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Selective Focus Posts

Selective Focus: Samantha Nielsen

This week, we hear from watercolor artist and urban sketcher Samantha Nielsen. Also, this week we have a first, a Selective Focus artist teaching on Skillshare. Read on to hear her story and get the preview for her Skillshare class.

SN: I work in watercolor and ink with a style that many describe as ‘whimsical’. My artistic journey started after my third year of college, when I switched my major from music education to art education. I went into some of my first art classes feeling as though I didn’t have my own artistic voice, and I had very little experience, so all of the mediums were new to me. The first year was spent experimenting and learning the basics, but the following year a project for my illustration class is really what made me feel at home with watercolor and ink. We were instructed to completely fill a sketchbook throughout the semester, but we could only use permanent materials (so no pencils or erasers). This is where my love for watercolor and ink began, and this project really challenged me to step out of my comfort zone.

Selective Focus: Alison Aune

Alison Aune is an award-winning painter and educator who paints large-scale works that combine intricate Nordic-style patterns, portraits and mixed-media techniques. This week Alison goes in-depth about her style, her inspirations and even her favorite paint brush.

AA: I studied painting as an undergrad and graduate student. In 1984 I received a BFA in painting and a teaching license in art education from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst where I am from, my dad was a professor of philosophy at UMASS and is currently emeritus, and I received a masters degree in painting from UMD (1987) and a PhD in Comparative Arts from Ohio University in Athens (2000). In graduate school I changed from oil paint to acrylics because I needed the paint to dry quickly!

Selective Focus: Krista Pascoe

Portrait photographer Krista Pascoe talks about how she stumbled into photography at Denfeld and has turned a long-time hobby into a career.

KP: I am a local professional photographer specializing in portrait work. My main focus is weddings, seniors, families and sports. I came into photography by accident a long time ago. When I was attending Duluth Denfeld, I was accidently put into the yearbook class due to a scheduling error. They tossed me on the photography team. Back then, we used chemicals and dark rooms to develop our work, and I was immediately intrigued with the process. As digital has come along, I view the advancements in photography technology a nice complement to the artistic side of my work. I enjoy all aspects of photography from the people, the creativity, the editing and post-processing. I even do some graphic design at the end stages.

Selective Focus: #duluth

A quick end-of the year view of other views of #duluth.

Flying over Duluth on my way back west.

A post shared by Michael E. Grass (@mike_grass) on

Selective Focus: Natalie Salminen Rude

Natalie Salminen Rude works in a variety of mediums, and recently opened a studio/gallery in the Woodland neighborhood. She tells how her varied interests come together in her work.

NS: I work in a host of mediums which all wonderfully inform each other. Encaustic, oils, photography, haiku — each process shapes the other. There’s this constant hum of cross-pollination that happens in my studio. I think curiosity and a fascination with connection are the forces that propel me to do the work I’m doing. And beauty. Always on the hunt for beauty.

Selective Focus: #lutefisk

It’s a Northland tradition. Show your heritage runs deep enough that lutefisk is no big deal, or as a young, hard-driving journalist, prove you’re brave enough to venture into the depths of a Lutheran church basement to try it for the first time.

Selective Focus: Sugar on Top Sweet Shop

Kristina Amys makes elaborate, detailed cakes and baked goods. After stumbling into success with her decorating skills, she left her corporate job to build a business based on food and art.

KA: My main medium is sugar! Whether it’s buttercream, fondant, gum paste or chocolate, I make art out of food! How cool is that job right? I actually started decorating cakes in 2009 when I was planning a very special baby shower for a dear friend. I had my heart set on a very specific cake and after much debating decided to take a stab at it myself. It turns out I was pretty good at it and I uncovered a hidden talent that I didn’t even know I had. After that word of mouth spread like wild fire and people started asking me to make cakes for their special occasions. Never in a million years did I think I would be making cakes for a living!

Selective Focus: Dudley Edmondson

Dudley Edmondson is a photographer, videographer, writer, and a proponent of the great outdoors. This week in Selective Focus, he talks about what drives him to dig into a project, and some of the special projects he has worked on.

DE: I like to think of myself as working in many mediums from video, still imagery, written and spoken word. Media is my medium. I have always been a visual learner though. It’s very obvious to me that my brain translates a lot of things I hear or read into images for me to be able to fully understand and comprehend. I particularly like good writers (Ernest Hemingway, Kurt Vonnegut) who can create visuals in my brain with their writing style. Unfortunately I don’t think I have that gift yet but I am always working on it.

Selective Focus: #galesofnovember

A handful of posts remembering the 42nd anniversary of the Edmund Fitzgerald sinking (November 10, 1975), and honoring the power in the big lake.

Selective Focus: Phil Davidson

Phil Davidson is a designer who co-owns Creative Arcade, a design and marketing studio with Jeff Ruprecht (featured previously). He talks about what makes him eager to get to work every day, and how their company is growing.

PD: As a business owner, I have to wear many hats, but at my core I’m a graphic designer. As a graphic designer I get to work in mediums ranging from print to web/digital to motion graphics/video and beyond. To me, the variety of work and mediums is what makes this industry so exciting. Professionally, I’ve been working as a designer for over fifteen years.

Selective Focus: Bailey Aro Hutchence

Bailey Aro Hutchence is a photographer who uses her sense of composition and color and attention to detail to create specialized gift boxes. She talks about the overlap between her two businesses, and heading into her first holiday retail season.


B.A.H.:
I own two creative businesses: White Spruce Market, where I create beautifully-curated gift boxes, and Bailey Aro Photography, where I capture full-of-life wedding, boudoir, and branding images. A creative soul to my core, I also have a strong entrepreneurial heart, and love bringing big visions to life.

Selective Focus: Joellyn Rock

Multimedia artist and digital art professor Joellyn Rock has been combining traditional graphic art techniques, classical imagery and storytelling, and video and digital technology to create animations, interactive installations and other experiments. Her art takes advantage of and blends quickly evolving technical opportunities, and her curiosity draws her into constant new challenges.

J.R.: My creative medium has shifted dramatically over the years, evolving from traditional art forms like painting, drawing and ceramics to digital media formats such as web narrative, experimental video and interactive installation. One thread of continuity: I seek new ways to tell old tales. I often borrow from fairy tales and mythology, choosing to update an old story with social commentary or a revisionist spin. For me, old tales provide an anchor when working in digital media, offering the viewer a cozy narrative, reinvented for the distress of our digital age. I use a visual vocabulary that harkens back to the storytelling on ancient pottery or vintage children’s books … graphic compositions, intense colors, set off by crisp silhouettes of characters in action. Those familiar forms get remixed, layered with historical references or contemporary ephemera, juxtaposing ancient story with modern dilemma, part comfortingly old-school, part shock of the new.

Selective Focus: Eric Dubnicka

Eric Dubnicka is an artist working in multiple materials with fascinating abstractions and textures. It’s always fun and surprising to see what pops up on his Instagram feed.

E.D.: Currently my artworks are focused on the energy that exists and interacts between two people, which has been a fun challenge to conceptualize and the result is a series of paintings of ephemeral core bodies with a carved sculptural element demonstrating the connection between them. I’m fascinated by the process of abstraction and my works have run the gamut of sardonic caricatures to field color paintings, but the underlying concept is the energy that drives us as individuals or in relationships. The forms I’m working with currently lean heavily on the biomorphic lines, have a human anatomical subtext and are relatable to microscopic snapshots that can be found in nature or among the stars. I enjoy allowing for broad interpretations of my work and allow the materials to speak and interact, creating surfaces that are tactile, textured and carry an aesthetic strength that allow accessibility.

Selective Focus: Reggie Asplund

Reggie Asplund recently moved his business out of his basement and into a new studio. But it’s not like moving any business, he’s working with hundred-year-old printing presses. He’s one of a handful of people in town bringing the huge heavy manual presses back to life and making unique art with them.

R.A.: Middle school was most likely the first time I worked with printmaking, somehow a traced woodpecker comes to mind, but that was about it for a good six years. While I found art interesting and an occasional hobby, my interests and education lead me to end up as an undergraduate studying civil engineering. While a sophomore in undergrad I was approached by an old friend to apply as an intern to her aunt’s letterpress studio in Minneapolis. Desperate for a break from thermodynamics and load-bearing structures, I hastily applied and was offered a position. It didn’t take long to realize how much more I enjoyed the process of printmaking and as a blend of art, mechanical troubleshooting, and hands-on labor, it kept all sides of my brain content. After moving to Duluth to finish up my degree I acquired my first printing press and under the guidance of the stellar Kenspeckle Letterpress crew began the plunge into the addiction to ink, metal and paper.

Selective Focus: Makers Mercantile

A new shop has opened in West Duluth’s Spirit Valley area selling locally made goods. Makers Mercantile will host its Grand Opening on Saturday, Sept. 30, from 3 to 7 p.m. Owners Sara and Scott Clifton talk about opening and what they see for the future of the shop.

M.M.: Scott and I moved up to Duluth for college, and it didn’t take long for us to feel right at home. We love the people, the businesses, and everything the beautiful North Shore has to offer. We are creators and dreamers. Through observations and many discussions around the dinner table, our crafting ideas moved beyond creating products ourselves into creating a platform for local makers. We love the creativity and craftsmanship in our region, but started noticing that locally made goods were more difficult to find than expected, unless you went to a craft show or knew a specific maker to buy from. This observation spurred on an idea — to combine the values of handcrafted and local. We spent the last few years mulling over this idea, and decided this past winter to start pursuing it. Makers Mercantile just opened, and it is all about local, handmade goods.