a teen’s vision : filmmaker john loxterkamp

For the past 16 years, I’ve lived with my family in a small town on the coast of Maine. Our community is filled with quirky, independent-minded, rather remarkable people, and my son (now 18 years old) is lucky to have grown up here, with these folks and their children as an extended family. One of those children is now also a high school senior, preparing to move to college, and out into the world. I’d like to introduce you to John Loxterkamp, who, as you will soon see, has a unique sense of visual style and wit, and a sophisticated ear for editing. What are the origins of John’s artistic vision? How did his early drawing skills inform his current work with video and typography?

When John was an eight year old child, I was struck by his highly stylized drawings. As I’ve written before, all children make remarkable things, and many make remarkable drawings. But there are children who are working at another level that really takes your breath away. Perhaps the most striking aspect of John’s work was his way of creating a sense of the passage of time… a rendering of cause and effect. This is no small thing, especially in a child’s work:

At some point, around the age of nine, John turned to video. He and my son made and edited movies for hours and hours, animating many an inanimate object:

From that point on, John made film after film, and at a certain point, his sensitivity as an editor and his innovative use of graphics came to the fore. The lyric video below was created by him this summer. Enjoy this excellent creation, and read through to the bottom of the post for my interview with John Loxterkamp.

Your drawings were always distinctive. Have you drawn continuously since you were a child, or have there been times when you’ve taken a break?

I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember, and there have been slow periods where I haven’t drawn as much or as frequently, but I can’t remember ever taking a break from it completely.

What do you love about the video/film medium?

What I love most about film as a medium is that it allows one to tell a story with unlimited methods of doing so, through shots, scores, how the video is edited, etc. I also love the problem-solving aspect of film making. Throughout my history of videography, there’s always been a point during either production or post production where something doesn’t work, either continuity-wise or sound-wise or shot-wise. It is the duty of the filmmaker, especially one who is in charge of most of the aspects of production, to somehow solve or alleviate whatever problem it is. There are several ways of getting to a point where you’re satisfied with the final product and the imperfections are negligible. There’s no specific reason film is my medium of choice, except that I feel a strong passion for it and I am motivated to create short videos frequently, I do it for fun.

Tell us a bit about your Max video. What do you remember about the process of making of it?

Max, as far as I can remember, was a very short stop motion feature Noah and I made for fun; we always created when spending time together, and in this case we had a camera and a lot of time. Though the video was short, only about 6 seconds of stop motion total, I remember there was speculation about how many frames each picture we took should last on screen. At the time, I was all about the fluidity of motion and the final presentation, and suggested that if we made all of the pictures 3 frames long, the video would flow rather than assume a more choppy feel with the more standard 8-frames-per-photo look. It was also challenging to move everything in the shot around with relation to everything else, sometimes we would find ourselves confused as to what we had moved since the last frame and what we hadn’t. In the end, I’d say it was one of our more successful stop motion productions.

Which artists/filmmakers inspire you?

I’ve always been a fan of Wes Anderson. The way he sets up his shots as a Director is very unusual and captivating, and I’ve taken much from his use of lengthy still wide shots.

I know that you’ve found, through the internet, quite an extensive community of other teens making films. How do you think the immediate feedback (likes, repostings, votes) affects your work?

I really learn a lot from how others receive my work, and I learn to deal with the negative feedback I receive. I always pay attention to and encourage the posting of comments on my video because I really feel that constructive criticism from those who scrutinize my work will help me in the long run to improve my craft. I’ve learned some techniques from those making films around me, but I’ve never shaped a video of mine around a fellow content creator’s style.

Tell us about your fabulous Nashville Lyric Video.

Nashville was my first full lyric video, although I had been working with typography and music before. The main thing I learned from working on Nashville was how to budget my time and meet a deadline. Because the video was a commission, the artist’s manager gave me about a three-week period to complete the lyric video, and that turned out to be a very short amount of time. I was working 6 or 7 hours straight some weekends putting the video together, and I had to prioritize; I would stay in rather than hang out with my friends some nights, and I would close out all other distractions to get the project done. It was a learning experience, I’ve never had to do something so time-consuming and intensive.

What are you working on these days? Are you open to taking commissions?!

Right now I’m starting to get back into film, but I have one typography project I’m working on at the moment, which will probably take me about a month to complete. I am always open to commissions!

BRAVO JOHN!


stamped impressions

Saturday’s Family ArtLab stamping workshop was not only almost standing room only, it was also jam-packed with one gorgeous art-making moment after another. Parents and children in the community created their own stamps, made prints on blank greeting cards, and then embellished the printed cards with watercolors, markers, and crayons.

I set out piles of small wooden blocks (thank you for the donation Viking Lumber!), sheets of adhesive foam, palettes, brushes, tempera, and stacks of blank greeting cards and envelopes. Then, working alone or together, children and their parents dove into their work.

Here is one of the many cards made by the father/daughter team above:

A young girl created this series of cards using a positive stamp (the primary shape) and a negative stamp (the piece of the foam from which the shape came).

Many people made positive and negative stamps and focused on composing their shapes on the card.

Others spent a great deal of time painting or drawing on the stamped images. Here is a dreamy card made by a young girl. She combined the two stamp impressions with beautiful blobs of watercolor.

In the background of the photograph below you see the making of that card… In the foreground there’s a red piece of foam, which I later found when I was cleaning up the room…

I took the piece of foam and made a stamp for myself.

And then I printed some cards and brought them home for my husband and son to complete:


one image, once a year


I knew that November was near, and I had realized that day by day, it had become colder and colder. But I still wasn’t prepared to open my back door to this morning’s snowfall. I think of the obvious (getting out scarves and gloves and coats), but I also think about something that I only think about in the cold month of November: my once-a-year holiday card.

For about 20 years, I’ve sent out a few hundred cards to friends, family, and collectors, with an image I’ve created for the holiday season or for the new year. While I can usually count on a few weeks of total frustration, feeling that I don’t have any ideas that interest me, somehow it always gets resolved. In truth, it’s one of my favorite creative challenges of the year. I take the holiday card seriously because I’m creating and printing one image only, not a series.

I think I might have an idea for this year, and this one, like many, became clear when I was hiking with my friend Pat. (Hiking and yoga and swimming are great creative idea generators.) Hopefully I’ll post this year’s card in a couple of months, but in the meantime, I thought that today, on this snow day, I’d share a small selection of my cards from past years. There is of course a direct reflection in the cards of the arc of my personal photographic work: the use of children’s drawings, negative imagery, and throughout all of the years, hand-colored imagery.

{ 2002 }

{ 2003 }

{ 2004 }

{ 2006 }

{ 2007 }

{ 2009 }



BIG inspiration : BIG magazine

A big thank you to Jo Pollitt and Lilly Blue, the creative team behind BIG Magazine, for featuring my work and this Playground on their fabulous blog! If you haven’t yet read (or read about) BIG Kids Magazine you’re in for an inspiring surprise. BIG is an Australian-made biannual contemporary creative arts magazine/blog devoted to promoting creativity and innovative collaboration between and amongst artists and children. Each issue of the magazine features a free artist’s print and two key projects: Side By Side which publishes collaborative artwork by children and artists, and The Child Artist Response Project which is an initiative where children and artists respond directly to each other’s work. You can subscribe to BIG here, like them on their Facebook page here, and, you can submit your child’s artwork to BIG as well!

Bravo BIG!


a child’s vision : eliot bee

It’s not unusual for a child to make wondrous, unique creations. (All children do.) But it’s rare for a child to make a collection of works that evolve into a cohesive series. Eliot Bee is a five year old girl who has been creating “fairies” out of found objects since before the age of four. In Eliot’s words: I use materials that I find when I’m walking around, or toys I’m not using anymore. I use wooden bodies a lot, but sometimes I use other stuff. I made one from a penny and my daddy’s guitar pick. (See image above.)

I’ve had the great pleasure of working with Eliot many times at the Starrett Center, a wonderful multi-age daycare center in my town. While I’ve never made fairies with her, I’ve watched her approach every other project with the same clear sense of focus and inner direction; a total connection to the materials and the process of creating images or objects.

Eliot began making her fairies at Starrett with her teacher Linda Stec (who is the Executive Director of the Center, as well as a funky and fascinating ceramic artist/puppeteer). It began without fanfare one day, when, not wanting or needing to sleep at nap time, Eliot simply asked: Can I make a fairy? Linda gathered some materials and heated up a hot glue gun.


Then every day like clockwork, for many days and weeks and months thereafter, Eliot made fairies while Linda assisted. Linda’s words to her from the outset were: You’re the artist. I’m just the gluer.

Eliot continued making fairies at home, with her Mom and her Dad. No matter where she worked, the adults were there solely as assistants, ready with a glue gun, but without “suggestions” or directions.

When I first saw Eliot’s collection (months before her one-person show at Waterfall Arts in Belfast last year), I was moved not only by the works themselves, but by the sense that this completely personal work was born of an open environment, where a child’s vision was given infinite space to grow.

{ Many thanks to Eliot’s father, Ethan Andrews, for the photographs in this post. }


art hero : roy decarava

Roy DeCarava was one of my first art heroes, and the first photo-based artist whose images opened my eyes to photography’s uniquely poetic power. This is probably the most important book in my photo library, and it has been with me for almost thirty years. DeCarava’s images placed an early, indelible stamp on my sensibilities. And as with all great art, I was physically affected by these works: they took my breath away; they made me shiver. And then, they raised my proverbial bar.

I can’t think of many other images that move me the way this image does. It’s an image that I carry around inside of me as a gauge for timelessness. DeCarava himself said: My pictures are immediate and yet at the same time they’re forever. They present a moment so profoundly a moment that it becomes eternity. It’s almost like physics; there’s an arc of being. There’s a beginning, then the peak is reached and then there’s the end… The moment when all the forces fuse, when all is in equilibrium, that’s the eternal…

Roy DeCarava showed me how personal image-making could be. How emotional. How quiet and strong and clear and communicative, all at the same time. How poignant.

His images taught me about framing space. They taught me that each photograph must emanate its own, extraordinary sense of light.

His images taught me about graciousness. How to align yourself with the rhythm of your subject.

The only way to do this is to be in tune… he said… to have the same sense of time that the subject has. This means you have to give yourself to the subject, accept their sense of time.

In 1987 DeCarava came to speak about his work at Hampshire College, where I was completing my degree in film/photography. As the slide show of his work was presented, he sat in the front row, watching along with his audience. When the presentation of images ended and the questions began, he did not quite turn all the way around. He answered our questions, speaking partly to himself, partly to the images that lingered, still, in front of the room. It was as if he were entranced by his own work.


fotoplay : adults jump in

The first thing the participants in Saturday’s workshop found when they came into the ArtLab was a fotoplay prompt. (Looking back at previous posts, I imagine that my love for creating visual prompts is by now clear!) The best part about what then happened, was what is usually the best part about “teaching” : It was I who learned something. What I had thought would be a basic ice-breaker at the beginning of the workshop, turned out to be one of the most loved parts of the day.

Not only did my workshop participants create beautiful, sweet, odd imagery, but they did so using a full spectrum of media: crayon, marker, watercolor, collage…

And then, for the first time ever, I worked on one of my own fotoplay pages. Honestly, in all the days of sharing this work with other people, of creating, printing, and giving out my pages, it never occurred to me to do one myself. I used a small foam stamp, one of the other exercises/projects we did that morning:

I’m really pleased that I did:

*Please note:

fotoplay is a trademark of the Marcie Jan Bronstein art studio.

Please email me if you’re interested in publishing this work for commercial purposes.