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!

 

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Lenten Fasts

Self-Portrait, February 2014. oil on panel 11x14

Self-Portrait, February 2014. oil on panel 11×14

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.

Hope of Spring, 11x14 oil on linen

Hope of Spring, 11×14 oil on linen

Summer Pleasures, Normandy. oil on linen 20x24

Summer Pleasures, Normandy. oil on linen 20×24

To Tone Or Not To Tone

Once the basic composition was set on the canvas, I was faced with a big decision: should I tone the canvas or not? Toning not only kills the stark white of the canvas but also influences the colors which will be applied over it; sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. In this case, I decided to use Marc Dalessio’s practice of using a transparent earth orange tone to give the final painting an earthy, but luminous effect. One of the joys of a toned canvas is seeing it break through in the final work.

Once that was set, the a thin layer of colors was applied, using my mock up photograph with the composite garden I’d created in the last blog. This is when self-doubt can threaten the inner vision!

But now the painting is getting beyond the scary stage and starting to express something. Adjustments need to be made in the garden: more variety on the left side of the path, for sure. What was fine in the little mock up is too repetitious on the full size canvas. Brush strokes and layers of impasto will bring it to life. From here to the end of the ride, the trick will be to decide where to delineate and where to merely suggest. Balancing the two will make the painting “sing”. With most of the rest of the week dedicated to the piece, the next post should tell the final story.  After that, I have a different kind of story or two up my sleeve.