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A Bit of Frog Pond History – My First Commission

Forgotten (Almost) Commission

Recently, I was looking through my library of file CDs and came across my first commission: the frog pond series.  I had almost forgotten about it…almost.

2002 Digital Media

I thought it would be fun to share the frog pond cartoons and give a bit of backstory. Apparently, I like doing cartoons.  Not surprising, I grew up reading Pogo, Peanuts and lots of comics.

Frog Pond History

I agreed to my first commission back in 2002.  It all started when my husband and I walked in to a new wine shop in our soon-to-be home town.  It was a cool, artsy wine shop called “Green Frog Wine Shop”.  The name caught my attention.

I recall talking to the proprietress while tasting some of her wines. She talked about wine, I talked about drawing.  I agreed to create a frog drinking wine as a logo for her shop.

Digital cartoon created by Margaret Stermer-Cox 2002

On subsequent visits to the wine shop, the proprietress told us of her business plans.  She planned to do a bed & breakfast in the building that housed the wine shop.  She also wanted to do a day care center and a taxi service.  In our little town, these businesses were lacking.

Digital cartoon created by Margaret Stermer-Cox 2002

Soon, I was drawing tadpoles, taxi drivers and a frog greeting customers with a candalabra.

Frog Pond Commission

Then, there was the catering business and maybe it would all be part of “Frog Pond Plaza”.  She certainly had the energy to do these things.

Frog Pond Commission

When it came time to deliver my cartoons, I found out that the “Green Frog Wine Shop” was going out of business.  Apparently, the proprietress’ parents had health problems and she was moving back to their home to take care of them.

I don’t remember the terms of the commission.  It was a verbal contract.  I know I was supposed to be paid.   She didn’t have the money to pay me.  Instead, I was paid in wine bottles.

I appreciated that she honored our contract as best she could.

That was the first and last time I worked with only a verbal contract.

Digital cartoon created by Margaret Stermer-Cox 2002

Digital cartoon
created by Margaret Stermer-Cox

I did an additional frog for my husband, who was and is a webmaster.  I must have been having a ton of fun!

Oh, we drank the wine and it was fine.

Party Frog - Commission


The way I did the frogs was by doing graphite pencil drawings first.  Then, I would scan them into the computer.  I used Corel’s Painter program to re-draw the cartoon.  Then I added colors and fills.


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Why Draw? Why Paint?

The “Why Paint” Question

Why do I ask the “why paint” question?  I came across two blog posts* that asked similar questions regarding “why”.  The question sparked my brain cells.  I’ve been “riffing” on this idea for the past two days!

Why Paint? Strawberry Frogs?

So why draw and paint?  Why go through all the self doubt that seems to be part of the process?

Come to think of it, I didn’t always have doubt.  Its one of the situations where the more I know, the more I realize I don’t know.  Sigh.

Why – Other Artists?

Hmmm, is it just because I like being around artists?   I do like to be around artists and discuss techniques, ideas, problems.  I think its more a situation of “we’re all in this together” than a “WHY” reason to paint.

Why – Beauty or Fun?

Is it just because I like drawings and paintings?

Its got to be about more than “I like to paint beauty”…or “because its fun”. Maybe.

I haven’t quite gotten to painting beauty.  I can hardly define beauty.  And, sometimes drawing or painting isn’t so fun.  Its more frustrating.  It being the act of painting, combined with all the self doubt and struggle to get “it” right – it being the finished work in this case.

Why? Strawberry plants from my garden

Why – Prestige?

How about prestige?  Is it an ego thing?  Well, I do like entering my paintings into shows.  I get a charge out of being accepted.  It does my ego good.  Yet, I get enough “decline your painting” notices that I’m pretty sure I don’t paint for shows.

Plus, I benefit from what I just named the “show paradox”.  When I paint for shows, I don’t get in.  When I paint then submit my best, I stand a better chance of being accepted.

Why – Money?

Could it be that I like the money?  Umm, no.  I’m not making huge sums of money through drawing or painting so I don’t think its the money.  On a side note, that isn’t a whine.  My marketing efforts have been modest and I know it.  Should money be the reason I paint, I believe I would have to apply myself to mastering the marketing.

I think I would still draw and paint even if I did not show my work or did not make a sale.

Why – To Avoid Pain?

Yes, avoiding pain can be a motivation.  I learned this from Anthony Robbins tapes I listened to in the 1990s.

And, to a certain extent I think it is a part of my “why”.  It would be too painful if I never tried.  I would always wonder what I had missed.  In my little head dialog, I urge myself on.  The pain of not trying is something I actively avoid.

Why Paint

Why Not?…What I Like

There has to be a why that sustains me through the struggle of learning to draw and paint.

Here are a few things I know I like:

  • I like trying things and seeing if I can make it work.  I love the experience.
  • I like the feel of a loaded, wet watercolor brush on paper.  Its great watching the paint too!
  • I love it when I start to understand or experience something.  Particularly those things that more experienced artists say I should see.  When I finally get it, its exciting.
  • I like the results of drawing and painting.  I like the magic of when the drawing or painting start to come together.

But, what about the big WHY?

Maybe, I just like drawing and painting.  Some of my earliest memories are of drawing and painting.  My school notebooks are full of drawings, sometimes more drawings than class notes.

I think that at the end of the day, its that the simple act of drawing or painting is an act of optimism.  Its about communicating what I see, feel or imagine to another person.

Connecting, is that what I’m talking about?  Is my “WHY” a statement that there are somethings that are OK?

Maybe its a connection of optimism, beauty, joy.  How about wonder?

Do you suppose the “WHY” is as unique as each one of us?  Or, is this visual communication universal?

I think the act of drawing and painting is what I like to do.  It makes me feel good.

Its still hard.

And frustrating.

And fascinating!

That’s why.

What’s your “why”?

Why Paint - World Watercolor Month

World Watercolor Month – July 2016

Back to earth here, I’ve been working on my ink and watercolor studies.  I think this kind of work fits right in with the upcoming “World Watercolor Month” – mainly because its watercolor.  Any kind of watercolor work would suffice by definition, don’t you think?  I think its pretty wonderful that there is a worldwide watercolor month.  I do like community!  Speaking of which, I heard about “World Watercolor Month” on Citizen Sketcher’s blog.


I’m listing the two blog posts that sparked the question “why”.

Frank Eber: “Aspirations of An Artist”

Angela Bruskotter: “The Why of An Artist”



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Young Pine at LaPine State Park

Painting at LaPine

My husband and I were camping at LaPine State Park near LaPine, OR this past weekend.  LaPine is in the central part of the state.

Young Pine at LaPine, OR

I’d like to share with you a study I did of a young ponderosa pine tree at LaPine State Park and a some of the extra special things we did!

Sometimes when I think of landscape painting and creating art of the great outdoors, I think of big panoramas.  Trees, mountains, creeks, clouds all fall in the mental image of a landscape painting.

But, there is no reason why one can not focus their attention on a tree, a small plant, or a squirrel.

Well, the squirrels are awfully fast.  So, I took on a young ponderosa pine tree.

There is plenty to do when it comes to drawing trees.  Especially on location.  Light changes for one thing.  Plus, all those needles, twigs and squirrels running about!

Lessons Learned:

  • It takes a lot of practice to draw and paint the great outdoors
  • When time is limited, accuracy might need to be sacrificed for getting the main information down.
  • Remember to stand back and take a look…which is something I often forget to do.
  • Squirrels, and their relatives the chipmunks, never stand and pose when you want them to.

Side Notes

Tent at LaPineI did several drawings as well.  Whenever I had a few minutes, I took out pen and paper.  I’m including two drawings as an example.  I did one of our tent in the campground at LaPine.

Amphitheater Volunteers, Bend OR, North of LaPine

The second drawing I did while we were waiting in line to go to a concert in nearby Bend, OR.  We went to see the band “Alabama Shakes” at the Les Schwab Amphitheater.  Side note: WOW!

All in all, a fun way to observe nature and people through drawing.  And, have a GREAT weekend!

Visit to Sandra’s Artist Studio In LaPine

My husband and I had a wonderful weekend in LaPine, OR.  We did take the opportunity to meet a fellow Oregon artist, Sandra Neary, and her husband Mike.  It was such a treat to view her work in person.  It is amazing what a difference it makes.

I enjoyed listening to Sandra talk about her work.  She talked about what themes excite her and it enabled me to appreciate her paintings that much more.

Naturally, painter me enjoyed looking at her studio space too!

Thank you Sandra!


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“Kindred Spirits” – 106 Talent Ave Revisited; Drawing Talent Series

Introducing “Kindred Spirits, Art, Ales & Wine” – latest installment of my “Drawing Talent” series.

Drawing Kindred Spirits

Selecting Painting Locations

The weather has been good and I find myself saying: “Why don’t I go outside and draw Talent?”  And, I do, or rather did on Wednesday morning.

The first thing I think about when selecting a place to draw or paint is lighting.  For example, the building that houses “Kindred Spirits” is facing the east.  I like it as a subject in the morning due to the light and dark pattern caused by shadows and reflections.

With a general idea of where I want to paint, off I go!

About Talent

I like Talent in the morning.  Most of the town is quiet.  We do have businesses and light industry.  The part of town where is “Kindred Spirits” is situated is part of the “historic Talent”, and traffic is modest.

I say that, but as I was working, the fire marshal drove up and blocked my view for a minute or two.  Any longer, and I would have happily drawn his truck!  Someone dropped by to water plants.  And, people and cars passed by and their way to…wherever.   It is an active place.

Recent History – Before “Kindred Spirits”

A couple of years ago, September 2014 to be specific, I did a watercolor study of this same building, but of a slightly different view.  At that time “Porto Gelato” occupied the southernmost business space of the building.  (I did like their gelatos; yum!)  Where “Kindred Spirits” is now was divided into two business rental spaces.  “Cathy Dorris Studios” occupied one of the spaces.

Drawing Talent: Porto Gelato

Now, the space that was “Porto Gelato” is rented to artist Jessalynn Jones.  Cathy Dorris Studios expanded and changed their name to “Kindred Spirits”.  Cathy has added a wine and beer bar.  She features local wines.  Naturally, there are nice things to eat too.  Cathy has weekly classes and rotating art exhibits.

My husband and I stop by to check out the beer selection and enjoy conversation with friends from time to time.

Speaking of art exhibits, I showed one of my paintings, “Torsten on Bass” here last February.

Drawing Talent

All this is to say our seemingly sleepy little town of Talent OR does change and yet stay the same.  We have a vibrant community.  Its a good place to live!

Palette Change

Its also a fun place to do drawings and watercolor studies.

OH, did you notice?  I changed my palette a bit for this latest version.  Instead of using bright hansa yellow I used raw umber, an earth tone yellow.   I think it changes the tone quite a bit!


I hope you enjoy seeing two views of the same building.




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Cormorant Roosting On A Snag at Hyatt Lake, OR

Yesterday my husband and I took a drive up into the mountains to nearby Hyatt Lake, OR.  It was a beautiful day and perfect for a drive.  After a good winter for snow and rain, the lakes are almost full.

Cormorants Roosting On Snag, Hyatt Lake ORNaturally, I took my field painting box.  There is an old snag that’s been taken over by the cormorants.  They’ve even established some nests.  I thought I’d sit down and do a watercolor study.

Its funny, when I get into focus mode, trying my best to work with the paint, I forget things like all the little gnats flying around.  Or the killdeer that keeps calling trying to distract me.  Or the ants on the log I was sitting on.  The ants left me alone, so, I left them to do their business.

The next cove down we saw a bald eagle.  We were looking for the osprey; the bald eagle will do!

To crown the day, we stopped to have some ice cream at another lake – Howard Prairie.  Nice indulgence!

All in all, a lovely day at Hyatt Lake in southern Oregon!


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Color Bias: Its Relative; Lesson in Primary Color Mixing & Mood

First Lesson

Color bias was one of the first lessons I learned when I started learning about watercolor painting.  Understanding color bias is useful, particularly in mixing color and creating color mood.

Early Advice – Look For Color Bias

Early in my watercolor painting education, I received some guidance and advice from family friend and retired Arts Student’s League instructor Mr. Vincent Malta.  One idea he shared was that all colors have a bias.  They have a warm bias or cool bias.  Warm bias would be a tendency for the pigment to have a little bit of red or yellow in it; cool bias would be toward blue.

Learning - Its all relativeFor personal clarification, and to assist in color mixing, I refer to the bias as toward yellow, red or blue.

Primary Colors

To begin, lets consider the three primary colors – red, blue and yellow.  Easy enough.  Yellow and red are considered warm colors – think fire.  Blue is a cool color, like ice.

But, its not quite so easy because of pigment bias. That is, most yellows have either a slight red or blue tinge.  Reds are either just a tad bluish or yellowish. You figured it – blues either slightly yellow or slightly red.

Why is this important?  Color mixing. Color mood.

In other words, color bias can be huge!

Color Wheel - Its All RelativeColor Wheel – Simplified

To explain, I thought I’d create a simple color wheel.  I selected two examples of each primary color from my watercolor palette.  I created a wheel, arranging them according to bias or tendency.

Regarding the yellows, new gamboge has a bias toward red; hansa yellow tends toward blue.

The reds I selected are scarlet lake – yellow bias, and quinacridone rose – blue bias.

The blues I chose are Prussian blue – yellow bias, and French ultramarine blue – red bias.

For Instance…

Lets do a “for instance”.  If you mix two primary colors with a bias toward each other, then you get a more “clean” color.  If you mix two primary colors where a third is present through bias then you get a “muddied” color.  Its best to look at pictures.

Color Bias - Its All Relative

Two Primary Color Mixing

Above are the pairings of my paints if I only want two primaries in the mix:

  • new gamboge (red bias) mixed with scarlet lake (yellow bias)
  • quinacridone rose (blue bias) mixed with French ultramarine blue (red bias)
  • Prussian blue (yellow bias) mixed with hansa yellow (blue bias)


Clear as mud?  🙂

Color Bias - three primaries

Three Primary Color Mixing

Compare the two primary mixes with pairings where all three primaries are present.

  • hansa yellow (blue bias) mixed with quinacridone rose (blue bias)
  • new gamboge (red bias) mixed with quinacridone rose (blue bias)
  • scarlet lake (yellow bias) mixed with Prussian blue (yellow bias)
  • scarlet lake (yellow bias) mixed with French ultramarine blue (red bias)
  • quinacridone rose (blue bias) mixed with Prussian blue (yellow bias)
  • French ultramarine blue (red bias) mixed with new gamboge (red bias)
  • French ultramarine blue (red bias) mixed with hansa yellow (blue bias)
  • Prussian blue (yellow bias) mixed with new gamboge (red bias)
  • hansa yellow (blue bias) mixed with scarlet lake (yellow bias)

You might notice that even though the mix might be interesting, the colors aren’t “pure”, or clean.

For example, French ultramarine blue (red bias) and hansa yellow (blue bias) create a muted green.  I might use this green in depicting the soft greens of desert sage.  I would not use the mixture to depict the bright, clean greens of new leaves

Idea Restated

Just to re-interate, two primaries mixed together results in a cleaner, often more vibrant color.  Three primary colors mixed together create more muted, muddied and sometimes richer colors.

And, they’re all good!  The subtle differences help the painter use color to meet expressive intent – that is to say color mood.

So, now what?

I recommend looking at your own palette and experimenting.  Create triads of reds, yellows and blue and think about each pigment’s color bias.  Then, do a small study.  What kind of mood do you create?  How about the colors?  Is it useful to you?


With the left triad, you might notice that all three pigments have a cool bias.  With the middle triad of pigments, there is a warm bias.  The right most triad has a mixed bias, though I would say that it is cool dominant since both hansa yellow and quinacridone rose tend to be cool.

Color Bias - Its All Relative


Please feel free to comment about your own explorations in color bias and mixing.  If you do a blog post of your own color pallet and experiments, please share your link!  Thanks!


Though I talk about watercolor paint, the principle of bias applies to all pigments and paints, from color pencil to oils.



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“Organic Grind” Coffee Kiosk – Drawing Talent Series*

Grinding Another Drawing

Greetings!  Its “Organic Grind” time!   And, time to add another entry in my “Drawing Talent” series.  The series is about on location watercolor drawings of my hometown  of Talent, OR.  (See the bottom of this post for more about the series).

Today I took the opportunity to walk to “Organic Grind”, a local drive through coffee kiosk.

Organic Grind, Watercolor & Ink


About “Organic Grind”

“Organic Grind” is located on one of my exercise routes.  Its also located near one of the main intersections in town where Valley View Drive crosses the Pacific Highway. Its a busy place with lots of customers driving though every morning.  I went out late morning to draw the kiosk and it was still busy.  There was a steady stream of cars driving through.  It made drawing the kiosk interesting as the cars blocked part of the view.  Fun, though.

Today’s baristas were Shawna and Crystal.  I met Shawna; she was nice and enthusiastic about the fact I was drawing the kiosk.

Today’s Lesson Learned

Oh, I learned something today.  As I said above, the kiosk is located near one of the main intersections in town.  The first location I chose for drawing was near one of the roads.  I set up just inside of the sidewalk that borders Valley View Road.

OOOPS!  Not so good.  Valley View Road gets plenty of truck traffic.  Even though I wasn’t on the road, I felt its effects.  The first truck that went by sent my paper flying.  I was received a nice back-blast gust of air.  Not so fun.  I retrieved my equipment and found a better place to draw.

Lesson learned when drawing and painting outside, make sure you are away from truck traffic!

We Love Our Coffee

One thing about the Pacific Northwestern states – we like our coffee.  Its my impression that most towns have several places where one can get an excellent cup of espresso or coffee.  This is one of the things I like about the Northwest.

Double Espresso – Of Course

Naturally, I had to have a double espresso after completing my drawing.  In my opinion, the best way to test a coffee place is to try the espresso – neat of course.  No milk, sugar, cream, syrup or other foreign things in my espresso.

I like an espresso that leaves a satisfying, slightly citrus-ie after taste.   I enjoyed “Organic Grind’s” espresso and recommend it.

Organic Grind, Ball Point Pen

The Drawings

Back to the drawings.  This past February, I did a quick study of the kiosk.  At that time, there were people ordering from one of the coffee windows.  I did this small drawing during my morning exercise session.  I gave myself five minutes or less to do the drawing.  Such time limits force me to look at the big shapes.

Today’s drawing was the watercolor and ink study.  It was done in about an hour or less.  There is nothing particularly magical about the timing.  I’m just working on my ability to focus.  Plus, I want to do the studies quickly so the light doesn’t change too much.

Drawing Talent Series

*Note:  The intention of my “Drawing Talent” series is to get to know my home town one watercolor and ink study at a time.  I started this series in May, 2014.  Its fun and interesting.  Its the type of the thing that one might not ever finish.  Already, some buildings have changed businesses a couple of times.  And, there are plenty of places I haven’t drawn yet.  I have only gone to places within walking distance.

More soon!  I hope you enjoy the drawings!



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Drawing Talent: TID Dump Truck

I just wanted to do it – go and draw something around Talent, OR.  Its been several months since I’ve been out.  Things just keep getting in the way.

Drawing Talent: TID Dumb Truck

For example, rain and storms are headed our direction.  And, it should be rainy for several days.

The signs were there that maybe I’d get rained on.  But, I wanted to go anyway.

So, after lunch dishes I got my tool kit together and made for the door.  Oops.  Where is my hat?  Yes, I do have a special hat that I wear when I’m out drawing on location.  It’s made by “Sunday Afternoons”, which is a Talent based apparel and hat company.

My husband found my special hat for me.

Happily, I walked out the door and went on my way.

Two blocks from the house, I realized I’d forgotten my water.  Kind of hard to work with watercolor without the water.  Fortunately, I had a spray bottle with me.  That’ll work.

I wanted to go down to a coffee kiosk.   But, with the dark clouds gathering over the mountains, I decided to pick a subject closer to home.

I do like the big equipment at the Talent Irrigation District’s motor pool.  Just the subject.

Fortunately, it doesn’t take long to set up and get to work.

My process is to do a graphite drawing, followed by ink then watercolor.  As I started laying out my drawing – the clouds looked the color of Payne’s gray.  I quickly switched to ink..then watercolor, then back to ink!

It was great fun, no time to think.

I collected my gear and went home.  An hour later, it still hasn’t rained.

The moral of the story?  Sometimes, you just have to go for it.  And, moral number two, be prepared when you forget something.

Maybe I should do a “Drawing Talent” checklist.  🙂



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Weird Year

Greetings!  Its been a weird year.  Could it be because I started out with a proud proclamation of big goals?  I had great intentions of doing a painting every day.

Weird Year; Study: Watercolor Tube & Paint Bottle

And, then, mid-January hit.  A close family member became ill.  And then…and then…and well, then other things happened.  Its been stressful.  Here I am and its almost mid April.  My best intentions and goals seem to be derailed.

But, I’m still painting.  I’m still plugging away at my goal.  Every day I pick up my pencil.  I have missed a few days with the paint brush.  As soon as I can, I get back to it.  Goals have just been sidelined, not totally disregarded.

I think my intention of doing a painting every day was a good one.  That I have not been able to complete one every day doesn’t mean the idea was bad.  Perhaps with this type of year, I need to take things one day at a time and just keep plugging away at it.

Do you have strategies for times when external factors call for your attention to be somewhere other than the studio?  And, when you get back to the studio, what then?

Since its been that type of year, I think I’ll upload one of my latest studies and make sure I have a posting!


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Drawing: Still Life with Egg Cup & Egg Shells

New Drawing

Hi!  I’d like to share a recent drawing with you.  I seem to becoming obsessed by drawing, which is a good thing.  And eggs, shells and cups.  This is an experience I want!

Drawing: Still Life with Egg Cup and Egg Shells

Inspiring Articles

I ‘d like to share a couple of links to articles with you that I think are inspiring.  Both are from the website “In The Artist Studio”.

Article:  “Ask the Expert…Iain Stewart”.  Posted, March 16, 2016.  An interview with the artist.  I particularly liked Mr. Stewart’s answer to the question of how to improve.

Article:  “Words to Paint By, Irwin Greenberg”.  Posted December 7, 2015.  A list of studio practices and disciplines.   Mr. Greenberg was a watercolor artist and instructor.

Its About Experiencing

I think I’m attracted to articles about drawing because I’m interested in improve.  I suppose I’m finding articles that re-inforce my current thinking.  I’m not sure; I just know this is the experience I want!

Draw & Think Some More

Perhaps, I need to think, draw, and then share my thoughts.  In the mean time, I hope you enjoy my drawing of an egg cup and egg shells.



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