New Painting: The Wall Remaining


The Wall Remaining – Detail

This week I want to feature what may be my favorite painting from the Zeitgeist art exhibit, a show of recent work by Mollie and me. If you haven’t seen the show, there’s still time! It runs until Feb 23, 2014.

The painting I’m featuring is titled The Wall Remaining. It’s a triptych approximately 4 by 6 feet, painted in oils on panel. Below I’ve reprinted the text that accompanies the painting in the show:


The history of relations between the Church and the Synagogue is one of the world’s tragic stories. The first followers of Jesus (Yeshua in, Hebrew,) were all Jewish, and his “church” began as a sect of first century Judaism. As these early Jewish disciples spread the message of Jesus, a series of events, described in Acts chapter 15, led to an astounding decision on the part of his disciples: the Jewish church in Jerusalem made the decision to fully welcome gentile (non-Jewish) believers, as brothers and sisters, into their company without requiring them to become Jewish. The gentiles’ status as joint heirs would be based on their being “partakers of the new covenant” of Yeshua. The ancient Mosaic covenant sign of circumcision, as well as Torah observance, would not be required of them.

As a result of this inclusivity, large numbers of gentiles came into the church, eventually outnumbering the Jewish members. As the church became more gentilized over time, and as Jewish members increasingly found themselves out of favor with traditional Jews, the church took on a distinctly Greco-Roman character. By the time of the first Ecumenical Council under the Roman Emperor Constantine in the fourth century, there was not a single Jewish bishop in attendance, though some 1800 invitations were sent out across the empire. Increasingly, anti-Jewish laws were passed under subsequent Christian emperors and kings so that the Church eventually became an openly anti-Jewish institution, generally consigning Jews to an inferior status, and at times actively persecuting them.

Throughout Europe, it is still possible to see vestiges of the historic, divisive relationship between the Church and the Synagogue displayed in the artistic embellishments of its cathedrals. Many cathedrals feature two figures: Ecclesia (the Church,) and Synagoga (the Synagogue.) Triumphant Ecclesia wears a crown, and usually holds a staff and a Eucharistic chalice. Synagoga is always blindfolded, and carries a broken staff and a representation of the Torah. Though I had previously read about these two allegorical figures in my books, I saw them for the first time in the Jewish Museum in Berlin. The sight of them deeply saddened me.

It is noteworthy that the New Testament scriptures do not support this division. The Jewish apostle Paul writes:

“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called ‘the uncircumcision’ by what is called the circumcision (Jews,)…were alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise…But now in Christ Jesus you who were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility” (Ephesians 2:11-16)

Here I have painted Ecclesia and Synagoga as ossified and broken statues warming in the light of these scriptures. Ecclesia is not triumphant; instead her head is bowed down. Synagoga has become indignant and distanced; understandably so. The wall remaining, though invisible, is as formidable and as obstinate as the Berlin wall ever was. The figure in the center panel reaches for the hands of the two ladies, awaiting the healing and the unity-in-diversity that I believe we will see in our lifetimes; a unity that has not existed since the dawn of the early Church. (end quote)

One New Man-synagoga-ecclesia

For hours and information about the Zeitgeist painting exhibit, call the Loveland Museum-Gallery at 970.962.2410, or visit

You can purchase note cards and other artsy gifty items featuring our art & design work at our online Zazzle store (click here.) Thank you for your support!

 Top related posts:
–          What Easter has to do with Separating Christians and Jews
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Zeitgeist – Recent Paintings by Scott & Mollie Freeman

Mollie and I opened our art exhibit at the Loveland Museum-Gallery last weekend. In this post I will share my opening comments for those of you who wanted to be there but couldn’t make it. Many thanks to those of you who did come – you certainly made it a special evening for us! Art is, after all, a communal undertaking.

Of course I can’t help but do a little embellishing along the way, but here’s the gist of what I said:

First I want to say that Mollie and I are inexperienced travelers, and we claim no expertise in things German. What follows are simply our observations and contemplations around our wonderful visit to Germany.

Mollie and I chose to title our exhibit, Zeitgeist, which means “spirit of the times.” Why Zeitgeist?
Well, it strikes us that the spirit of our times has to do with unity, community, and communion. This is what we’re all seeking, to some degree. We’re all now familiar with the idea of the world getting smaller, and the reality that international communication has become ridiculously easy and cheap. For me, it’s like a miracle that I regularly sit at my dining room table and communicate with people around the world. The fact that this art exhibit grew out of an unexpected international friendship initially set the tone for our show. Our trip was only made possible by the generosity of friends here at home, and especially by the generosity of the Taube family in Germany.

When we arrived in Germany, we saw the human urge to create community, to varying degrees, visibly expressed everywhere. It seemed that everywhere we went, we were surrounded by the smoldering reminders of someone’s attempt to create a better, unified world. I happen to be fascinated with utopian idealists and their visions. I say this without a hint of sarcasm. It seems obvious to me that the world is broken and that there is something terribly wrong with the human condition. I believe we’re all seeking unity between Man and God, between Man and Man, and between Man and Nature. I would guess that all of us are giving our energies to one or more of these pursuits. I give utopian visionaries props for at least trying to make the world a better place.

But there is a maddening paradox.

Part of what fascinates me about studying utopian human movements, ideologies, and isms is how they seem to always go horribly wrong. Despite the best intentions of men & women, our plans to make the world a better place often create a situation worse than what existed before. The worst examples of this are seen in political revolutions carried out “for the good of the people” that have often resulted in the bald slaughter of the people they claimed to liberate. It’s astonishing how good intentions can go so wrong.

Germany’s tumultuous, world-shaping history is extraordinary, profoundly contributing to the world both for better and for worse. This tension is reflected in the paintings here, to varying degrees:

With Nazism and World War 2, much of Germany was destroyed, and the entire country has been tirelessly rebuilding ever since; reconstructing its old historic structures, as well as creating new ones, often blending the very old with the very new. Several of Mollie’s watercolors feature the reconstructed St. Mary’s Cathedral in Lubeck, which was extensively bombed on the night of Palm Sunday in 1942. It’s important to note that Germany’s massive reconstruction campaign is not designed to cover over and forget the unspeakable horror of Nazism.  Often the ruins of the war have been left as a monument, or documented with public placards, so that future generations will never forget what occurred.

Other structures are reminders of the remarkable positive contributions that Germany has given the world. My painting, Coexistence of Centuries #2 shows St. Michael’s Church in the town of Luneburg, rising up behind the harmonious modern architecture in the foreground. Johann Sebastian Bach sang soprano as a choirboy in this church from 1700 to 1703. St. Michael’s, which opened in 1409, has stood through the invention of the printing press and the Renaissance, the Reformation, two world wars, the fall of the Iron Curtain, and German re-unification.


Coexistence of Centuries – oil, 24×36 in, Scott Freeman

After the Second World War, Germany was split in two by Communism. The city of Berlin suffered a bizarre fate, becoming engulfed behind the iron curtain, making West Berlin an isolated island of freedom well inside of East Germany. Stories abound. Though the Berlin Wall is now gone, city planners have marked and memorialized where it once stood, so that it is impossible to go through the city without seeing the remains of the utopian Communist experiment gone wrong in the midst of a now re-unified Germany. Two of my paintings resulted from a midnight walk in Berlin where I watched gentle people enjoying the night hours on Alexanderplatz, the site of the largest anti-government demonstration in GDR history, just days before the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. I’ve posted thoughts on these paintings HERE and HERE.

Our German hosts also took us to visit the site of a much smaller utopian experiment. In the town of Worpswede, an artist from Bremen named Heinrich Vogeler joined an artist community in 1894. The next year he bought a cottage there and named it Barkenhoff, (which means birch tree cottage.)



I took this quote from the museum exhibit:
“Upon returning to Worpswede, disillusioned by his experiences in the first World War and highly politicized, Heinrich Vogeler tried to create a “new world” at his Barkenhoff. Here a commune was supposed to realize his social utopia of a self-governing society without class structures and private property – an ambitious experiment that was to fail after a few short years.”

After the failure of the commune, apparently due to various human infidelities, Vogeler joined the Communist party, his art became propagandistic, he emigrated to Russia, and was eventually deported to Kazakhstan where he died, sick and destitute.


Worpswede – Near the Artists Colony – oil, 20×24 inches, Scott Freeman


Synagoga – part of a trytich entitled,
The Wall Remaining
– oil, 20×48 inches, Scott Freema

Mollie and I have also included our personal visions of unity, community, and communion in the exhibit. My triptych, The Wall Remaining, quotes tragic medieval iconography, and looks forward to what I believe will be a new unity emerging between the Synagogue and the Church. We shall see. I have posted on this painting in detail HERE.

One of my favorite pieces of Mollie’s is a large piece (4×5 ft) entitled, Jacob’s Ladder #8. She has painted several variations on this theme over the years. It refers to ideas of unity and communion in that the biblical theme of Jacob’s Ladder ultimately has to do with uniting heaven and earth. She has posted on this theme on her art blog, HERE.

blg-Jacob's Ladder 8

Jacob’s Ladder #8 – water media, 4×5 ft, Mollie Walker Freeman


“Zeitgeist – Paintings Inspired by Germany” will be open through Feb 23, 2014 at the Loveland Museum-Gallery in Loveland, Colorado – 503 N. Lincoln Ave – 970.962.2410 – Admission to the Foote Gallery is free.

New Watercolor Painting: “Muse”

This week I’m hoping you will do me the favor of casting a vote between two versions of the final painting I just finished for an upcoming exhibit. After finishing the first version, I wasn’t completely happy with it, so when the Loveland Museum moved our turn-in deadline back a few days, I started a second version of the same composition. This painting will be my smallest piece in the show, and also my only watercolor.

I use a crazy watercolor technique which is very fun, but darn near impossible to control, so there’s really no way to get the same result twice. I typically work on two watercolor paintings at the same time anyway, partly because working on a second one keeps me from messing with the first while successive stages are drying. Usually I’ll abandon one partway through and stay with the one I feel has the most promise. I this case, I completed them both, but am unsure as to which one I like best. I can’t exhibit them both because I only have one frame prepared.

When I started the second version of “Muse,” I was happy enough with the result that I decided to photograph some successive stages of the painting, for those interested in the process. I would summarize the process by saying that the painting is composed of successive layers of very wet glazes, so that the paint literally rolls around on the watercolor board. I’m grateful to Craig Lueck and John Richardson at Hallmark Cards, for introducing me to this technique, which made watercolor enjoyable for me.

(You can see a younger me using this technique in my 4 ½ minute watercolor video on Youtube. Simply type scott freeman watercolor in the Youtube search bar. My apologies for not yet being set up to link videos on this site.)

Here’s the first version of the painting. Mollie says I should put this one in the show:

Muse 1

Following are some stages showing the development of the second version.


Below is the final result. Please let me know which painting you think should go in the show, (though I’m definitely leaning toward one of them.) Vote the first or second version. I’d be interested in your reasons if you’d care to share them:

Muse 2

The subject matter of this painting comes from one of my favorite evenings during our trip to Germany last year. After Mollie and I spent the day in the Jewish Museum in Berlin, our wonderful German hosts took us to dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant. Then we went for a walk and a glass of wine at the Gendarmenmarkt, Berlin’s most beautiful square, featuring domed German and French Cathedrals facing each other across the expansive plaza with the restored Konzerthaus Berlin (Berlin Concert Hall) rising up between them.

When we entered the square, the sky was beginning to turn Maxfield-Parrish-blue. The weather was still and lovely, and a street musician was playing saxophone on the square under an ornate street lamp that was just coming on. His music echoed through the square, making the moment all the more transcendent for me. To be carried away to Europe by the generosity and grace of our new international friends, and to now be in their company on such a beautiful night in one of the world’s historic cities was extraordinary. This overwhelming memory will always be with me.

Berlin-Soldier Market Platz

Street musician on Soldier Market Platz – photo by the author

On our walk to Lutter & Wegner’s Winehouse, we passed the Concert Hall with its grand stairway. Great statues framed the stairs. On one side was a lion, on the other a lioness, each mounted by a cherub playing a musical instrument. Our hosts waited patiently as I took more photos, one of which became the source for this painting. Back at our hotel, my night ended when I couldn’t sleep from excitement, and Mollie excused me to take a midnight walk in the city (recounted here.)

Scott Freeman and Mollie Walker Freeman will be presenting a two-person art exhibit themed around their Germany trip, entitled, “Zeitgeist: Paintings inspired by Germany.” The show opens with a reception at the Loveland Museum-Gallery on November 8, 2013 at 5pm, and will be on display through February 23, 2014.

New Painting: Street Band – Berlin

I don’t want to give too much away in advance of our show that opens in November, because I want you to come to it. But by way of a preliminary announcement, I’d like to share a couple of new pieces I just finished, and describe how the exhibit is developing.

Mollie and I are calling the show, Zeitgeist: Paintings Inspired by Germany. (Zeitgeist is a German word meaning spirit of the times.) The show will open at the Loveland Museum-Gallery on November 9 in the downstairs Foote Gallery, and will remain open until February 23, 2014. On the evening of January 10, Mollie and I will be doing a joint demonstration in separate media. She will demo re-purposed house paint, her primary medium. I will demo watercolor, my secondary medium, (because it is so fun to watch!) We’ll take turns talking and painting while the other’s work is drying. We really don’t know if this will be fun, or chaotic and dizzying for people, but we’d like for you to come and find out.

The Zeitgeist exhibit will present work representing both the external landscape of northern Germany and visions from our internal mindscapes. Some views were painted en plein air on location, other pieces were inspired by people, places, or art we experienced. My crazy wife is busily working on 3 large paintings that will not fit in our van (sigh.)

Following are two pieces I recently completed, both inspired by our visit to Berlin. I posted earlier about a midnight stroll I took in Berlin one night when I was too excited to sleep. These pieces came from that night as well.


Street Band – Berlin
Scott Freeman, oil, 14×16 in.

I enjoy painting urban nocturnes because of the isolated, lively colors that one simply doesn’t get in the daylight. This scene of a street band is a small painting that reflects the spirit of Berlin that I saw that night. Just a group of guys playing music on Alexanderplatz, (plaza) the site where the largest anti-government protest in East Germany history occurred, just days before the fall of the Berlin wall in November of 1989.


One of my favorite graffiti images from Berlin.

The second piece, below, is an appropriation – an assemblage of street art, none of which originated with me. I hope I didn’t commit any crimes in collecting these pieces of urban subculture. Certain areas of Berlin were covered in Graffiti and plastered with posters and announcements. I was kind of keeping my eyes open for a cool poster from off the street, but one that I could remove intact without being an inconsiderate jerk. Down an alley, I was happy to finally discover the pink elephant poster which had mostly peeled off the wall because of the rain. So I helped it off the rest of the way. I love the juxtaposition of the anti-capitalist blog leaflet ( the wolf) over the Club Maxxim image – a wonderfully ironic statement for pluralism and freedom.


Animals of Berlin
Appropriation, Scott Freeman




Paintings: My 2013 Governor’s Art Show Entries & Their Stories

The 22nd annual Colorado Governor’s Invitational Art Show and Sale opens April 27th in Loveland, Colorado, at the Loveland Museum Gallery. Following are my four entries and their stories. For those who live nearby, in conjunction with the show I will also be performing a new Art Theatre (live painting) piece at the Bill Reed Middle School auditorium at 2pm on Saturday, the 27th. Admission is free for this event but you must have a ticket. For info, visit:


“Luneburg – Co-existence of Centuries”
oil on canvas, 24 x 36 inches, 2013 – Scott Freeman

 Luneburg – Co-existence of Centuries:

Luneburg is an historic town in Northern Germany, officially founded in 956. Luneburg’s salt trade made it an important and wealthy town during the Middle Ages. Unlike many German towns, it was left undamaged during World War 2, and its old town square has many well-preserved buildings, the oldest of which dates to around 1400. Pictured in the painting is St. Michael’s Church, which opened in 1409 and schooled Johann Sebastian Bach for a time. J. S. sang soprano in the boys choir at St. Michael’s.

The painting was created from a 9×12″ plein air study I did while in Germany last summer. When I set out, I had a particular view in mind that I wanted to paint; a view that I had noticed the day before while touring the city. But as is sometimes the case, when I arrived with my painting gear at the location, the view wasn’t as inspiring as I had remembered it. I took a walk and found the above view down an alley a few blocks away. Of all the cityscape compositions I’ve stumbled across in my painting career, this is my favorite so far. I could give my reasons for this if anyone is interested.

This painting was actually painted for an upcoming art exhibit that Mollie and I are preparing. The show will go up in November at the Loveland Museum-Gallery, in the Foote Gallery, and will be themed around our Germany trip.


“Calm Before the Storm”
oil on linen, 24 x 30 inches, 2012 – Scott Freeman

 Calm Before the Storm:

A few years ago I illustrated a children’s book. I happened to be looking over some photos I had shot for that project, and realized there was some great reference there. This painting is a reworking of one of those photos. I think painting and music compliment each other in many ways. In addition, many musical instruments are beautifully shaped and crafted.

For years I was a purist, refusing to work from photos. While I still prefer working from life, I definitely no longer feel constrained to only paint from life, and I feel that my earlier practice was good foundation for whatever I want to do next.


oil on panel, 14 x 24 inches, 2012 – Scott Freeman

Jammin’ :

One night I was enjoying a house concert in my neighborhood when I realized that the composition and lighting on the guitar player were extraordinary. I asked to borrow someone’s camera and shot a few photos. This painting is the result.


“Monument Valley Roadscape”
oil on panel,11 x 14 inches, 2011 – Scott Freeman

Monument Valley Roadscape:
On the way home from a plein air festival in Sedona, Arizona, I drove through Monument Valley for the first time, and knew I wanted to paint the buttes in the valley. I secretly hope this painting doesn’t sell as it’s one of my favorite landscape paintings to date.

From Berlin: An Amusing Tale of the Clashing of Symbols

This past summer Mollie and I spent three wonderful weeks in Northern Germany. In the course of a three-day adventure in Berlin, our dear German hosts shared an amusing historical detail that was new to me.

In what was formerly communist East Berlin, there is an architectural structure rising high above the rest of the city. In fact, the Fernsehturm (TV Tower) is the tallest structure in all of Germany. The Fernsehturm was designed and built by the East German government as an act of psychological warfare in the 1960s. Of course it also served a practical function as a radio and TV tower. But it is situated relatively close to where the Berlin wall was located, dividing the free West from the East.

The imposing tower literally looked into West Berlin when the city was still divided, and the people on the west side could clearly not ignore the tower rising up – a reminder of the threat of a political movement that had divided their country, and intended to overwhelm the planet.


This photo is taken from Bernauer Strasse, a famous street where many East Berliners escaped into West Berlin, and many died trying. The vertical bars commemorate the exact height and location of where the wall once stood. In the distance you can see the TV Tower rising up. – photo by Scott Freeman, 2012

Younger generations may not be aware of Communism’s stated global aspirations, now that the threat is essentially gone. But those of us who lived through the Soviet Era remember well how intimidating it was. It is worth recalling some quotes from Communist leaders. From the outset, Marx and Engels believed that the inevitable “march of history” would result in the end of capitalism and class divisions worldwide. In 1956 Nikita Khrushchev famously told a group of Western ambassadors in Moscow: “Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will bury you.” Despite their belief in the inevitability of worldwide communism, Marx and other communist leaders clearly felt justified in helping the prophecy along by the use of force.


A view of the tower from Alexanderplatz, during my midnight walk,
(see my previous post.) – photo Scott Freeman, 2012

Of special interest to me, even as a teenager, was the atheistic nature of Communism. It was supposedly a scientific system, (as though belief in God and the practice of science contradict each other.) Both God and religion had supposedly been utterly discredited by reason and modernism. Theism was expected to eventually die out completely as materialist rationalism spread around the world.

Beginning with the “enlightenment,” a succession of thinkers had been making (incorrect) predictions as to when the demise of God and religion would occur. This idea of modernity extinguishing theism has been called “secularization theory,” and Communism can be seen as one manifestation of it. Churches in Soviet Bloc countries were often ushered out of existence in order to speed “progress” along. Khrushchev closed some 4,000 Russian Churches, and in 1961 promised to show the last priest on TV. Christians were banned not only from the teaching profession, but even from teaching their own children about God. Up until Gorbachev, political dissenters and Christians were considered to be mentally ill by the Soviet Government, and were institutionalized and “treated” as such

Perhaps you’re wondering where the amusing part comes in.

Well, the design of the Fernsehturm essentially resembles a large globe impaled on a giant needle. (Or a giant silver asparagus according to some locals.) It so happens that, on cloudless days, when full sunlight strikes the globe, a clear highlight appears in the shape of a cross. Not a plus sign. Not an x, but a shining cross. So what was meant to be an intimidating presence, not unlike the Eye of Sauron in Mordor, accidentally turned out to be a billboard for Communism’s most hated institution – the Church. At least on sunny days. If there had been an equivalent to the ACLU in East Germany, it surely would have sued the atheistic Communist government for promoting Christianity! GDR Officials tried in vain to stop the symbol from appearing by treating the metal. Nothing worked. Eventually the tower was nicknamed by the locals as “The Pope’s Revenge”.


The irrepressible symbol showing itself again, amidst the rebuilding.
– photo Scott Freeman, 2012

The Berlin Wall came down in 1989 – 28 years after it was erected, and 100 years after Neitzsche announced that God was dead. Amidst singing and celebration, East and West Berlin were reunited. Berlin was remade the capitol of a unified and free Germany. Today the Fernsehturm has a rotating bar and restaurant inside its globe. Capitalist visitors can now pay to ride up and get a 360 view of the remarkable city that is Berlin, in the heart of Europe’s strongest economic power. I find that amusing.

Oh…and I should mention that God is alive and well in Berlin. I spoke with Him while I was there.

New Painting: My Midnight Walk Through Berlin

During a trip to Berlin last summer, after a day of touring I was too energized by the history of the place to sleep. So I took a walk around the city after midnight. Berlin was still alive and full of color, music, and street performers. The painting below is a result of my late night walk. I’m also including some of my (lame) photography so you can get a sense of the color.

I loved Berlin. Is there another city in the world with such a crazy history? And yet it’s a story that ends well.

At the end of the Second World War, occupied Germany was divided into 4 zones by the victorious Allied Forces. America, France, and Britain, turned their zones back over to German control. The Soviet Union did not. The eastern half of Germany became the misnamed German Democratic Republic, disappearing behind the Iron Curtain for over 40 years. As for the city of Berlin, half of the city – the western half – became a conspicuous island of freedom and prosperity far inside the Iron Curtain. Eventually the GDR erected a wall across Berlin to keep East Germans from defecting to West Berlin. The Berlin Wall became a symbol of the oppression and failure of communism, and the differences between the western half and eastern half of the city grew stark over the years as West Berliners enjoyed the fruits of freedom.

Map blg

The night I took my midnight stroll, these thoughts were keeping me awake. The physical wall went up when I was one year old – 1961. When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, I saved the newspaper headlines. But actually standing in Berlin with native Germans and hearing their stories was an amazing experience for me. Today a reunified Germany is going about the task of rebuilding the scarred city with remarkable intelligence. But it wasn’t that long ago, and the butt-ugly communist architecture is still visible. The hotel where my wife and friends were staying was behind the Iron Curtain just 25 years ago. My midnight walk took me to Alexanderplatz (plaza), site of the largest protest in East German history which occurred a few days before the wall came down. When I arrived, the Platz was full of people, but they were enjoying the night, not protesting.


I speak very little German, but I think this was a comedy show. “Lacht” means “laughs”.


Rising up in the background you can see the Fernsehturm (television tower) built by the GDR in the 1960s. Our German hosts told us a fun story about this tower, which I will share in my next post. The Fernsehturm remains the tallest structure in Germany.


I don’t know what these guys were doing, but they had a large crowd. Something with a female volunteer and fire. The sign makes a pun – Bierlin. “Bier” is “beer”.



These guys were playing music on the street. They were very patient with a drunken guy in the crowd who kept trying to take the microphone. I never saw a policeman while I was there. There were women out alone riding bikes. I’m only going from my impressions, but it seemed a very friendly and safe environment.



Outside shopping. I wish my camera had captured the true colors.


When I saw this blue and violet night cafe scene I knew I had to paint it. Again, the colors were extraordinary. I wish I could’ve painted this view on location “en plein air”, but it just wasn’t practical. Below is the painting that resulted, and following that is a detail of the same painting. Mollie and I are booked to do a two-person show in November of 2013 at the Loveland Museum-Gallery in Loveland, Colorado. The show will be themed around our Germany trip, and this painting was painted for the upcoming show.

AB Berlin nite ptg

“Nighttime Cafe”
oil, 24 x 30 inches, Scott Freeman

AB Berlin nt ptg de


Favorite Handmade Christmas Tree Ornaments

One of the perks of being an artist married to an artist is that we sometimes make cool stuff for each other. After 28 years of marriage, plus 5 kids making things around Christmastime, I used to think we  had the most Christmassy Christmas tree in the history of Christmas. But then, our German exchange student told me that they still use real, lit candles on Christmas trees in Germany. So now I have German Christmas tree envy. I think it’s a plus anytime one can involve actual fire in a holiday celebration. In fact, just a few weeks ago when I was cooking our Thanksgiving turkey, I was visited by the Loveland Fire Department.
But I digress…

Following are a few of my favorite homemade Christmas ornaments. You may even find some gift ideas if you enjoy making your own gifts. If so, have fun and let me know how they turned out!

Deer Mollie

This is an ornament I made for Mollie out of paper mache. This was a particularly eventful year in our early marriage, so I made the deer autobiographical: Using an extremely tiny paintbrush (the likes which I will never use again,) I wrote a significant event for each month of the year, using tapered strokes that were supposed to resemble hair. For instance: ...”September – Our first wedding anniversary…October – Surprise! We made our first baby! And how’bout those Royals…, and so on. Notice the nose has the year – 1985.

Xmas Handprints

When each of our 5 children were still small, I put his or her hand print in white on a big red ornament, (which was more difficult than it sounds.) This was their gift to Mollie for those years. I can still remember the reactions of each of our very different children as I brushed paint on their tiny hands:

Caleb, who is legally blind and very tactile got a big grin on his face

Lee became very serious about the importance of the task, and did his best to carry it out perfectly

Sierra giggled and said it tickled, and that the paint was cold

Joel kept making a fist, once he figured out I didn’t want him to make a fist

Renee freaked out because she thought it was gross, and I had to reassure her that the paint would wash off

Found Object Angels

I really like found-object art, though I don’t think I’m very good at it. These angels were made while I still worked at Hallmark. Part of the fun is identifying what the objects actually are. The blue angel’s body is an antique bottle I found, with a fake pearl necklace stuffed inside. The head is an old glass bottle stopper. The small angel’s body is a curtain-pull-thingy. I think the depiction of spirit-beings in human junk has an interesting irony.


Mollie likes dolls, so I gave her the ornament on the left a couple of years ago. It’s made from a cheesy souvenir that I found in a thrift store. There was a second, scarier-looking figure, along with a chunk of wood bearing the name of some tourist destination, all glued onto a little wooden platform. I really liked this little figure though, so I threw everything else away, gave her a make-over, and made her hang-able.

The house is a replica of our first home in inner-city Kansas City, MO. Cool house, nasty neighborhood. We have stories. Inside the house is a little hand-cranked music box that plays I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.

On the right is an ornament made at a wood-turning (lathe) workshop I took when I worked at Hallmark. It’s about 6 inches high.

Bell Dancer

One of our daughters has been dancing since age 4, so every Christmas we’ve given her a ballerina/dance ornament. This is one Mollie made for her. Made out of sculpey. About 2 inches high. This is one of my all time favorites.


Left: Riding a bike was too normal for Joel, so he became obsessed with unicycling, and became quite a skilled rider. However, unicycle tree ornaments are pretty hard to find, so I made this one for him.

Right: One year Renee wanted a chinchilla for a pet. So I made one for her. It’s still cute, but it doesn’t poop, pee, bite people, or die. Next year she’s getting a car for Christmas. Heh, heh.

Fabric ornaments

One year Mollie made stuffed ornaments out of fabric for everyone, and hand-painted them. I think these are cooler than snot. Our dancer got the dancer. The middle one was for  me, because I collect angel ornaments….

Kid Angels

…Here are some that she helped the kids to make.


OK…I realize this is not a tree ornament, but it’s close enough.

As I’ve become increasingly interested in the ancient Jewish culture into which Jesus was born, I’ve also become a bit bugged by traditional Nativity scenes. Bugged because Jesus was born into a devoutly Jewish family, and was Himself an observant Jew, and I have pretty much never seen a commercially produced American Nativity scene that didn’t look like a family of wealthy Greek philosophers. Or, if it’s a Kenyan Nativity scene, then everyone looks African. If it’s made in Mexico, then they all look Mexican, with little Sombreros, or whatever. I get it – Jesus is for everyone, and different cultures want to make Him relatable. Nonetheless, the fact that Jesus was born into Judaism in fulfillment of Hebrew prophecy is a detail that matters. If you go re-contextualizing the story, a great deal of content and meaning is lost. I’m not losing any sleep over ethnically incorrect Nativity scenes, but I just wanted to make one that would make me happy, and hopefully make the idea of a Jewish Jesus seem normal to my children. Someday I’d like to add more figures, but for now, this is all I have, due to lack of time.

Thanks for viewing part of what makes the season meaningful for our family. I hope this wasn’t too much like watching someone else’s family vacation videos!

Angel Moon

My Worst First Impression – A True Story

At the Denver Airport. My daughter’s shirt turns out to be portentous.
The guy with the “experience” shirt is a random foreign student. We didn’t have the heart to tell him to get out of our picture.

On my own I would never have entertained the idea of hosting an exchange student in our home. I assumed that a foreign student coming to America would want to stay in nice new home with more than one bathroom, and stairs that don’t creak. A home that had, perhaps, a working furnace. But someone had recommended our family for a particular German student who was seeking a host family.

Her interests were music, theater, dance, and the arts. I had to admit this seemed a perfect match up with our entire family, so, after some discussion, we agreed to take on this adventure. But I did feel obligated to let her and her family know that our family lived well below the poverty line. I didn’t overstate it. For instance I didn’t mention that, by the first of each month, we usually still didn’t know how we would meet that month’s mortgage payment. (It is also true that we had never missed a payment in 9 years of payments, but that is a different story of God’s monthly provision for our family.)

Klara and her family seemed pleased that she would be hosted by a family of artists, musical theater performers, and dancers, so we all began to prepare for Klara’s arrival in America. I began to be a little anxious that she would be comfortable staying in our home.

After some months of our families exchanging communications as best we could, (we spoke no German,) the day at last came to pick up Klara from the airport. I should mention that our minivan had been totaled months before, and we were now down to a 20 year old, 5 passenger Toyota Camry. The Camry had been acting up of late, and my goal for the day was to simply make the hour long drive to the Denver airport, pick up our European student, and get back home and out of the car as quickly as possible. Of course I also hoped to make a positive, welcoming first impression on Klara. We were able to scrape together the gas money for the airport trip. I would work on finding the money to get the car fixed later.

Klara’s plane was scheduled to arrive at 1:00. Our two teens who still live at home were, of course, coming to the airport with my wife and me to welcome Klara to Colorado. I should also mention that my son was scheduled to perform in a concert at 4:00 that afternoon in a neighboring town next to ours. This seemed like a comfortable enough window that I agreed he should come with us to the airport.

Off we went. It was August in Colorado, a typically hot day. On the way to the airport I apologetically asked the kids to suck it up because I didn’t want to turn the AC on yet. I wanted to wait until the ride home when we had Klara, so that we would appear to be a reasonably normal American family. Until then I wanted to maximize the chances that our car would make it to the airport and back. I figured the sweat would dry from everyone’s clothes while we waited for Klara at the airport.

Meeting Klara for the first time was wonderful. We had already begun to grow fond of her through our correspondence. At the airport she appeared suddenly in the crowd of passengers, smiling, dark-skinned and beautiful, with a guitar strapped to her back. A great first impression on her part! We loved her instantly. We all exchanged hugs. Her American adventure had officially begun. I hoped our family could make it the best experience for her that it could be.

After loading her luggage into our little car, we piled in and began making conversation. The car started. I turned on the AC and it worked. Perfect. Now all that remained was to continue to act normal, and not stop the car until we made it back to Loveland. Soon we were halfway home. I was very pleased. I imagined that I seemed like a responsible adult.

However, I soon noticed in my peripheral vision that some jerk on my left in a big-ass Colorado pickup was gesturing at me, trying to get my attention. After ignoring him for a mile, he kept right up with me, so I knew I had to turn and deal with him. I faced him. Impossible! It was my wife’s brother, grinning at me. We’re on a freaking four lane, major interstate going 75 mph. What are the chances of this? He wants us to pull over. He calls my wife on her phone. He wants to repay us some money he owes us, (which we need,) so I see no way out of taking the next exit. I exit and park, but leave the car running. We make the transaction and I get back onto the interstate, relieved.

I milk the moment, “Well, that was fun! Isn’t America a great place? America…where people stop you on the highway so they can give you money!” Another mile behind us and Mollie turns to me quietly and says, “I have to pee”. I look at her, longer than I should have. “What do you mean?” I ask. In response she quietly burns a hole into the side of my face with her eyes. I suggest, “You mean you have to pee as soon as we get home, right?” She indicates this is not what she means.

Sigh. At this point we’ve been married for 26 years, and I know there is no point in discussing this further. I take the next exit. The car chugs and dies as soon as we hit the off ramp. I swerve into a parking lot with just enough momentum that I am able to swing into a parking space. I restart the car and it immediately dies again. My worst fears have now been realized. I apologize to Klara.

The good news is, we happen to be parked in front of a Starbucks. “This could still turn out well”, I think to myself. (I find that it is more fun to be an optimist.) We all go in and have a seat. I announce that if we let the engine cool down for a while, that it might start up again, having no idea what I’m talking about. I buy everyone something to drink (with the cash we just got from Uncle Keith), but Klara refuses to let me pay for her. What does this mean? Is she just being polite? Is she already making plans in her mind to find a different host family? We hang out, enjoy more conversation. Eventually my son, Joel, calmly points out to me, “Dad, I’m supposed to be onstage in Berthoud in 40 minutes.”


We hurry outside. The car won’t start. Crap. I apologize to Klara again. Joel calls a guy from the band, who graciously hops in his vehicle and comes to get us. 17 minutes later he pulls up. It’s an enormous, beat up, 8 seater van. With AC. We pile all of Klara’s earthly belongings into the van. 17 minutes later we arrive in Berthoud. Joel & the driver, who happens to be the lead singer, reach the stage just as their band is called up. I glance at Klara. She doesn’t seem freaked out by this razor thin timing. It turns out that we’re actually in a beautiful setting – cute little town, big shade trees, nice little music festival. Klara’s new host brother performing. I think, “This could still possibly turn out OK.” We enjoy the concert.

At this point we are only 10 minutes away from home. It should be a pretty simple matter to find a ride the rest of the way, but I don’t want to impose on the lead singer any further. It occurs to me that a good friend of mine from Loveland actually works in Berthoud. Maybe he’s still here. I call him, and he cheerfully agrees to take us home when the concert is over. ‘Could be worse. We finish watching the concert, happy that our new student seems to be enjoying herself.

The musical act that follows is less than professional and I think I detect that it is grating on Klara’s finely-tuned European cultural sensibilities, so we decide to leave. After all, she hasn’t even settled in to her new home yet. We gather her luggage and find our ride home.

My spirits sink – I see that our ride home will be my friend’s old, lurching mini-bus that he uses for hauling wood and yard waste. I happen to know that this vehicle has been on its last legs for a couple of years now. There are no seats in back, and there probably hasn’t been AC for a couple of decades. I apologize to Klara again. She enthusiastically pretends that she is accustomed to being hauled around in a hot, dirty metal can.

We load her earthly belongings into this, the third vehicle of the afternoon, and pile in. As we lurch along, rolling around like dice in cup, I bury my head in my hands. As I face her to apologize again, I see her smiling out the window at the scenery. She is having a great Colorado adventure in the American West.

My chance to smooth over the disastrous airport pick up would come when we arrived at home. Mollie and I, in a carefully thought out and sensitive gesture, had Klara’s first evening planned out. We knew she would be tired and jet-lagged, and in new and foreign surroundings. We envisioned letting Klara have plenty of undisturbed time to herself to settle into her new room. Mollie would make a nice dinner, and we would all have a relaxing evening together before Klara went to bed early.

What happened was, no sooner had we said, “…and this is will be your room,” than our son’s phone rang. Some friends were going to the drive-in to see a double feature and would be by to pick him up in ten minutes. He turns to Klara and asks, “You wanna go to the drive –in?” Her eyes light up. “Yes”. She sets her luggage down, and they run to the kitchen and slap some sandwiches together for a lame “dinner” as the carload of teenagers pull up. Then she was gone.

I turned to my wife and smiled weakly, “Well…this could still turn out well!…