Pushing the Envelope

Dooryard. Stebner. 5x7

Dooryard. Stebner. 5×7

I’ve been home from France less than three weeks and I’ve been painting all I can in between cancer surgery, catching up on weeding the gardens and planning the next painting trip to one of my favorite regions of France, the Perigord. I leave in less than two months. Who wants to see it with me?

My Kind of Farm. Stebner 5x7.

My Kind of Farm. Stebner 5×7.

This morning I finally received the pathology reports from my brilliant surgeon, Robert Abouassaly. Talk about the nick of time. Those aggressive interlopers had taken over nearly sixty percent of my prostate and pushed right up to the gland’s edge on one side, ready to burst out. Happily, all lymph nodes were negative. So we can count surgery a success as long as my PSA test next week comes back zero. I’m already thanking the Universe for zero.

Twilight in Mougny. 6x8 plein air pochade. Stebner

Twilight in Mougny. 6×8 plein air pochade. Stebner

PSA zero and life full speed ahead. I want you all to see the work I did in France as well as new inspiration since returning, from little 5×7′s to larger works. So I’ll be painting and framing all I can, getting ready not only for galleries, but my summer’s end show on August 30. You’re the first to know. Mark your calendars. I’d love to see many of you!

Safely Grazing. 9x12 Stebner

Safely Grazing. 9×12 Stebner

Normandy Hedgerows. Stebner 11x14

Riot of Roses, Normandy. Stebner 11×14

Fourth of July 2014

20140608_143723Just over a week ago, I was savoring my last French coffee and buttery croissant in Paris before packing my brushes to return home from a month in France. I’d led two small groups on Artistic Adventures through some rural haunts of Normandy and Burgundy, as well as studying painting for a week, myself. The next day, I was sipping clear liquids from my sun drenched room at University Hospital in Cleveland, just hours after a successful prostatectomy.

20140603_112224You see, March’s blood tests were not what I’d hoped for. A spike in my PSA results called me to make decisions about new doctors and protocol. April’s MRI and biopsy only verified the fact that my Bavarian cancer cure a year ago was only temporary. All this was a parallel chapter playing secretly as we made final plans to celebrate our daughter’s May wedding and then take off on the French adventures I’d promised a dozen of my followers.

What changed not only my mind, but my FRAME of mind about surgery? At the end of my first consultation at University Hospital, after recommending surgery as my best long-term option(exactly what he knew I was avoiding), Dr. Hoimes said to me: “You’re a young man and you have many more paintings to create”. Brilliant! Ultimately, tail-gating surgery onto the jet-lag of my month in France was just another unexpected turn in the road and my mind was at that perfect spot to experience the unexpected and bring me to this blissful moment, today, snacking on dead-ripe watermelon in the garden. Quintessential Fourth of July fare.

The potager at Chateau Chatillon.

The potager at Chateau Chatillon.

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La Bohème to Bloomsbury

20140617_065601Sleeping in a top floor garret in the old walk-up Hotel Esmeralda à la Bohème last night was all the more intensified by Parisian thunder storms. The perfect punctuation to the end of the first chapter of my French sumer trilogy. However, getting my gear to the station and making sure I was on the train to Burgundy was a bit stormy, itself. Staying calm and allowing ample time paid off. That and remembering that life is just the ultimate adventure.

Any guesses what famous Parisian literary spot this is? My room looks down on it's back window!

Any guesses what famous Parisian literary spot this is? My room looks down on it’s back window!

 

So the three hour train ride turned into five. If railroad construction didn’t thwart the trip enough, come to find out, it’s an obscure French holiday- and the beginning of a train strike. Surprise! There’s a french expression that essentially says the French are either on strike or holiday. Today was both.

Tomorrow’s another day and I’m settled with my new painting buddies at Table-Tableau in the Burgundian Morvan. It all seems so Bloomsbury out here in the country with the only humans being artists. One mission accomplished. More artist contact.

Salsa music is playing, the sun is shining and it’s almost dinner time. I can’t wait to see what our Dutch host, Agnes, has prepared. The table under the patio awning is beautiful and it smells divine.

Bruce is happy and content.

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Ford Every Stream

IMG_2226Just a week and a day ago, I arrived in France with 5 close friends and family to share some of my favorite corners of Normandy and Paris. Several hours ago, the chapter closed as I kissed them goodbye at Hotel Printemps, Paris, before they shuttled back to Charles de Gaul to return home. Our time in Normandy will be shared in retrospect, as we had no internet at the lovingly restored old mill in Le Bec Helluoin, where we dined chilly evenings by the fire and woke to grazing sheep each day. Add the comforting white noise of the water of the brook powering the paddles of the mill wheel and you have a fine recipe for relaxation.

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Such idyllic moments were accented by day trips to Versailles and Monet’s Giverny to the south and Honfleur, the medieval port town at the mouth of the Seine River to the north. In between the two was a road trip on the “la route des chaumieres”, the path of the thatched houses, along “les boucles de la Seine”- the buckles of the Seine, aptly named for the hairpin turns the mighty river makes north of Rouen and the amazing chateau garden of the Champ du Bataille

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Not wanting to abandon our water theme, we saw Paris from the Bateaubus, the water bus system which transports passengers between eight major sights of Paris along the Seine River. The most relaxing way to see a very busy city. All the years and times I’ve been here, I’ve never done it before, but I promise, it won’t be the last.

Life in the Fast Lane

Silence at last. There hasn’t been time to think or write since the beginning of the month until now.

New paintings find their home with a long time collector.

New paintings find their home with a long time collector.

 

 

The past weeks have been a bit on the hectic side. Just two weeks ago, Jim and I walked our daughter, Amy, down the isle of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Canton, to be married to her own Prince Charming. More sales and deliveries to new and standing art galleries for summer sales have been squeezed into the schedule before heading to France for a month of touring, teaching and studying of my own.

10 Stebner's are on exhibit at Chentini Gallery in Hudson Ohio this summer.

10 Stebner’s are on exhibit at Chentini Gallery in Hudson Ohio this summer.

Now, Jim and 4 friends and family members are on route to Paris, where I’ll meet them and guide them through some of my favorite haunts of Normandy and Paris. Then, I get to study painting at a tiny art center in the rural Morvan of Burgundy before picking up a group of my painting students and significant others to live the good life in Burgundy form a week, then return to Paris. The blog is once again live! Stay tuned for pictures and snippets of France the Patois Way. If you feel terribly left out, you can jump on board with me in late September or early October, when I’ll be in a lovely stone house in the Perigord.

In a month, I’ll be home with new paintings, artist friends from around the world and memories to paint for a long time.

Sharon Weiss Gallery in Columbus continues to sell my work.

Sharon Weiss Gallery in Columbus continues to sell my work.

Stebner, in Your Words

5.5"x12" Stebner oil on panel.

5.5″x12″ Stebner oil on panel. $295, unframed.

Well, the next two weekends I have art shows. April 27 is Artsyism, a show for northeast Ohio artists which supports autism. The following weekend, May 3rd is my spring open house at my home studio here in Akron. I’ve been painting up a storm as well as creating new stoneware garden structures for the events. Here are some samples of what will be available.

A new offering will be some giclée prints of some favorite paintings for those who want a Stebner but can’t fit an original in their budget right now. You can even custom order most any of my paintings in about any size, as a matter of fact! Just ask for a quote.

On another subject, I need your input as I try to expand the Stebner audience. Would you kindly take a moment and answer these questions for me? I’ll be ever so grateful. I’ll even give you a $20 discount coupon towards your next painting or garden structure for your time, good for one year from your posting.

 

Brittany Springtime. 5.5"x12" Stebner oil on panel

Brittany Springtime. 6×8″ Stebner oil on panel, $200 unframed

Red Gate, 6x8 Stebner oil on panel, $200, unframed.

Red Gate, 6×8 Stebner oil on panel, $200, unframed.

 

Just Wondering. 11x14 Stebner oil on linen. $475, unframed.

Just Wondering. 11×14 Stebner oil on linen. $475, unframed.

Lenten Fasts

Self-Portrait, February 2014. oil on panel 11x14

Self-Portrait, February 2014. oil on panel 11×14

After a tease of sunshine and 60 degrees over the past couple days, fickle March has rallied her north winds and is blowing one more snow on us. All part of the lenten torment: giving up pleasure and offering deeds of discipline are not optional in such weather: they are imposed. I’ve expressed my opinion about Lenten sacrifices in past years here, but let me just say that I’d already declared that my sacrifice for this year would be to clean up the trails which have collected behind me like the wake of a motorboat or Hansel’s bread crumbs over the past months. That’s precious time I could be painting, so no questions about the validity of my spiritual sacrifice!

Nevertheless, I fear writing a blog about cleaning one’s own mess bears the possibility of emptying out all my faithful blog followers I’ve struggled to collect over the past three years. Hence, I offer, instead, a peak at some of the work I’ve done this late winter as the piles of paperwork, wood dust and painting rags collected. This collection will be seen at two upcoming shows in late April(Cleveland, Ohio) and early May(Patois Studio, Akron,Ohio). More can be seen in the gallery of my new website.

Hope of Spring, 11x14 oil on linen

Hope of Spring, 11×14 oil on linen

Summer Pleasures, Normandy. oil on linen 20x24

Summer Pleasures, Normandy. oil on linen 20×24

Olympic Winters

IMG_0685This has not only been the winter of the 2014 Olympics, but also a winter of olympic snowfall. Since our wedding weekend January 9th, the snow has been relentless until this week. The March-like mud, revealed by its recent melting, will be covered  again before too long; we know it’s not over yet. So how does one keep sane, much less redeem such wintertime? Build a new web site, for starters.

Luckily for me, it’s not quite as complicated as learning French. But, all the same, a painfully frustrating learning curve. To augment my bumbling through the process alone, along with an all-to-brief forty five minute session with a trainer,and in order to avoid brutally mutilating the monitor and keyboard in my fits, I called favors to web-savy Laurent, across the ocean in Alsace. Thank God for such friends and Skype!

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But wait, it’s not just a new web site, there’s a new blog for helping my painting students, too. This has competed with my painting time, to say the least. And painting is a jealous mistress.

The past week’s painting time  has been both a creative oasis and a mini-vacation back to winter in Bourges last January. Dramatic late afternoon light falling on a house at the foot of the remarkable cathedral captured on film there has finally transformed itself into a painting. Recalling winter in that lovely town a year ago ties a romantic thread around these last weeks of February-and winter, itself.

Every passing day draws us one day closer to balmy breezes and our first meal in the garden. And painting en plein air again! Oh, the web site? A few pages remain to be built but you can see it by clicking here!

ENCHANTED APRIL

Winter Roses. Study for the afternoon.

Winter Roses. Study for the afternoon.

Who remembers the 1991 movie “Enchanted April” in which a group of disenchanted Londoners  collect in a Tuscan villa for an escape from the gloom of a dreary London winter? What they find is more than a vacation in the sun. The human experience they encounter is what I crave for the participants in my “Artistic Adventures” trips to France this June. I make the offer and see whose soul resonates with it. Then plan a French country getaway just for them.

6x8 oil on panel. Road's End. Stebner

6×8 oil on panel. Road’s End. Stebner

Though not disillusioned, the promise of six or more inches of snow tonight calls for mental escape. This trip has been my winter obsession; create a French fantasy for my small bands of travelers which will forever enrich their lives with memories fine enough to dispel any long winter storm.

Happily, all of the characters are in place for this two act “Enchanted June”. And the stage is set: a favorite converted mill in Normandy for the first group, followed by a stone house in Burgundian wine country for the second.

Victoria's already dreaming of cooking vats-full of coq au vin in this kitchen!

Victoria’s already dreaming of cooking vats-full of coq au vin in this kitchen!

How lucky I am to have a gallery of French memories, beyond tourist monuments,which includes waking to the aroma of yeasty baguette from the patisserie around the corner, hearing the cookoo call, and painting or lounging by a brook where fishermen, a stones throw away, are catching their evening meal. As much as I anticipate my travelers experiencing the things I love about France, I know it’s the things unexpected, the detours and turns in the road, which will give their trip its own unique flavor and make our trip a true artistic adventure. The human element is the crust on the pain au levan I can’t wait to bite into!IMG_2314For a reminder, click here to watch a great trailer about Enchanted April…

ORCHID MANIA

IMG_4942Mania is hardly a word I would have ever associated with my career in January. Survival is more like it. That’s why I usually take off for France after the holidays. Business is just plain s-l-o-w. But this year, no. Besides deciding to get married, I was invited to participate in a wonderful event at Cleveland Botanical Garden: their annual Orchid Mania. It’s a unique event which features area designers creating vignettes which feature what else? Orchids!

IMG_4965I’ve had a great time not only making new colleagues, but accepting the challenge of a preselected background color and a small 6×10 foot space. Besides featuring my paintings and stoneware houses, I drew in that Stebner element of whimsy with a real French door opening to a trompe l’oeil canvas panel of our foyer. One of you readers owns a smaller version of the same painting. If that wasn’t enough to make you smile, add a painting of a young orchid gardener seen through a leaded glass window. Not to mention a certain study peering out of the open drawer… My kind of fun. My kind of Mania. I hope any of you in Ohio take time to see the show.

IMG_4954Especially on Wednesday evenings, when many designers will be present and the garden will offer special dinner menus and cash bar to add another layer of festivity to the event. Over a dozen top notch designers have united to present the inspiring show, with nonstop assistance from the perfectly lovely staff at the botanical garden. There isn’t a better way to beat the cold winter blah’s and blues than to refresh yourself with the promise of fresh blooms of Nature.

See you there!