Olive Groves


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Renoir’s Olive Grove, 18×36 Stebner oil on linen

In the oppressive heat of early August, I took refuge in the studio, painting from photos taken at Renoir’s house in Cagnes-sur-Mer,  high on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean, one hot day in June.

Painting from photos is tricky. But I think I’ve come up with a little battle plan to overcome the problems intrinsic to that process: I use the photo to capture the main forms and composition, then I look at it as little as possible. Instead, I call on my memory to relive the feelings I had at that moment to make up for the lack of being on site.

As an Ohio boy, olive trees aren’t part of my visual memory bank. Sure, I’ve seen them over my years of traveling France, but never warmed up to them until I found myself on Renoir’s turf. Walking the grounds, I was smitten by their rustic, craggy silhouettes with leaves fluttering in the breeze, and the cool shade they provided. Suddenly, they were paintable!  Now, armed with tubes of colors, brushes and palette knives, I’ve been pursuing their illusive beauty. As a lover recalls an erstwhile romance, I’m wooed by the memory of their willowy presence.

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Cool Shade, Renoir. 20×36 Stebner oil on linen

I paint with eyes wide open, but remember with eyes shut, the sun, shade, breeze and scents of Renoir’s olive grove, a sacred space in my book. This man’s determination to paint beauty in spite of war, loss and crippling illness inspires me to never give up. I have many more olive trees to paint, but these two will be ready for my show,

For anyone wanting to go one step further into the world of Renoir, I repost three minutes of original footage of the crippled master painting(and smoking, of course!), late in his life.

Three Ring Circus


Good Times, Provence, 6×8 plein air oil on linen panel

I’ve been home from teaching painting in Burgundy and conducting an Artistic Adventure in Provence for two months now. The old days of writing reflective blogs in France have metamorphosed into teaching/touring sessions every afternoon. If it weren’t for Instagram/Facebook bites, there wouldn’t have been any on-the-spot record at all! But my goal of leading half a dozen artists/francophiles about the countryside has been achieved.

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Joyful Welcome, 20×24 oil on linen

Since returning home, I’ve undertaken a new challenge: to paint larger paintings from the small pochades(sketches) which I created on site. In so doing, the original moment comes to life in an astounding way: the subject, the weather, the brush strokes, as well as the lessons and students(oh yes, we can’t forget the passersby!). Of course, I continue to use photo references of moments that went unpainted for new works, as before.

Additionally,there’s been the business of preparing for my new show, Summer’s Sun,  featuring paintings from this summer abroad. I hope to include a video this year. If you can’t make it to the preview or on one of the Saturdays in September, you can always peruse them  online.

On top of those two projects, I’m back where I left off when I want to France in May, struggling to gain the technological savvy needed to increase my online presence. If only, I found learning the language of technology half as interesting as French or German. Perspective, Bruce! It’s been an artist’s three ring circus, to be sure.

In weeks to come, I’ll reveal more Summer’s Sun in paintings and tales untold while in France. Whether you were with me on tour or follow from home, know that you are a vital part of one happy artist’s life!


Rear View


Summer Bliss, Bavaria. 12×16. Stebner oil on linen. Price on Request

These first six months in my Hereford studio have been productive and happy. Scarcely a day slips by without a painting session. New students have found their way to the door. It’s a lovely life-rythmn.

Falling leaves finally turned to snowflakes as we had last week. The beauty of studio painting is that I can be in any place in any season with the scroll of the computer mouse. Taking position in front of the easel, I might as well be in the boarding line at the airport and lifting a brush is a safe landing anywhere I want to be.


Wellies and Wheelbarrow, 16×20 Stebner oil on linen, price on request

This week was a time to revisit favorite memories while welcoming students and a favorite client, returning for new Stebner’s for his collection and gift giving.


Afternoon Aperitif, 12×16 Stebner oil on linen. Price on Request

Snowy January afternoon warming by the fire on a farm in the Auvergne. A sunny June on the bavarian Chiemsee. Strolls in a walled secret garden in Burgundy. Or watching a Burgundian gardener.

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Paisley, Peonies and Iris. 16×20 Stebner oil on linen. Price on Request

Finishing the second of these two garden folk, I realized something was going. I’d painted two out of three of the subjects from the back. I first questioned my inner world for doing so, but then realized it’s the mystery of what isn’t seen as much as what is that draws in the viewer. You can follow these gardeners safely into their private worlds without being confronted face to face. You can look through their eyes rather than into them. That’s another subject for another season.

Who dares follow me to Burgundy or Provence to see France through my eyes in June? Time is running out!  Click here or contact me directly to open the door.





Pots and Pans, 20×24 Stebner oil on stretched linen

Mild as it was, January is over. Some of its goals have been accomplished. Others remain. Working in my new studio, I did revisit a number of subjects, from places to paintings. With new techniques, I reworked some old paintings.


Kitchen Bits, 6×8 Stebner oil on linen panel


Corner of Giverny, 8×10 Stebner oil on linen panel

After two years, I revisited the self-portrait, this time using the limited palette of Anders Zorn.


January 2016 Self-portrait, 12×16 oil on linen

Now it’s the beginning of February, and as I have begun planning for my teaching stint in France in June(several spaces remain…), my mind was drawn back to January of 2013, when I was solo-treking through central France, including the bogs(marais) of Bourges, where the townsfolk have private garden plots, naturally irrigated by the canals. Although I was immediately smitten with this mysterious place, at last I’ve begun see the paintings they offer. I guess I had to mature through three cancer treatments(and a lot of paint, c’est clair!) in order to finally know how to paint them. Gray is sublimely colorful and shadows are as beautiful as sunlight.


Marais at Sunset, January 6×8 Stebner oil on linen panel.


Punting the Marais, January. Stebner 6×8 oil on linen panel.

Jump-Starting New Year


Light on Giverny, 9×12 oil on panel

After church on Christmas Eve, we ran into a brilliant old friend we hadn’t seen in ages. After New Year, we received a card from her wishing us well and saying she had a feeling 2016 was going to be good for all three of us. What a refreshing thought. And coming from her, I realized it was more than a civil holiday wish. She really had a feeling good things were going to come each of our ways. Really?

Not that I’m negative. Anyone who knows me, knows I refuse to cave to the shadows of life. But six decades have also crushed youth’s rosy colored glasses, leaving me a little uncertain about unfounded hope. Deborah’s positive feeling challenged me to put aside my ready-for-anything boxing gloves and simply take a calm, confident pose, trusting that all the cancer treatment I’d undergone would continue to provide good test results. And all in the nick of time. You see, I was due more blood work to ascertain if all the treatment I’d undergone was still efficacious.


Maribeth’s Tulips, 11×14 oil on linen

A week of waiting between drawing blood and seeing my oncologist ended this morning, after serving waiting room time, followed by the usual hurdle of well-meaning, vital-taking nurses: the typical patient’s purgatory. At last the familiar rap on the examination room door broke my quarantine and I was greeted by Dr. Hoimes’ handshake and reserved smile, an expression which has delivered equally happy and unhappy news over the past several years. But this year, it affirmed what I’d been waiting to hear: PSA still undetectable. That’s twice in a row- a first time for me. I’m starting to get that good feeling for 2016, myself! There’s a lot of happy, healthy hours ahead painting both here and in France.

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Happy Times: Normandy Mill 24×36 oil on linen

Burning Home Fires


Last summer, this blue-eyed wanderer spent a record six weeks away from home, teaching and conducting Artistic Adventures in France. It led to the beginning of the now-thwarted, overwhelming attempt to move there permanently in August.


Then a plan B, filling the autumn with the upheaval and excitement of moving and restoring our new Highland Square home, which boasts not only a first floor painting studio, but also two wood-burning fireplaces.


With major construction behind us, Christmas Day, itself, was a delightfully quiet one. Anchored by a day-long fire in our newly rebuilt(smoke-free!) fireplace, it was interrupted only by a long, leisurely walk in the sun with our trio of canines.

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Life’s rhythm has changed since moving a little over a mile from Dorchester Rd. In our new hundred year old digs, incorporating many of the events we love about French village life has been possible: walking to the market, cafes, coffee shop and pharmacy as much as possible. And the fireplace.

1934574_10207495839292708_3509966120791038704_n.jpgLoosing the convenience of an on-off gas valve to control the fire has slowed our pace further, leading us to revel in the leisure and the labor of the moment. Evenings spent lingering by the fire until only embers remain have brought further contentment to this new chapter of life: a silver lining to the inevitable limitations accompanying these onsetting “Golden Years”.

12391773_10207541328869919_2387994479260122359_n.jpgAs I listen to the crackling fire while planning new summer French Artistic Adventures, for the first time, I feel a wistful twinge about being away from home, measuring the number of weeks and days I really need to be away from our new dream.


The Current of Peace


Giverny Bliss, 11×14 oil on linen, Stebner

I remember thirty-some years ago, flying to Europe at the dismay of many, when airplane high-jacking was just beginning. Less than a year ago, Jim and I were on a train to Paris from Provence the day Charlie Hebdo and his team of artist/journalists were murdered on the job in that city of art and culture. We walked the streets unknowingly that night, enjoying a wonderfully romantic dinner not all that far from the scene of the crime. It was later that night, tucked in our hotel room near the Gare de Lyon, that I read many of your concerns for us on Facebook. Now, once again, terrorism has tried to darken the City of Light. But its inhabitants seem to refuse to buckle. Nor would I.


Autumn Bliss, 11×14 oil on linen, Stebner

It’s public knowledge that I’ve been fighting a personal terrorist called cancer for over two years. I’ve refused to cave in to its assault on my happiness and creativity. Facing that assailant within has only strengthened my resolve to drain the last drop of life out of every day. This autumn it’s been a season to paint my childhood stomping grounds on the Cuyahoga River as well as French memories. Our move put teaching in France on the back burner this September.


Everett Bridge, 12×16 oil on linen, Stebner

In a little over a week, I’ll host my thirty-sixth holiday open house and sale. In an effort to add at least a drop to aid world peace, I’ll be donating 10% of all sales through December 19th to the Gandhi Institute. So, should a Stebner painting call your name as a gift to yourself or a loved one, you’ll be doing your part, too. Thanks.

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Returning to Childhood, Cuyahoga River  8×12 oil on panel, Stebner

The Move: Rumor Squelched

1435937649892OK, we really are moving. We bought and sold in a week. But not France. Almost, but no. Why? It’s true, we tried. Look up “red tape” in the dictionary and it will describe anyone outside the EU trying to take residency there. But that’s OK. It got us out of neutral and in gear for change.

All our travels there will be easier in a few weeks, when we move to our new home in Highland Square, Akron’s closest neighborhood to what we crave. A smaller, charming turn of the (twentieth) century house on a much smaller lot, where we can still have a tiny front garden and a secret little courtyard in the back, without being enslaved to its upkeep. The organic grocery, library, pharmacy, restaurants and more are all easy walking distance. Just like we were seeking in France.

10x20 Stebner painting. "Morning Sun"

10×20 Stebner painting. “Morning Sun”

Of course it isn’t France, C’est ridicule! But it’s our new adventure, all the same, just a mile from Dorchester. Crazy but true. Now when I do cross the Pond to have a proper baguette, gorge myself on French cheese(and wine) and teach painting in the French countryside, whoever housesits(Jim’s increasingly France-smitten with each visit!) will have a lot less to care for. In the meantime, I can always strike up a French conversation at the coffee shop a few blocks away with my young French teacher, Nils.

Did I mention I’ll have a painting studio on the ground level of our new digs, to boot? Pas mal, pas mal du tout!


Paintings: June in France

Tomorrow marks two weeks home from my summer painting/teaching excursion in Burgundy and the Périgord. Blogging was minimal because we had very little wifi. Also, there’s been a problem with my blog site domain name, which I’m happy to report was corrected yesterday. If you’re reading this, you’re back in the fold. Welcome!

I’ll try to write more about the trip in hindsight, but for now, sit back enjoy this little video of some of the finished paintings from the trip. I’ve taken time to tweet them from their raw state which you might have seen either here or on Facebook while I was gone. They are all either 6×8, 8×8 or 8×10. Now they’re ready to find their home. Feel free to contact me for prices. Shipping is free.

Chasing the Holy Grail


Yesterday’s pilgrimage to Rocamadoor ended three hours south in Cathar country in the foothills of the Pyrenees. Our nest in St. Ferriol is a fabulously restored medieval house next to the town chateau. This morning I awoke to the town rooster’s crow being echoed by a distant cuckoo; a call to brew the coffee(taking longer than any American can imagine) to accompany crepes, yogurt an melon, all fortifications for the escapade before us.

The escapade? Chasing two key venues of the Holy Grail. First is Rennes-le-Chateau and second, Chateau Montségur, the last stronghold of the Cathars. Although we don’t expect to find the elusive treasure, we have treasure of our own to pursue, beyond the obvious bliss of walking history: landscapes to paint and a geocache or two to discover! C’est parti!