Polar Opposites

In August of 2021, I was the featured artist at the gallery I co-own, following the other gallery artists, Jeremy Simonson (July) and Laura Grisamore (June). The body of work exhibited titled Polar Opposites consisted of two separate bodies of work created at the same time; Silent Screams and Abstract Landscapes. Both were direct results that emerged out of the pandemic and like so many artists the work was unlike some of the prior themes I explored.

Abstract Landscapes became the activity that began a process of detoxifying after leaving a job that created a build up of stress over the years, with the last year and a half bringing that stress to a level that should have been alleviated with the idea of retirement, but instead culminated to using coping methods to get through the day. The first one, titled Ode to Turner originated from just putting brush to canvas and letting the process of creating take place. The results reminded me of Joseph Mallord William Turner‘s work, but with less drama of the historical events he included. These became imaginary landscapes that addressed color and open spaces.

Silent Screams became cathartic process of finding a release for a collection of voices that held anxiety, frustration, or anger.  While sorting through old drawings,  that I deemed no longer necessary to keep I began to repurpose the paper and gessoed over them.  As I explored, I ended up washing portions of the drawings  to remove what I considered ugly and chaotic.  At that point I felt like it was too chaotic much like our current world and society, so I decided to try and organize and unify the work. Much like how we trying to get back to pre-pandemic days.  As I blocked off areas when working on the first one of the series, the emergence of the portrait came through with the square shape of the open mouth waiting to scream.  Finding a stash of cut pieces of acetate, I used one to write a Silent Scream of my own and overlaid it onto the work. As it happens, I had hundreds of velcro dots and used one to place the “scream” over the mouth area. At that point I began to collect “screams” including my own, that were shared with me through the various means; mail, private messages, written on notebook paper left with me.  The words are what they wanted to scream out in either the workplace, home, or the community as a whole, but would or could not because they would risk their job, family or place in community. These were also written on acetate and took their place among the others. Ultimately, after receiving about 45 responses in a couple of weeks I wondered, “Does freedom of speech really exist?” 

Ode to Turner – 16 x 20″ – Oil on Canvas
Silent Scream No. 1 – 22 x 28″ Mixed Media
Silent Scream No. 2 – 22 x 28″ – Mixed Media

The exhibit consisted of 8 Abstract Landscapes, 6 Silent Screams, and 6 framed 12 x 36 oil paintings I created within that same time frame. Some which were based on memories from travels with my parents during the summer months between teaching art at a rural high school.

Polar Opposites by Dawn Rossbach – Featured Artist for August 2021 at Studio 176 gallery in Park Rapids, MN


Ode to the Blueberry Pie

My latest print, Blueberry Pie is a multi-block and reduction print.  Two of the blocks were reduced to create an additional color (five total) and therefore the edition is limited to 18.  Printed on Kitakata, a cream-colored Japanese paper, the image size measures 8 x 5″.  This print is now available for purchase.

As many of my followers know already, besides being an artist, teaching art, I’m also a foodie and have created several recipe prints.  This one, however, is the first colored print in that series.  The blueberry pie my mother would turn out from the blueberries we picked near Ely, MN can only be described as heavenly.  Served up warm from the oven, with a healthy dose of vanilla ice cream, it was worth the fight of bugs and fear of meeting a bear who would no doubt reap the benefits of a tossed bucket of berries.  The recipe called for a good dose of lemon juice adding to the tartness of the wild blueberries.

I now live in a town that translated from the Objiwe language means “blueberry” – Menahga, MN so it seemed only natural that the first colored print honor that little orb of blueness. The blueberries grow here as well, but the memories of picking 13 gallons, sorting them and making a pie, muffins, and pancakes reside with the days of my younger self.


Moving forward

The 100 Day project is now over and I feel accomplished in that I was able to complete what I did during that time.  While I basically explored during this project, I managed to make 2 Coptic bound books, create about 20 plexiglass plates and started another box based on the Victorian sewing box.  I also worked on several versions of the Spirit tree.  That tree may never be exhausted or purged as I thought it might.


The project led me to create images I am quite pleased with even in the initial trial stages of printing them.  My years of working in restaurants and kitchens along with my newest journey of cooking using ingredients that are part of my weight loss journey are The images are test prints that I pulled as part of the beginning of the “kitcsch”en prints.  I may run some as a group and Louann came up with a great name for those, “Rebus Recipes.”

Little Bitty Art Shop

I’ve started a series of prints that I am calling “Kitsch-en” Prints.  The image size is 3 x 3 inches and will be printed on a variety of papers sized 5 x 5″.  I created several plates on plexiglass and will be running them through my etching press in the near future.  These will be available for sale in the near future.  I may make some available as recipe sets or complete editions.

Here’s a sample:

100 Day Project – Completed Book and Stained Glass

One of the four projects is completed.  Or you could add in that I created a pattern for a stained glass window of the Spirit Tree that my dad made.  The book is predominately finished, but I am tempted to add a few words.  They would be bold, handwritten using a Lyra graphite stick.  Photos below.


What I like about the book are the little bits and pieces that remind me of different people to numerous to mention and all of us working to make ends meet, hang on to our little pink houses and employ creative outlets to try and survive the insanity of our times.


I thought I would share a video of one part of the 100-Day project.  I have four projects that I am currently working on (in addition to several at school); this book, a collapsible artwork based on a Victorian Sewing Box, a painting, and a block print.  This will be a six signature Coptic bound artist book.  It’s has very few words, but what’s there is part of the artwork vs. a storyline.  The book has been an exploration of “home” and our political times and how the two have interrupted the lives of all of us in ways that we shouldn’t be.  Division, financial insecurity, insecurity of our freedoms, etc.  img_0087

Phase 3


I’m a little over a month in on the 100 Day project and through the course of generating more and more houses using materials on hand (including old print proofs, telephone books, and patterns)  One of the old print proofs was titled, “What’s behind Door #23?”  That’s when “#” stood for a number, not a way to “tag” a name or a term.  Anyway, I’ve worked through a lot of what is unfolding in this story and I seem to question the saying,  “Home is where the heart is.”  Not sure if that always applies in ways we think it should.  What if the heart is where a home was?

Moving forward, I have a few more pages to complete for the inside of the bound book and then will need to start “building the house.”   I tested a plexiglass print using the laser engraver for the students.  Go figure it was “the tree.”  But I am extremely happy with the results of that using my Ravi Press.



Phase 2 – 100 Day Project




The pink houses have now taken on more variety and I’ve allowed other colors to join in the fun.  However, I’ve kept the palette limited but the additional colors have started generating enough ideas to create two projects.  One will be a hand bound book using a bookbinders board without any covering.  I have laser engraved on the cover with the theme, but I may change that as I am not sure about the raw look of the cardboard.  I’m not opposed to it, but it feels like it should be more polished.  When I used some gouache on the prototype, it curled quite a bit and despite trying to balance the tension I’m hesitant to use any significant amount of paint.

For the inside of the book, I am using old prints proofs and drawings.  The process of repurposing them for the foundation pages and for cutouts of houses is extremely satisfying. I’ve been needing to clean my flat files for a while and they are providing an arsenal of suitable materials.  It’s a fairly free exploration and it will be a one of a kind artwork that is probably more therapeutic for me than anything.

I’ve also been looking at a book that was withdrawn from some library called “Politics in Art.” Written by Joan Mondale probably in the 70’s, Mondale is a Minnesotan and the daughter of Walter Mondale of political fame.  This project is less subtle in terms of a political viewpoint, but the idea of Pink Houses connects and so there it is, nonetheless.

The other project is based on some boxes I have made in the past.  One was designed for a graduate level Graphic Design class and the other was designed with a friend in mind who recently passed away.  In that box, I included the poem Desiderata which he introduced me to.  It’s a lovely poem and you can read further down on this page.  Using the Victorian Sewing box pattern, I’ll be using tar paper (a reference to a phrase my dad would say to my mom about tarpaper shacks) and will use the simple house form.  I’ve used tarpaper before for a mural I created for a theatrical backdrop for the play “AH” written by my friend Jen Gerhadts.



written by Max Ehrmann
Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952.

100 Days Again

I have no clue why I signed up to do the 100 Day Project again.  I didn’t even think about it, I just did it.  I left a vague description of my project but basically, I said something about “pink houses” and “spirit trees.”

I’ve been signed up for about 5 days and during that time I’ve been looking at old artwork and toying with upcycling works that I’ve saved for some unknown reason.  While I have been playing, the idea of creating and the need to create kept rearing its ugly head.  Why the strong need to create art?  Why are the images I am exploring have such a strong hold on me that they have resurfaced and been so insistent for over 20 years?  What’s the point of it all? And what power do they have over me that I feel the need to connect the dots between them?

At the onset of this blog, I posted an artwork from when I was 6.  The funeral of President Kennedy.  I misplaced the work and have been searching for it for some time.  I finally attacked my flat files where after two days of carefully sifting through and sorting, I found it placed between two large drawings (probably for safekeeping!). I know that is one of the dots.

I also came across several drawings from my younger years (junior high, high school and my early 20’s) of trees.  The Spirit Tree I’ve currently adopted is another dot.

The pink houses have returned. Or should I say, I guess I am not finished with them?  Another dot.

Scribble mark making and tornadoes.  I’ve often thought the scribble mark making was a recent technique, but the contents of the flat files prove otherwise.  The tornadoes, I get.  Chaos.  Tons of chaos.  The spirit trees I figure are a calming presence to balance out the chaos and a bit of a guiding force for my art (along with my Fisher Price doll).  And the pink houses bring me full circle back to my first political piece that depicts the death of John F. Kennedy as the houses are symbolic of the people of America and the lost hope of the American Dream.

I have an in-progress piece of pink houses with a political pig (not pictured).  It’s a work in progress, but maybe it’s the map to connect the dots.

Part 2 and edited to add:  after writing this, I was listing to Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast Magic Lessons and I heard this, “I’m not going to leave you alone until you make me.”  I’m thinking that’s a sign.

The images below are some test prints using soft-cut blocks and Garmin Relief Inks.  I laser engraved the images to test out the machine and the material and then using my Iron Press Print Frog (the glass printing baren shown in the picture below) the results were fabulous.  I have to find a source for some additional colors so I can run an edition, but I am excited at the prospect of this possibility.  The good thing is that I am focusing in on creating and fulfilling my personal art addiction.  img_8025ba3f59f4-637f-4c94-bda8-8ca6ad567e1a80456ac9-c5bd-4605-a071-c56568578f9f

Returning Pink Houses

Apparently, my muse is telling me to continue with the Pink Houses.  They have returned, but I have been working with digital images because frankly, the house has been too cold to work with other materials in the studio area.  The temperatures have been sub-zero for a couple of weeks and my house until a couple of days ago, was probably in the low to mid 60’s.   So I thought I would play with them digitally.  I have also been using a iPad and digital sketch app to see if I can enhance those skills.  Challenging to say the least.  I find the biggest difference is not being able to use the tooth of a good drawing paper to “drag” the pencil or drawing material to slow down and have control over the marks.  The surface of the iPad being glass is so slick and smooth, that controlling the line is one that will take some time to learn.

I’ve never been much of a digital artist, even though I have worked with Photoshop for close to 20 years, it’s been more on the photo editing end, where I remove something from an image or enhance the image for publication.  Creating these collage-like images is fascinating, but I think I will research some effects and see where it will take me.

In terms of the Pink Houses, there’s a lot more to explore.  I have some pink pigs that may work well with this.  We’ll see.