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“The Hummingbird Tree” at the Bob for ARTPRIZE Nine

“The Hummingbird Tree” is now on display at The Bob for ArtPrize Nine. Post photo by J. Reed.

by Judy Reed

Those visiting ArtPrize Nine next week will have the chance to see a variety of art, including some from artists here in Cedar Springs and the surrounding area. Blake Wondergem’s entry is one you don’t want to miss.

Wondergem, 56, a commercial sign artist by trade, has spent the last 7-1/2 months working 12-hour days on “The Hummingbird Tree,” an original piece of artwork he first imagined four years ago.

Artist Blake Wondergem puts some finishing touches on his artwork. Post photo by J. Reed.

“It was like a vision,” he said. “I had never seen it, but I knew I wanted to do a hummingbird bladder built into a tree.”

Wondergem was born in Grand Rapids, and came to Cedar Springs at age 9 or 10. He created his first mural at age 17, in Illinois. He later moved to Tennessee, and while there, he created a mural of Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty that is displayed on Main Street in Bristol, Tenn. He estimates that more than 6 million people have seen it.

He also built a business as a commercial sign manufacturer, one that has sustained him for the last 30 years. But the creative side of the art world still calls him.

He began working on “The Hummingbird” while still in Tennessee earlier this year, then moved back to Cedar Springs three months ago, where his mom, Linda, still resides. He has been working out of a studio behind the Peacock Pet Parlor.

Wondergem calls his artwork a portable mural. It consists of 240 layers of acrylic paint on fabric, and hundreds of hours of study.

“The secret of the painting lies like a pirate treasure in all of this,” explained Wondergem, as he picked up a file of notes and photographs that he has spent countless hours studying, to get all aspects of the artwork the way they might look in a photo.

“When people look at this, I want them to ask, ‘Does it look like a picture?’ I don’t want it to look like a painting; I want it to look like a picture,” he explained.

An example of his perfection and attention to detail was working on refection. When looking at the artwork, people will be looking up at it, and the sun in the picture is in the southeast. He wanted to get the angle of the reflected light in the hummingbird feeder just right.

“I put a candle in a beer glass to study reflection,” said Wondergem. “It was one of the hardest studies I’ve ever done.”

He has used a variety of hummingbirds in the mural, as well plant and insect life. But the real star of the artwork is the ellipsis, with the nectar flowing from the tree limb into the feeder and out through the flowers. “I was so at peace when the egg was done,” remarked Wondergem.

The artwork is 7-feet wide and 9-feet tall, and is installed at The Bob, 20 Monroe Ave., Grand Rapids. The vote code is 66248.

Public voting for ArtPrize Nine begins on Wednesday, September 20 at noon and closes September 30 at 11:59 p.m. The public vote top 20 will be announced on October 1, and round two voting will begin the same day at 2 p.m. and close on October 5 at 11:59 p.m.

ArtPrize is an open, independently organized international art competition that takes place for 19 days each fall in Grand Rapids, Michigan. More than $500,000 in prizes are awarded each year, and includes a $200,000 prize awarded entirely by public vote, and another $200,000 prize awarded by a jury of art experts. Any artist working in any medium from anywhere in the world can participate.

To register to vote and to get more info, visit www.artprize.org.

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