.  Don’t change your art for the public.”

To view more of Jennifer Seeley’s work, and to have the opportunity to purchase one of her limited-edition t-shirts, visit

JENNIFER SEELEY, Foxy Girl, 2014, 18 x 24," $200

JENNIFER SEELEY, Foxy Girl, 2014, 18 x 24,” $200

As viewers, we’re used to seeing portraits of figures. We probably imagine stuffy looking ladies and gentlemen and  imagine such portraits decorating walls of royal residences and museum staircases. We’re invited to discover cultural context and time period in order to understand a tiny glimpse of the sitters’ lives. Otherwise, they just seem like old-fashioned faces.

Expectations for a “portrait” suddenly take new meaning when presented with a twist. For example, what happens when we’re presented with portraits of animals? We’re used to seeing animals as additions to their human counterparts in portraits, as pets or hunting trophies. Yet, what happens when they become the focus? Seeing animals in portraits suddenly elevates them as worthy of notice.

Artist Jennifer Seeley explores this elevation in her bright acrylic portraits of animals. Foxy Lady from 2014 offers an example.

Discussion Questions:
1. What associations do we have with foxes? How do these associations affect our perception of the painting?

2. Think about the title. If we just read the title without seeing the work, what expectations would we have for the subject? Why is Seeley’s twist important in creating meaning?

3.  Consider the visual elements like color, brushstrokes, background, etc.  How do they affect our perception of the work?  How would our perceptions differ with more realistic portrayals?  That is, how would our reactions differ if we saw a picture of a fox in its native environment?

Despite hazy skies and sizzling temperatures, the Urban Arts Festival proved a bustling success at the Gateway Mall this Saturday.  Over 100 booths lined the open-air mall and offered art from all media, including clothing, henna, pottery, painting, and jewelry.  All works were handcrafted by Utah artists.  The festival drew thousands of visitors.  It typically attracts around 15,000 attendees and exists as a favorite in the local art scene.  Last year, it was voted Utah’s Best Indie Art Event of 2013.

Booths were only one of the many attractions.  Musicians and local bands played a variety of styles, and dance performances appeared throughout the day.  Fashionistas enjoyed an urban fashion show.  Other events included a student film festival, graffiti, kids’ yard, interactive artworks created by attendees at the festival, and skateboarding demonstrations and displays.  Food vendors offered visitors tasty snacks as well as a beer garden.  There was something for everyone, and we look forward to next year!

Artists featured in the slideshow include Jennifer Seeley, Shaun Noble, Sarah Ann Larsen, Bill Gerrard, Jaynie and Ed McQuirk, Nora M. Choquette, Delatorre Studios, and Maxx Cohen.  Thank you for sharing your work with us!

Photographs and the slideshow were taken and compiled by Juliette Bradley.  Music comes from Nine Inch Nails “7 Ghosts I.”

School ended over a month ago, July heat descends upon us, and boredom sets in. So what can we do to liven things up? To experience a fun, free, and family-friendly event, I suggest attending the Urban Arts Festival.

The Urban Arts Festival occurs this Saturday, July 19th, from 11 AM to 10 PM at the Gateway Mall in Salt Lake City. The festival includes over 100 artists; varying types of music, including jazz, hip-hop, and funk; dance performances; skateboarding displays and workshops; urban gardening workshops; various projects designed by local youth groups and artists; along with food and beverage vendors. There is even a kids’ yard for our youngest visitors. Come and enjoy the various displays, have lunch, and do some shopping.

To get an idea of the urban art experience, check out some images from last year’s festival.