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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

Reflections

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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.

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Kitchen Bits, 6×8 Stebner oil on linen panel

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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.

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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.

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

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

Jump-Starting New Year

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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.

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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

The Current of Peace

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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.

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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.

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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

SECOND CHANCES

"Sconset Cottage, Nantucket". 5x7 Stebner oil on linen panel

“Sconset Cottage, Nantucket”. 5×7 Stebner oil on linen panel

Some paintings lurk in corners of the studio and even find their way into a frame just to keep me humble. They were good ideas. And decent starts. But, for some heretofore unidentifiable reason, they fell flat in the end. Why do I keep them there, reminding me of my failure? They’re waiting for a second chance.

Tile Roofs and Hedgerows, Burgundy. Stebner 11x14 oil on stretched linen.

Tile Roofs and Hedgerows, Burgundy. Stebner 11×14 oil on stretched linen.

More accurately, they’re offering me a second chance, as an artist, to get it right. These images are waiting for a voice to tell their story. This week has been one of those times when I take them back to the easel to see if I can instill what I wasn’t able to on the first go. Get it right. Happily, I’ve been able to apply things I’ve learned since January to make them sing.

Gloaming Chateau, Brittany. Stebner 6x8 oil on linen panel.

Gloaming Chateau, Brittany. Stebner 6×8 oil on linen panel.

And now they’ve found voice, many will be part of my show, “Daily Pleasures”, which opens this Saturday at 7 p.m. at Every Blooming Thing, just around the corner. Others will go to the Big Apple with me after Easter for my show there, which opens April 17. Stay tuned…

Quiet Moment, Giverny, Stebner 6x8 oil on linen panel

Quiet Moment, Giverny, Stebner 6×8 oil on linen panel

New Year, New Start

Provence: Chateau Grounds. 11x14 oil on linen

Provence: Chateau Grounds. 11×14 oil on linen

Returning from southern France, I’ve absorbed myself in an annual oblation: cleaning house. Don’t panic, I’m not talking about the whole house! Rather, housecleaning my studio. It was instigated by the purchase of a new desk. Change one thing and everything changes. In this case, not just the organization of my studio, but changes in my painting, as well.

Bowl ofOranges 8x10 oil on panel

Bowl ofOranges 8×10 oil on panel

I doubt if my change in painting approach can be attributed to the clean-up. It’s more the result of meeting my new friend Wendy and having our own little art-fix together in Arles. Unknowingly, she inspired me to try to make friends the palette knife.  In high school, my first painting teacher painted solely with the knife. The 60’s had just ended and the knife was still à la mode. I avoided it then and barely gave it time last summer in Burgundy, where I painted next to my new palette knife-painter friend, Monika Johnson. Nevertheless. the seeds had been planted and now watered. But bref, every time I’ve picked up a knife to paint in place of a brush, I feel like I’m painting with the wrong hand.

French Coffee Pot and Pears. 11x14 oil on linen

French Coffee Pot and Pears. 11×14 oil on linen

At this stage of life, I’m all about confronting whatever fears remain. And what’s the worst thing that can happen in this case? Really! So the challenges of 2015 are being faced head-on. Welcome the fresh breeze of the unknown. As a result of my taking the knife in hand, going back to the brush is already a more efficient process. It’s brought me to paint with thicker paint, having been inspired last summer by Antonin Passemard and Anastasia Dukhanina. As a teacher, it reminds me that words sometimes take a long time to take root.

Blue Skies over Uzes. 11x14 oil on linen.

Blue Skies over Uzes. 11×14 oil on linen.

I’ll remember that this summer when I’m teaching in France in two very beautiful and different parts of the country: Burgundy and the Périgord. Who’s going to face their fears, put excuses behind, sign up and join me? You won’t regret it!

L'Eustaque: Winter Plane Trees. 8x110 oil on panel

L’Estaque: Winter Plane Trees. 8×110 oil on panel

The Bliss in Ignorance

I have no insight to offer the insidious crisis of  Je suis Charlie. 

But Jim and I walked into the 11th arrondissement of Paris Wednesday afternoon totally unaware of the shooting of Charlie Hebdo and his staff. We were simply spending the last night of our delayed “honeymoon” in Paris after our sunny week in Provence, before returning home Thursday morning. Having been without internet service for several days, it wasn’t until we settled into our room in a little tourist hotel near the Gare de Lyon that I had a chance to open Facebook and read your entries of concern for us.

1419846990401Jim is a Facebook voyeur: he gets the scoop secondhand from me. But no grass grows under his feet. No sooner had I read him the entries, than he was scratching at his iPad, as I blogged, to scout  out the news. At that point, only the bare facts were available so we went on our merry way.

ParisZagat2013_ChezPaul_photoJessicaHauf__17It wasn’t just us. Such tragedies are so surreal it takes time to absorb their meaning. Life on the streets of Paris continued to appear normal, in spite of the shocking event. Students, tourists, business people and mother’s with strollers filled the sidewalks as always, as we walked northward to have one last romantic dinner at Chez Paul, only blocks from the Hebdo headquarters. Much to our ignorance. Had we been better informed, we probably would have taken a different tack: maybe a pilgrimage back to the Rue de Mouffetard across the River in the Latin Quarter or even dined close to the hotel. But we were still on honeymoon mode. Our brains were filled beyond capacity with our own happiness. Dinner was a dream.ParisZagat2013_ChezPaul_photoJessicaHauf__11

In spite of more murders the next day, our flight was early enough in the day to roll off the runway on time, without a hitch. Since then, the media has made it clear that it isn’t the end of the story. What appeared to begin as an attack on freedom of thought, speech and artistic expression has taken the life of innocents beyond. The end? I don’t know what it’s like to be in a massacre, but I do know what it’s like to have my body attacked by disease and fight with all my fiber to get my life back to a “normal” I will never again know. Normal continues to morph, exchanging unimaginable treasures for every copper penny it takes. I’m not at all sure that applies in this case.

Je suis Charlie. Vous êtes Charlie. Tout le monde est Charlie.

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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.

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Who knows what bridge this is?

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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…

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