Three Ring Circus

2016-39-art-landscapes-stebner-goodtimes,provence.JPG

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.

I2016-58-art-landscapes-stebner-joyful welcome

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!

 

Chasing the Holy Grail

IMG_2732

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!

images

Back in the Périgord

wpid-wp-1433697412930.jpegLeaving Burgundy, Suzanne and I had the sublime joy of picnicking in the Auvergne, surrounded by wildflowers framing the mountains and volcanoes in the distance. Yes, sublime about sums it up. Approaching Limeuil some five hours after departure, I wondered how I’d feel upon returning. No need to worry. As we rounded the sharp bend in the road, tight against the stone wall, all the joy of this little gem shone anew. In the heat of a sunny June, the bridges and stone buildings glow golden while the rivers sparkle. Our ancient stone house, which has sustained centuries of plagues and pleasures, is even more charming than I remembered. Renovations are underway to make it even better.

There’s an extra thrill about coming to town and seeing your poster on shop windows and your picture in the paper. With the help of my trusty student and great friend Suzanne, the show is up and I’ve had a few painting sessions in the Jardins Panoramiques which surround the chateau hall at the top of the town. Tomorrow night is the official opening, le vernissage, as the French say. I’ve choked and woken several nights after hearing that I’m expected to say something after the mayor and the president of the Rives d’Arts. I feel pretty comfortable muddling through daily life in France, but never imagined a public address. Luckily for me, the president is Dutch and will speak in both English and French, so i can follow her lead, after the French mayor. There will be English speaking people at the event, anyway. The Périgord is riddled with them. And my mantra is “short and sweet”. I’ll smile my way through it and keep you posted!

Bookends

Although it only takes three hours to get from Paris to Mougny- Bazolles, it’s a trip from one world to another. All the overt stimulation of civilization Paris offers is usurped by a subtle, gentle one which seeps into your pores unknowingly in very little time. It’s the act of coming in tune with the rhythms of nature instigated by the gentle Burgundian breeze and sun.

1970401_10206194761086566_1741745792181170749_nRinging Jim yesterday at his breakfast time, the first sound I heard at the other end was a singing cardinal. I was momentarily confounded, feeling we must be in the same place, hearing the same birds and feeling the same breeze. But no, they were Ohio cardinals chirping in one ear, while I was hearing unknown ones in the other. As a very late sun set about us that evening, Agnes assured me I’d be lulled to sleep by the nightingale, to which I asked if this part of Burgundy is also home to the cuckoo. As sure as the nightingale sang to me as I climbed the stairs over the donkey barn to my garret above the house, I awoke to the cuckoo at the sun’s rising.

11295942_10206216627833221_3352815038276667783_n

The rumbles of Paris streets and subways are a distant strain as I finish my second painting of the morning. Soon I’ll be collecting the last three students from the train station to join this world of gentle beauty. Together we’ll learn from the capricious sun how to paint it’s light on our canvas.

10300309_10206186495879941_5692568561534894394_n

Before Sunset

OK, I blatantly stole the title for this blog from one of the three most annoying movies I’ve ever endured, just because it takes place in Paris. Happily, my agenda before sunset changed from a museum marathon into an attempt to see through the eyes of one of my favorite painters, Pierre Bonnard. Much more fulfilling than a day shredded away with Ethan Hawke-Julie Delpy hopeless misunderstandings.

images

So what if I only saw one exhibit? That one made me very, very happy because it was another chance to stroll with Bonnard, oblivious to the throngs of others about us. Several years ago, it was the Bonnard museum in Le Cannet, on the Mediterranean. Today it was the Bonnard exhibit at Musée d’Orsay.( If you followed that day on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you were right in my pocket. If you don’t I’ll plug for signing on. It’s going to be a much more direct way to feel like you’re right there with me, as my dear friend, Nancy Sampson, commented today.)

images-1

But the point of the day is this: although packing things in, as I mentioned yesterday, can sometimes be stressfull, it can also make any journey worthwhile. And as you know, striding through my sixth decade, I’ve snatched onto the concept of sucking the marrow out of the bone more than ever, because we never know when the sun will set. I’d rather be tired from doing than regretting I didn’t. When sunset comes in an hour or two, I’ll be sipping wine and savoring bistro fare with a soul as content as my belly. And that should be as good a remedy for jet lag as any. If I should waken, I’ll be seeing all the beautiful colors of Bonnard’s paintings as well as those of a sunset on the Seine.

images-2

Burgundy in a Nutshell

Morning in Normandy, Stebner 10x20 oil on linen

Morning in Normandy, Stebner 10×20 oil on linen

Winter seems to have lulled us to sleep. I confess, this blog entry is a blatant plea for your assistance to help me find the perfect people to take off for a painting adventure in France with me.  As followers of my blog, your recommendation is more valuable than anything. If it’s been in the back of your mind to join in and you just haven’t gotten around to it, please do so now! If you know someone who might be interested, I’ll be forever grateful if you let them know. The Artistic Adventure to Limeuil in the Périgord has two or three spots left. Burgundy has more, as it houses more students. And Burgundy is a great deal for anyone interested in a painting vacation! I’ve thrown in a special offer for college students because I’d love for this session to be cross-generational as well as cross cultural. Flights have just dropped in the last week, so, as two saucy young travel-bloggers say, Shut up and Go! I guarantee a great time!

And for any of you readers who sign up or send a friend, I’ll thank you with a $50 gift certificate towards a painting of any size!

workshopsinFrance2015flyerjpeg

Arles: don’t ask, don’t tell!

unnamedTwo years later, I was walking about Arles almost like a local. With Wendy’s assistance, we were wending our way through the quaint Roquette district of Arles in no time, searching for l’Aubergine Rouge, my former b&b. Further on, we slipped down numerous narrow streets wide enough for three people and a bicycle; narry a car to be seen. Tipping my hat to memories was balanced by new year encounters with friends of Wendy, beginning with Charlotte, who invited us to see her comfy nest, after recognizingWendy as we regarded the sweet creche(housing a proper Christ Child instead of the previous Donald Duck) in her window. We ambled the tiny byways of Arles the rest of the day, pausing for crepes and coffee late in the morning before visiting the Van Gogh Foundation and enjoying an incredible lunch of delicious homemade pasta dishes.

unnamed

Who knows what bridge this is?

unnamed

Wendy’s backstreet tour led us not only to favorite architectural gems, but also favorite shops and potential hubs for future painting sites and courses. Secret courtyards, churchyards and dead-end paths will be ultimately recorded on canvas by any number of future Patois students. Serendipitous meetings with an array of Wendy’s friends punctuated a day which began with a visit to the bridge above, instigating conversations commencing with the question “What angle would you choose to paint the bridge?”

unnamedAs we ended the day savoring a homemade roquefort tart and perfect époisse cheese with armagnac, reminiscing over the events of the day turned to anticipating an overnight in Aix tomorrow, made possible by a phone call early in the morning from Wendy’s daughter, who was leaving Aix for the Swiss border on a skiing weekend. Mi cassa es su cassa. More artists, art supplies, museums, antiques and great food are waiting to be discovered. It’s only a question of following our muse. Time to sleep so I’ll be ready…

unnamed

Christmas 2014

1412528878348

Christmas Day:

Yesterday, while driving home from Cleveland, I heard a fascinating interview with three very talented musicians, in which each was asked to relay a Christmas memory. Some were charming and one was unexpectedly poignant. But all of them made me so grateful for every moment I’m alive. And after living sixty Christmases, it can be tricky to find new meaning in a holiday that carries so much clout. But as I listened to these brilliant young men, on the coattails of hearing a wonderful recording on the Bach d minor concerto, I was once again experiencing Christmas in a new way. What I realized about Christmas follows. In its raw form, it was my Christmas toast to the “usual suspects” at our annual Christmas Eve party. In a bit more refined and thought-out version, it’s my Christmas blog to anyone who will read it.

1411312742022Beyond all the joys of traveling, painting, weddings and births, the past four years have also been riddled with other events which appeared, at the time, to be impossible situations. Some of these were made public via this blog. Others continue to remain private and untold. But each of these life-upheavals left me wondering how my world would ever be OK again. How would it ever be possible to find some sense of normal, even if it meant redefining the word? The only sure thing was that if life went on, it wouldn’t be the same. My job was to be flexible(protean, as a brilliant, erstwhile flame put it) enough to accept the imminent change confronting me, believe there would be light at the end of the tunnel and hardest of all, let go of life as I adored it at that moment. In the last hours of my sixty-first Christmas, I realize it’s about believing in the impossible, because the impossible is simply the necessary, fertile ground for, I hesitate to use the word, miracles. Not nose-twitching, abracadabra magic acts, but those excruciatingly painful-yet-1412756044918beautiful metamorphoses which extrude us into new, richer versions of who we were meant to be. Not to wax pious(because I’m not) but at last I get the point of the story of the annunciation: finding new beauty in submission to those frightful moments beyond our control.

As Jim and I prepare to embark on a delayed honeymoon to the south of France as well as life’s subsequent adventures, that realization will be tucked in my travel bag and “pondered in my heart” for 2015. Stay tuned.

1959891_10152446706069716_914200404970907518_n

Good Things, Little Packages

Duet, 4x6

Duet, 4×6

Since returning From southwest France in October, I’ve been able to paint most every day. Hindsight is 20/20 in more ways than one. As an artist, I discover much of the beauty I’ve taken in while traveling after-the fact. At least I assimilate most as I paint my memories. I must say, in hindsight, I’m excited about the freedom I see in my new work.  It feels fresh and free.

Limeuil, France 4x6

Limeuil, France. 4×6

With the holidays approaching, I am preparing for my thirty-fifth holiday studio sale(at least that’s how I count it-I could be off a year or two). Besides paintings, faience pottery and stoneware garden structures that you’ve all come to anticipate, I’m offering a special collection of miniature paintings at a special price; $100 each, framed! That price is my thank you to loyal supporters over all these years. But buy now; the price goes up after the new year.

If you can’t make one of these events, feel free to make a purchase via mail order.

Are subjects you’d like to see in miniature? Make comments in the comment box. I love to hear from you!

HOLIDAY CALENDAR

Friday , November 14, 5:00-7:00 Guest Artist Chentini Gallery, Evaporator Works, 46 Ravenna St. Hudson Ohio

Saturday November 29th 11:00-4:00 – 35th annual Stebner Holiday Studio Sale

Saturday afternoons, December 6, 13 and 20- Open Studio hours for shopping.

Kitchen Dresser 4x6

Kitchen Dresser, 4×6

Govern Bedroom, 4x6

Govern Bedroom, 4×6

François' Clock, 4x6

François’ Clock

Window Light, 4x6

Window Light, 4×6

The Gloaming, Brittany. 4x6

The Gloaming, Brittany. 4×6

Beynac, Medieval Delight. 4x6

Beynac, Medieval Delight. 4×6

Agnes Kitchen. 4x6

Agnes Kitchen. 4×6

Bordeaux Evening. 4x6

Bordeaux Evening. 4×6

Absence

1412599836404It’s a well-known axiom that inaccessibility or distance increases an object’s value. C’est la vie. Just before opening this post to write, I was editing all the photos that had been locked on my phone for weeks, finally successfully downloaded to my computer. Listening to Lara Fabian chant her hit, “Je t’aime”, I couldn’t help but ache to regain some of the Dordogne Days of the past three weeks.  Every photo I open oozes happiness, joy and beauty that was my Artistic Adventurers’ daily fare.

1412414583094

Home again, we settle into our familiar routines, lovely in their own right. Traces of travel still litter my studio- paintings to inventory and supplies waiting to be put away. I have hopes of picking up a paintbrush tomorrow and begin to relive my vagabond moments in the privacy of my studio, as I paint more French memories. Suddenly, I think of my grandmother, a brilliant Oberlin-educated suffragette, destined to spend her life raising chickens on my grandfather’s farm. Never going farther than the grocery, she only traveled through books and decades worth of letters from her British pen pal. But it was her retelling stories of the world beyond that filled my imagination with a thirst to see its wonders with my own eyes. I see even more when I paint it.

1412254875774

1411312826412

1412592587707