Olive Groves


2016-59-art-landscapes-stebner-Renoir's Olive Grove.JPG

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.

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.




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!



The bulk of artist’s life is, in most ways, like anyone else’s. Beyond the daily routine being just that, we face milestones like our beloveds’ and our own health calamities, births and deaths. Maybe what is different, beyond living in an artistic circle, is the way all life’s experiences become creative fodder or, at least, motivation. In my case, this year’s roller coaster has filled me with an immediacy to my creative drive heretofore unknown. Time really isn’t a limitless commodity.

Stebner in the Rockies

Having given Jim’s mom’s cold corpse a final farewell kiss several weeks ago, we welcomed our first grandchild, Hugh Thomas, into the world on his Colorado mountain top early this month, where I had my first crack at painting the Rockies. Returning home, some invisible magnetic drive has drawn me to my easel every day. All this may explain the blog suspension over the past month.

Hugh Thomas Stebner

This morning I found myself downloading images to the Sharon Weiss Gallery website. Now folks in Columbus, Ohio will have direct access to my work.  After writing this blog, it will be back to the easel, where I hope to wrap up a new commission…or accept the call to the wild and grab my art backpack an head for my roots in the Cuyahoga Valley.

I’m also reveling in the success of the first weekend of my show/sale Unfurled, which celebrates my cancer-clear state after visiting Klinik Marinus am Stein as well as a birthday which launches me into a new decade. The show continues next weekend on Saturday and Sunday from 2:00-5:00. This is the first(for at least another 10 years, last) time I’m offering a 20% discount to my clients, in gratitude for their support of my cancer treatment. There are a number of plein air paintings from that trip as well as more painted in my studio recalling the beautiful water and skies which were the backdrop to the many sailboats I watched navigate the Chiemsee two months ago. September, it’s off to Nantucket!

sailboats on Cheimsee

Halcyon Days

Four days have passed since returning to life on Dorchester. It’s been delightful to be back home with all the familiar people, pets and plants that make daily life so rich. It’s the yan to the traveler’s yin. The familiar which makes the unfamiliar exotic. Happily, I’ve returned to a lot of fulfilling work to do. Commissions keep paying the bills but leave time to squeeze in some time to paint memories of my halcyon days on the Chiemsee. Having had a big dose of Werner Troutmann and Julius Exter has given me a fresh edge I’d ben seeking in my work. Here are two new pieces of Germany as well as a new commission completed.

8x10 Stebner oil on linen panel. "Reflections" $345

8×10 Stebner oil on linen panel. “Reflections” $345

8x10 Stebner oil on linen panel. "Exuberance". $345

8×10 Stebner oil on linen panel. “Exuberance”. $345

Private commission. 16x20 oil. SOLD

Private commission. 16×20 oil. SOLD



Curtain Up!

Marlène does Ohio

Yesterday was the opening day of the Jr. League of Akron Designer Showhouse 2013. You may recall my lament a week or so ago about being confined indoors when it was glorious outside and I wanted to be painting en plein air instead of on the ladder. But the only thing that makes me smile as much as going off on a painting jag is meeting an appreciative public who want to collect a piece or two of my patois art.

And speaking of my art, I’m being a good boy and updating the gallery page on this blog for those of you who live out of town to shop. For everyone in the area, I hope you’ll mark you calendars for my spring show “Rustic Corners”, May 24 from 5-7 and May 25 from 10-4. The show will be a bon voyage and sales will fund my upcoming cancer therapy trip May 28- June 9.


Back in the Saddle

IMG_4002Plein air painting has taken a back seat this spring. Between lousy weather(OK, I confess I’m a plein air woos- fair-weather friend of nature), nursing Jim through his  unraveling aorta and my own series of diagnostic cancer tests, by the time I was ready to learn from the sun again, it was time to sequester myself in the designer show house. Happily, that all changed Monday.  The weather has been glorious and I’ve been painting outside every day; sometimes in the park, but more often in my own neighborhood. As much as I love the thrill of adventure, I’m discovering more and more the picture that is waiting to be painted in my own “back yard”.  Besides, I need to get my outdoor painting chops back on track before taking off for Germany.

So when my fund raising art sale comes on May 24-25, I’ll have a nice collection of brand new canvases of West Akron and the Cuyahoga Valley vignettes to show with all my French-inspired  work already available.

Sunset in the Auvergne 8x10 oil on panel

Sunset in the Auvergne
8×10 oil on panel

Good Fences 5x7 oil on linen panel

Good Fences
5×7 oil on linen panel

Pan de Bois

Two days in Bourges have delivered a winter’s feast of gothic splendor. Palaces of Bourbon kings, museums of medieval and modern art as well as streets on former Roman ramparts, now lined with pan de bois houses from centuries later. My feet and ankles ache from walking miles on granite cobbles.

In less than an hour, I’ll don my shoes and saddle my bags to head to the Europcar office to pick up my little steed which I’ll ride to my next destination in the Auvergne countryside, where no trains approach.

Still no idea what my facelift story could be?


Last Paintings of 2012

With a new year just hours away, I awoke this morning realizing I had one more blog in me before 2013: to post my last paintings of the year. Two houses and a farm. One in Brittany, one the Lot and the other, equally “french”, in Virginia.

Red Gate, Brittany 9x12 oil on panel. $400, unframed.

Red Gate, Brittany 9×12 oil on panel. $400, unframed.

After celebrating with friends tonight, 2013 will start with travels west and east: first to California to see our son and daughter-in-law, then no sooner we get home, I’ll take off for my second solo winter in France excursion, blogging all the way.

French Fantasy, 8x10 oil on linen panel, $300, unframed

French Fantasy, 8×10 oil on linen panel, $300, unframed

Thanks to everyone who’s taken time to join in my life in any way over the past year. Without an audience, we artists create in a void. You’ve all made my life full!

Serenity, Stebner oil on linen panel, 24x36 $2200, unframed

Serenity, Stebner oil on linen panel, 24×36 $2200, unframed


Down to the Wire

This week is pregnant with anticipation. The sort we felt as children awaiting a birthday or Christmas. The sort every performer feels the moments before going onstage or an athlete before a game. My adrenaline is up as I finish final details for this season’s Forever French   show/sale. For months I’ve been preparing for this weekend’s event with Boyd Mackus of Mackus Company  which will benefit a unique organization in Akron:  Women’s Endowment Fund.

This organization was begun twenty years ago by 100 women in the city who each gave $1000 to start a fund to help girls and women in the greater Akron area. Their initial $100,000 fund has grown over the years, as has their positive influence in women’s lives in Akron. Their current goal is to raise $2,013,000 by the spring of 2013. My friend, Elly Mackus, who suggested they be the next recipient of my art sales benefit, tells me they are three fourths of the way there. In the silence of preparation, I wonder who will come and how much we can raise…Has the word gotten to the right people?

The Lane at the Edge of Town 20×24 oil on linen Stebner

Now we’re getting down to the wire, I still have a kiln load of pottery to fire, a painting to finish along with several to frame. I’ve also assumed the antique portion of the sale this year since dissolving a long distance partnership with contacts in Atlanta. It will be more efficient to do it all from home base. Of course putting my French antiques for sale means I’ll have to return to France on a buying trip in January to restock for the next event. Darn!