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.
Returning to Childhood, Cuyahoga River 8×12 oil on panel, Stebner
Peaceful Times, the Perigord. Stebner 30×40 oil on linen.
The end of August has a lot at stake for me. I’m nearing week eight after surgery, when I have a PSA test to confirm that surgery was the last step in my cancer treatment. And since the beginning of July, I’ve been painting up a storm for my end of summer art sale August 30, two days after my checkup, which carries with it some of the same anxiety as the unknown blood test result, believe it or not. No matter how you plan the event, you never know who will show and if you’ll have a piece they find irresistible. Insecurities can bubble. All the stars have to align just so. It seems that, art aside, a good show requires the perfect mix of faithful followers and new devotees. Throw in a great gallery contact for the future and it’s a winner!
Early Hours. Stebner 18×24 oil on linen.
Anxiety aside, there’s a certain exhilaration in taking blood tests and planning art sales, that’s like a good trip. The unknown created by hills, valleys and turns are what make a journey memorable, paintable even. Whether it’s wondering what your blood draw will reveal, or watching to see who has responded to the invitation to see your new art, the antennae are tuned. In truth, it’s why I prefer Normandy, Burgundy and the Perigord over the plains between Paris and Limoges. Seeing for miles ahead becomes all too predictable. But just as I hope for that irresistible hamlet around the next bend, I long for success unexpected those last days of August which usher in a clean slate and full coffer in September as I set off for a new Artistic Adventure on the Dordogne River.
Boats and Water Lilies, Giverny. 20×30 oil on linen.
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. 6×8″ Stebner oil on panel, $200 unframed
Red Gate, 6×8 Stebner oil on panel, $200, unframed.
Just Wondering. 11×14 Stebner oil on linen. $475, unframed.
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.
With my final Studio Holiday Open House coming tomorrow, I was inspired to do some little 5×7 paintings of animals from the Nantucket Fair this September as well as painting from a swan photo sent to me by my French friend and teacher, Laurent, who is a very talented photographer. He created the little holiday greeting for me, too! Enjoy online, or adopt one for your own home.
Just Pecking Around, 5×7 Stebner oil on linen panel
In less than 48 hours, my holiday studio sale will be in full swing. Things are fairly well under control. My last two frames arrived from Atlanta this morning while we were doing a little decorating. Set-up is well under way. Even the unloaded kiln seems inconsequential. My concern is the city. You see, our gardeners came yesterday to clean up for the winter so the grounds look all neat and today. But not the street. Ours was to be leaf-swept today and there’s no sign of a machine at work. I called the city and Jim called our councilman, who is amazing. If Russ Neal can call the sweepers to arms, we’ll be able to put on a great holiday event. Maybe I should warn you all to wear “tennies” as my erstwhile mother-to-be in-law flustered before I married her daughter by the stream in their backyard. But no, that’s water long over the dam and there’s always some way to park on Dorchester. So come one, come all on Saturday and see what my hands have been up to since the summer. New paintings. New pottery. New garden structures. Perfect Presents.
After a year of traveling unchartered waters, I felt as though I’d anchored in home port this week, spending the bulk of each day in the pottery shop. As I worked by the kiln this morning, it dawned on me that I’ve made pottery for over 45 years. No wonder it feels as natural as riding a bike. To feel your body go into a subconscious rhythm is a really lovely, zen-like experience. Working unaware of time is a unique moment of creative “being”.
Being back in the pottery this week was strictly pragmatic; my holiday sale was just a few weeks away when I began. I realized that if I were to have new ceramic pieces to show with my paintings, I’d better trade the easel and the scent of paint and thinner for the musk and dust of clay and glaze, not to mention the magical heat of the kiln’s fire- which carries its unique element of anticipation inherent to making pottery; after all the care in creating, in the end, everything is relinquished to the kiln gods for vitrification.
As familiar as this process is to me, closing the door and firing up the heat on a kiln-full of creations has new implications for me this week. My mind drops back to goodbyes I made at other doors this year: first, at the hospital elevator, Jim on the gurney headed for emergency heart surgery, then less than three months later, at the airport, myself with bags in tow, turning away from him at the car door to enter the airport and begin my cancer journey in Bavaria. It seems that every deed of our lives requires some sort of relinquishing, no matter how small.
After forty years of planning art sales, you’d think the anxiety would lessen. Truth be told, in my more honest moments, I still wonder who will come. What will be the response? It’s the excitement of the unknown that leads us through the next door.
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.
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.
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!
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.
8×10 Stebner oil on linen panel. “Reflections” $345
8×10 Stebner oil on linen panel. “Exuberance”. $345
About thirty-five years ago I started hosting studio sales events. In those days before internet shopping, it wasn’t unusual to have folks lined up at the door half an hour before we opened. But lines like that are only the phenomenon of places like Best Buys on Black Friday today. Even in the early days, the challenge of picking the right weekend would have benefited from the assistance of a Greek sibyl. About the time you thought you had it figured out, things changed.
So this year I’ve taken a new tact: follow up with open studio hours after the main event. Every Saturday in December I’m opening the studio from ten until one for shoppers to stop by and choose a one-of-a-kind gift of art in the intimate, peaceful setting of my home-studio. With a cup of tea or glass of wine to take the edge off the stress of the decision making process, what could be more civil?
Twos and Threes. Pont Autou, Normandy. Stebner oil on linen 30×30 sold
Last Saturday, one fine husband made his wife’s holiday, purchasing her this lovely painting of a farm in Normandy which was down the lane from our mill-home last summer. It wasn’t a surprise present, but she got what she really wanted. And they got to take it home and make sure it was the right thing before they made the final decision. I wish you all could have heard the ecstatic joy and satisfaction when it went on their wall! The last thing I have ever wanted in my career was for someone to make a big purchase and not like it when they got it home. And the greatest joy in my career is knowing my work has made someone’s holiday and the days which follow more visually inspiring.