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!

 

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

Looking down on Creation

IMG_5718It’s a wonderful thing to be in Aix-en-Provence, the home of Cezanne, under the protection of Mt. Ventoux. From almost anywhere in town it’s possible to look about and see the famous mountain standing guard. The city itself is a picturesque, provençal, mini-Paris: friendly yet chic, rooted in historic yet youthfully progressive.  And then there’s the food…

unnamed 2Just 45 minutes from Arles, it would have been an easy day trip. But with an invite from Wendy’s daughter, who was leaving town for a skiing weekend, we were packing the Peugeot, Viggo, the cocker, and all, for an overnight in her 200 year old family cabane, high above the city. What could be more romantic than turning off the busy road on the edge of town only to cross a narrow, one lane, stone bridge, le Pont des Trios Saulets, immortalized in paint by another famous figure, Winston Churchill? It was just a foretaste of the rustic pleasures in store at the stone cottage up the mountain, where we could look down on the city or across the valley to Mt.Ventoux, itself.

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Saturday in Aix, as in many cities, towns and villages in France, is a time to faire les magazins- go shopping, whether for necessities or luxuries; and we did our share. From open air markets to antique art boutiques to Hermes, we covered the gamut. That night, after Wendy and I had a little paint-out in the garden, we all relaxed around the fireplace with Robert’s favorite pizza and wine, resting up for our big Sunday walk down to Aix and back. Viggo was in heaven and we weren’t far behind.

unnamed 3Back in Arles, after a late afternoon trip to the hill town of Les-Beaux to scout out more painting sports for future tours, we were once again at table, dining, wining and plotting an autumn Artistic Adventure not to be missed.

Who wants in?

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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Filling the Stocking

French hen, 4x6 linen panel

French hen, 4×6 linen panel

Those of you attending my Holiday Open House this Saturday will enjoy new gallery lighting. No more shifting paintings from shadows to the light! That along with some other little spruce-ups will make my thirty-fifth holiday open house even more pleasant than before.

The house has been astir with preparations. There are just a few last brush strokes to complete but that’s just the beginning of any art event. Boxes of new frames from all over the country arrived last week and the week before and I’ve been filling them with new paintings as time permits. This week will be packed with taking inventory, hanging the show and the final spruce-up. Squeezed in between was a trip to Sharon Weiss Gallery in Columbus on Saturday to deliver new paintings. She and I have some fun plans for the new year to introduce Stebner to more of her central state art collectors.

Serenity, Giverny. 20x24 oil on linen

Serenity, Giverny. 20×24 oil on linen

If all this wasn’t enough holiday excitement, there’s another little jewel to fill the holiday stocking. In five weeks Jim and I will be back in France celebrating the first year of our marriage(a ceremony that occurred 24 years after we united forces). Call it what you like- a postponed honeymoon, anniversary vacation or holiday getaway. All I can say is that we can’t wait! As often as we have gone to France, it will only be the second time we have gone together, just the two of us. The first time was our first trip to Paris the same time of year, some fifteen years ago.

So please come Saturday and find gifts you can’t find anywhere else. As my friend Josh so graciously recently said on Facebook:

My extremly talented friend Bruce Stebner has made yet another fabulous trip to the south of France and has many original paintings of the region ready in time for Christmas… Instead of the typical gifts of ugly sweaters or electronics that only last a few years and come from China, give instead, the gift that lasts generations, The gift of one of a kind works of art, by a local master. Who’s skill and artistry bring forth works that wont add to landfills but will appreciate, be appreciated, and bring beauty for centuries… ((grin)) (Ok thats a bit thick, but get over it the guy is good… )

Standing Tall, 20x30 oil on linen

Standing Tall, 20×30 oil on linen

 

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

Breathing Deep

Being in the French countryside is a paradox for me. On one hand, my senses are on overload. My eyes are analyzing everything I observe. It’s just so beautiful on a superficial, basic tourist kind of  level. Then there’s the art stuff added like a cherry on top. Shadows. Light. Shapes. Lines. Capturing the three dimensions in two on a little piece of canvas. Reducing all the beauty to its essentials. That’s the challenge of every artist, wherever they find themselves; I can return from the market at home and find painting material in the vegetables I load into the fridge. Some end up directly in my studio as models for my next study. All’s well as long as I remember to return them to the kitchen.

Speaking of markets, today is market day. As Rochelle and Mike get ready to go, I’m here by the river using the town internet. Imagine having to come to the town hall garden by the river to check your email. Sitting in the chill of the morning as the sun comes up, listening to the rustle of the river to my right[The second option is  going to the restaurant next door which still picks up the connection and have a coffee, beer or wine(if not lunch or dinner) to check your internet]. That’s the other part of the paradox. Life slows down. Many things are less convenient. The rat race melts like chasing tigers turning to butter. Suddenly, with more powers of observation, I better detect the light change as I watch the sun rise and set, not to mention the star-gazing far from any city light or smog. Oh my God, the stars! Last night the sky was so clear, I saw some I’ve never seen before over the ancient rooftops which are my home for these three autumn weeks in the Périgord. Strikes, leaks and missing bed sheets melt like circling tigers to reveal a delectable, buttery experience I’ve come to call, for good reason, Artistic Adventures.

I’ve been slow to blog because I can’t get pictures from my new phone to my laptop. After vacillating, I’ve decided to post blogs without pictures. They can be seen on my Facebook page this time around. I’ll insert them in the blog when I get home. Maybe.

Strike Two!

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If you followed my blog through Burgundy this past June, you’ll recall I was trapped in the “little” train strike that turned into a “big” one. Isn’t one strike a year enough?! Obviously not, since I found myself maneuvering the current “grève” of the french Air France pilots this past week. Thanks to my french Facebook friend, Valerie Pillot, for giving me the heads up early in the week and Julie Kapper, my Delta flight attendant painting student, who advised me to follow my gut and rebook my Delta reservation through KLM instead of waiting to see if you-know-who would cancel my flight or not. They did and I was able to side-swipe what could have been a 4 or five day delay and loose only one.

Add to that snafu a complication of assembling a new traveling easel that put me in a last minute tailspin. That set saws spinning and three trips to Lowe’s for wood and Best Buy for the right tripod. What if I hadn’t been organizing my suitcase packing strategy for over a week? Yoga breathing and repeating the mantra “Everything is going exactly as it should” protected my from my own predisposition to simply collapse in a puddle or scream in outrage. Self-pity, is never flattering and I was determined to stay in the moment and increase my stamina for problem solving.

Success. All packed. Decent sleep. Rising early to take care of those last loose threads, I kissed dogs goodbye, rode smoothly to the airport with Jim at the wheel. A line-less bag checkin and I found myself pre-qualified for TSA, to boot! Here in Atlanta I sit a satisfied soul, having savored a lunch of watermelon salad, roasted cauliflower and a dish of giant italian white beans and peppers. And a glass of white wine. There’s nothing like that first glass of vacation wine. The switch flips and the world is right. When everyone in Ohio is sound asleep or awake with insomnia, my students Rochelle, Mike and I will be settling in to our stone house in the Périgord.

Yes, Jim, “I love our life!”

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Stebner, in Your Words

5.5"x12" Stebner oil on panel.

5.5″x12″ Stebner oil on panel. $295, unframed.

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. 5.5"x12" Stebner oil on panel

Brittany Springtime. 6×8″ Stebner oil on panel, $200 unframed

Red Gate, 6x8 Stebner oil on panel, $200, unframed.

Red Gate, 6×8 Stebner oil on panel, $200, unframed.

 

Just Wondering. 11x14 Stebner oil on linen. $475, unframed.

Just Wondering. 11×14 Stebner oil on linen. $475, unframed.