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First Light Art Fund for Young Artists

Within Sunrise River Gallery we have our First Light Corridor which functions as our rotating exhibit space dedicated to showing the work of our areas young artists.  The Muscatine High School Art Club Gallery Show is currently on display.

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Artist Abby Alhf poses proudly for her family next to one of her 3 brilliant pieces on exhibit in the First Light Corridor at Sunrise River Gallery.

Recently, during the 8th Annual Downtown Muscatine Girls Getaway two different groups of Girls Getaway Painters joined me in the studio for some  interactive, collaborative spring-flowers-still-life painting sessions.

Oh what a time we had … and what beautiful art they created!

During each session, three different easels were positioned with a canvas waiting to be painted.  Ready with a beautiful still-life of tulips and lilies designed by Jen Summy of our neighbors at The Flower Gallery, brushes and paints; the ‘girls’ lined up to take turns on each painting.

So, I held the brushes and the paints, offered a bit of direction, then gave them each a minute or two before I called time and had them rotate to the next canvas.  After about 45 minutes and several rounds per session, all of the Girls Getaway Painters had a hand in completing some beautiful paintings.

Tulips & Lilies #4 by Girls Getaway Painters


Six Tulips & Lilies paintings were completed with a few finishing touches from yours truly.  If you like Tulips & Lilies #4, please check out the entire collection at Girls Getaway at Sunrise River Gallery.

Now the real beauty can continue.

These six original paintings finished paintings will be sold via a silent auction to establish the First Light Art Fund.  The First Light Art Fund will be a not-for-profit organization with the mission to promote, develop and support young, up-and-coming artists throughout the greater Muscatine community through exhibits, workshops and fundraising.  Proceeds from this first ever online silent auction will help establish a 501(c)3 charitable fund.

Thanks to the Girls Getaway event, we now have a nice, spacious studio space in Sunrise River Gallery to provide us a great place for youth art workshops and open studio time for student artists.

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Sarah Shoemaker, UIowa BFA photography student

Stay tuned for more great shows by young area artists.  We’re planing a show sometime this summer for photographer Sarah Shoemaker called: “Trashed”.

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“Spring’s Potential”

The Crocus is at the same time tender and hardy.

It springs forth in a burst of color bringing cheer
to the end of a dreary time.

The Crocus is the first flower of Spring.
It exemplifies the tenacity of our youth as it faces the sometimes harsh challenges of growing up.

But Spring is the season of new beginnings, hopes, and dreams.

The Crocus pops up, even through the lingering Winter snow,
to shout “hey, look what we can do!”

Brush away the obstacles and watch them grow.

flight of the crocus



Here’s a fun little video on painting of another batch of crocus.

“Spring’s Potential” was commissioned for and donated to the HAVLife Foundation for it’s annual Quad Cities Martini Shake Off fundraiser.  Started in memory of Hunter Aaron Vondran, HAVlife™ is a Not For Profit 501(C)(3) organization established to fund the resources students need to pursue their musical aspirations and athletic goals – just as Hunter did. It was my honor and privilege to provide my dear friends, Mike and Brenda Vondran, this painting.

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The incredible thing about gardening, is when you’re a painter your garden blooms with spring flowers much sooner than most expect.

Now don’t take it the wrong way, I’m all about following the processes found in the principles of harvest.  I know the gardener must first till, then plant, then water and nurture along the way before beautiful blooms spring up.

But an artist’s mind doesn’t always follow that linear thinking process.  Sure, some ‘plan’ a painting, then prep the canvas, set the palette with paints organized from light to dark, and work from left to right until the blossoms grow to full bloom.

Here’s my palette after a recent ‘gardening’ session.  It really doesn’t matter what’s on the canvas, the palette is merely the loading dock where paint gets transferred from tube, to brush to picture. Though I’ll admit, sometimes it goes directly from tube to brush.

Magenta to Phthalocyanine Green. Ochre. Crimson. Cerulean Blue. Burnt Umber. Writing the names of these colors makes my head hurt.  But oh, are they not incredibly stimulating and pleasing to the eye!
Mere words cannot describe the color you get when you mix cadmium yellow with a touch of deep magenta and a very little dab of ultramarine blue. You might see that colorful burst of first morning light, or it might be those gorgeous rose petals that you simply cannot identify by color … you simply marvel in God’s beauty!

No painter’s palette or gardener’s plot plan can ever come close to matching what our Creator does.  Sure, man has put names on colors and we’ve learned how to manufacture those pigments. But when putting them together on canvas to create a picture to show God’s masterpiece, it really is awesome.  He is awesome.

If you’re still reading, you’ve likely had a hard time tracking … from painting spring flowers, to the principles of harvest, to colors on my palette, to my admiration and love for my God.

Welcome inside the mind of a painter!  It has now occurred to me, a picture of an artist’s brain may look way more like that picture of my palette.  And if you look closely, you will see some gray matter!

Oh look, the purple crocus are starting to come up.

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Collaborative Creation 

So we had a blast on Saturday at Sunrise River Gallery during the Downtown Muscatine Girls Getaway.  The Getaway asked that we do some “seminars” for the “girls”.

Interactive and collaborative became my watch words.  

Two different groups of about 10 women each joined me in the studio for a team effort to paint a still life of tulips and lilies. It was simple … I handed out brushes, paint and encouragement as the painters took turns in one minute intervals.  In the end, six paintings were begun…each with a unique flair brought on through collaboration and teamwork.

Per their requests I’ll add some finishing touches to their creations. Tulips & Lilies #1 is complete and here for you to see.




Tulips & Lilies #1 by Girls Getaway Painters with J.Elias

First Light Art Fund  The real beauty in this great collaborative, creative effort is these paintings will be used in a silent auction fundraiser to help launch the nonprofit First Light Art Fund.  The nonprofit group has the mission to promote, develop and support young and up-and-coming artists in the greater Muscatine area.



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Sunrise Brings New Beginnings

Sunrise. It’s the beginning of a brand new day. It marks new beginnings every day.

Life On The Mississippi: Mark Twain’s Lament

At 18 years old, I’m certain I also did not know the imaginable dream of color found as the summer sun rose to paint on the magnificent Mississippi River.

Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) lived one summer in Muscatine, Iowa in the early 1850’s and likely frequented the storefront where Sunrise River Gallery sits today. (our building was built in 1890) When 18 years old, Sam Clemens began working briefly as a correspondent for the Muscatine Journal Newspaper owned by his brother Orion Clemens. Years later, Mark Twain published a memoir of his youthful years as a cub pilot on a steamboat on the Mississippi River, Life on the Mississippi.

“And I remember Muscatine–still more pleasantly–for its summer sunsets.
I have never seen any, on either side of the ocean, that equaled them.
They used the broad smooth river as a canvas, and painted on it every
imaginable dream of color, from the mottled daintinesses and delicacies
of the opal, all the way up, through cumulative intensities, to blinding
purple and crimson conflagrations which were enchanting to the eye,
but sharply tried it at the same time. All the Upper Mississippi
region has these extraordinary sunsets as a familiar spectacle.
It is the true Sunset Land: I am sure no other country can show so good
a right to the name. The sunrises are also said to be exceedingly fine.
I do not know.” ~Mark Twain, Life On The Mississsippi Chapter 57

The true beauty in a sunrise is that it happens every day … and it’s different every day!

For this guy, many years past the age of 18 … the painter of the sunrise shown here … the daily sunrise inspires me to start fresh each day. To accept and embrace whatever the new day brings. After decades of choosing my own way in life (about three decades worth of not painting), I’ve come to know the only way I can successfully traverse this journey is by following His divine guidance. And for me, the last year and a half has been one incredible, uplifting journey.

I began painting again in order to celebrate the new beginning of Zach and Hailey together in marriage. Since then, He has guided me to create over 2 dozen paintings (including On the Wings of Dawn) and we’ve opened an art gallery aptly named, Sunrise River Gallery. Soon, we will inaugurate the First Light Corridor at Sunrise River Gallery where we will feature fresh, up-and-coming artists as well as local student artists.

Lee White

Stay tuned and watch for our upcoming shows. February at Sunrise River Gallery will feature Lee White, a brilliant, young painter who is finishing is Master of Fine Art at the University of Iowa. In March we will host an exhibit from students in the Muscatine High School Art Club.

Until the sun rises tomorrow.

~ J.Elias

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Wait, what? The cafe is closing?

It’s nearly 7pm and the airport is quiet.  Why the airport wait in a small Midwest city isn’t really important.  Well it is too me, but that’s not the story.

Sitting here waiting in the relative quiet is really the story that gives one pause.

We live in a crazy, hectic world where a lot of bad things happen to good people that just happen to be caught up in the hectic.

So for a guy like me who likes to find something good and beautiful in all things …even the hectic…quiet, airport solitude like this can be good for one’s mind, body and soul.

Really.  Just look at those patterns and lights and reflections!

Now since the cafe is closed, it looks like I’ll go wait next door with my friend Sam A.


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Graced by her illustration.

We have a Guest Sketchbook / Register at Sunrise River Gallery.
This afternoon I set up my easel in the nice light from the front window and continued to work on a painting I’m calling Grandfather’s Holland.  Having painted for a a bit and making good progress, I cleaned my brushes and put my feet up.  Soon after in walked Grace and her dad.
Grace, a young artist herself, was visiting her grandparents here in Muscatine.  Her dad told me she’d seen me painting as they walked by and had to come see what was going on.  Grace, her dad (Rob) and I had a really nice conversation about painting, God and life.  Grace even called her mom to come see!  As we wrapped up our visit, Mom (Peg) said: ‘Grace left you some art.’
In our Guest Sketchbook, Grace blessed us with a beautiful original illustration.  On one level, art is about being able to reach someone on a deep, emotional level.  
Grace, your art is beautiful and has touched my soul.  It was a pleasure sharing my art with you, and thank you so  much for gracing us with yours!
Come see us again the next time you’re in Muscatine.
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Home for awhile.

Many years ago while studying design and photography, I published a book I called “Home For Awhile”.

At the time, it was ‘time for a change’ because I was getting ready to set the world on fire … graduate college then head west for fame and fortune.

I journeyed through a career in ‘marketing communications’ … I worked as a press secretary, an ad agency account exec (several times), a director of marketing (again, multiple times); I designed and wrote many ads, brochures, logos, and so many ‘fliers’ I can hardly take it (my students know what I mean); I became a college teacher (marketing, small business management, entrepreneurship); and through it all, I raised a couple of great boys … scratch that, they are two fine young men!

As we grow older and perhaps lament missed opportunities and perceived disappointments, we may chalk it up to “life happens”.   Full of wander lust I wrote:  “The midwest has been my home for awhile.  It is now time for a change.  I will move on to a new home.  Where ever it will be, will be only for awhile.”   Having had life happen and re-reading those words, it occurs to me each and every moment is a time for change waiting to be embraced.

Where we are right now is really only home for awhile.

I’ve been presenting images in the form of landscapes, logos, ads and fliers for over 40 years.  Although I’ve been creating, my great lament is I didn’t paint for almost 30 of those years.  Yet even the logos, ads and fliers have allowed me to experience this great adventure.  And where ever I’ve been and where ever I go, I embrace the time for change.

With great joy I now focus my creative energy on creating paintings and photographs which capture simple elements of God’s masterpiece as seen through one man’s eye. I like to share my perspective on where ever home is.  Although we aren’t really meant for this world it is our home for awhile. Since we are only passing through, remember to always go forward.