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Get to the Morgan by Sunday

Judas Returning the Thirty Pieces of Silver, Rembrandt, oil on panel, detail

Judas Returning the Thirty Pieces of Silver, Rembrandt, oil on panel, detail

I rarely go out of my way to see a Rembrandt. He’s one of those painters you assume you know inside and out. What more is there to know? Yet, every time I spend time with one of his paintings, I walk away almost in disbelief at his genius and his flawless skill. Nothing about Rembrandt’s approach to painting appeals to me, personally: the staging and use of darkness to create cinematic effects, the way in which his chiaroscuro banishes most color from his palette, except in subtle concentrations, and even then it’s usually a world of brown and gray. I don’t live in a world that looks this way unless I’m glancing around a room lit only by the glow of a flat-screen TV. Yet when you stand before one of his great paintings, it’s jaw-dropping and almost dumbfounding. I felt that way in 2014 at The Frick, when I saw Simeon’s Song of Praise, a small canvas depicting a scene that feels enormous, and I had an even more intense reaction last week to Judas Returning the Thirty Pieces of Silver, on view until Sunday at The Morgan Library. The two paintings were completed two years apart, the latter when Rembrandt was only 23. How does a kid paint something this masterful, not only in technical skill but in its depth of understanding and empathy? When I saw this painting, it finally struck me that Rembrandt belongs in that cohort of rare, black swans who achieved effortless perfection at the earliest ages: Mozart, Rimbaud, Hendrix, Keats. In the case of both paintings I was astonished, the way I was six years ago when I saw how El Greco rendered the faces in The Coronation of the Virgin in a show at Onassis Cultural Center–overwhelming emotion and thought conveyed in faces that required, at best, a couple square inches of painted surface.

This show is built around only one painting, as the Frick show was primarily a way to offer the public a view of  Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s show in 2009 offered access to his Milkmaid. In all three instances, the exhibitions were devoted to work on loan from European collections, and they all gave a single painting its own stage supplemented by collateral work that helped put it into historical perspective. Of the three, the Morgan’s is the most effectively curated. More than two dozen drawings and prints line the walls around the central painting, and they are equally exhilarating. It’s one thing to know that Rembrandt was a masterful draftsman, but it’s another to see evidence of his preternatural facility repeatedly, in one drawing and print after another.

In conversation with Lawrence Weschler, for a catalog that accompanied his 2005 watercolor show at LA Louver in 2005, David Hockney rhapsodized about the irrevocable brushwork, the once-and-done, Asian quality of a single Rembrandt drawing,  A Child Being Taught to Walk:

Look at the speed, the way he wields that reed pen, drawing very fast, with gestures that are masterly, virtuoso, not calling attention to themselves but rather to the very tender subject at hand, a family teaching its youngest member to walk. The face of the baby: how even though you can’t see it, you can tell he is beaming. This mountain of figures, and then to balance it all, the passing milkmaid, how you can feel the weight of the bucket she carries in the extension of the opposite arm. All of it conveyed, magically. But look at the speed, the sheer mastery. The Chinese would have recognized a fellow master.

Hockney called it “the single greatest drawing ever made.” This show will evoke the same kind of superlatives over and over, as you move from one drawing and print to the next. One technique Rembrandt file_0001used consistently was to drench a focal point in bright light by doing nothing but line drawings of the figures–outlines, almost cartoons, while rendering everything in shadow with a grisaille of light and dark. At first glance, you think, it’s unfinished, but then you realize that it simply indicates that the shaft of light is so intense that it washes away nearly all the detail in the spotlit figures. The contrast it creates makes the drawing seem even more spontaneous and alive. Ironically, Rembrandt had to fall back on only his unerring sense of line, without modeling, to show all he needed to show when it came to the most crucial individuals in the depicted event.

Colin Bailey, the Morgan’s director, in an interview with Leonard Lopate, pointed out that Judas Returning the Thirty Pieces of Silver went through many revisions as Rembrandt painted. Xray studies of the painting have shown how he changed his mind about the composition even in the advanced stages of his work on it. The intense light streaming into the scene from the left, which is fundamental to the entire image–the light source is what visually unifies most representational images, after all–was a late modification, at least in the way it makes the open Bible the brightest object in the painting and highlights the coins strewn on the floor. Everything in the painting is rendered with magical skill, from the faces of the participants–somehow the likeness of Judas is so distinctly individuated that the tiny features reminded me of Ezra Pound’s profile–to the little bits of glinting chain link dangling from the bottom of the mounted shield or breastplate overhead.

In reference to the fact that this painting has rarely been available to the public, having belonged for years in a private European collection, Lopate asked: “How does someone like you respond to some pretty great paintings hidden away in warehouses? It seems to me to go against our whole idea of what art is about–if people buy it as an investment and keep it in a warehouse as a way of avoiding taxes–Van Gogh, Picasso, Leonardo, works that should be seen. That has to cause pain for someone whose life is devoted to exhibiting.”

Bailey said: “Whatever we think of these warehouses, the works are safe and are not deteriorating, but from the museum’s perspective, public access is something we’re committed to. The depth, vitality of the Morgan is interdisciplinary. It’s an encyclopedic institution in miniature.”

I’m drawn more and more to The Morgan when I come into the city, on the strength of the shows I’ve seen there: William Blake’s work in A New Heaven is Begun, in 2009, the sui generis Emmett Gowin show last year, Hidden Likeness, and now this exhibition. If you want to see the outcome of concentrated curatorial passion combined with deep insight and archival resources, The Morgan is the place to go. From these shows, I come away feeling as if I’ve connected more deeply, not simply with great art, but with myself.

Showing Peggy’s Ladies At Rogue Gallery


Greetings!  I’m happy to announce that I am showing three of my ladies at the Rogue Gallery and Art Center in Medford, OR.

Showing: Peggy's Three Ladies

The Members Gallery will hang the ladies through January 10th, 2017 and the paintings are available for purchase.

About The Ladies

Ladies: I Can't Hear You

I Can’t Hear You,  Watercolor, Image Size 15×12

This painting was based on my ninth drawing in the “Just Sayin’…” series.  I am fascinated by how the use of a cell phone has effected our culture.  One of the more amusing gestures I notice is the finger put to the ear in order to hear better.   In this painting, my thoroughly modern lady is talking on her cell phone, using the thoroughly modern gesture of finger to her ear.

Ladies: Just Sayin'...V8

Just Sayin’…V8, Watercolor, Image Size 10.5×7

The “Just Sayin’…” series of paintings is inspired by the ubiquitous cell phone.  One can scarcely be in public without noticing someone talking on the cell phone and overhearing the conversation.  In this variation, my subject is an “upscale” lady, perhaps dressed for a special occasion like afternoon tea.  Even she has a finger to her ear as she talks on her cell phone.


Ladies: Irish Maiden

Irish Maiden, Watercolor, Image Size 10×7

With Irish Maiden, I wanted to combine symbols of Ireland in a Cubist-inspired designed.  The maiden’s crown eludes to the triple spiral and triskel, symbolizing unity of mind, spirit and body.  Naturally, I included shamrocks, the easily recognised symbol of luck.  The shamrocks and the color green together remind me of every St. Patty’s Day in elementary school.  Green was my favorite color and I made sure to wear plenty of green clothing.  Add a shamrock pin and I was ready not to get “pinched”.

Third Friday

If you are in the southern Oregon area, I hope you will stop by the Rogue Gallery and view the paintings.  Every third Friday of the month, the gallery holds a reception.  This is a particularly festive time to visit the gallery.


The post Showing Peggy’s Ladies At Rogue Gallery appeared first on Margaret Stermer-Cox.

After Action Review (AAR) of Watercolor & Ink Demonstration

Review Time!

Greetings!  Yes, its time I did a review.  It has been about two weeks since I did my watercolor and ink demonstration (demo) for the Southern Oregon Society of Artists (SOSA) in Medford.  I had a wonderful time!  The organization treated me well and I had an enthusiastic audience.   It was an exciting and memorable event for me.  So much to think about!

Review of Watercolor & Ink Demo

Here I am in mid sentence; all set up and ready to go! Southern Oregon Society of Artists; August 2016

Thank You!

First, I’d like to extend a huge THANK YOU to the following:

  • Lori Garfield for all the coordination before hand; it was great and most helpful! Thanks for the introduction.
  • Marilyn Foreman, for inviting me to do the demo; what an honor!
  • To the members of SOSA for their warm and enthusiastic welcome.

After Action Review

My purpose for conducting this after action review is to put down on paper all those things I am thinking about (so much to think!)  The great thing is that next time I need to do a demonstration, I can review what happened this time.  Remembering what went well and where I might improve is important to me.  I hope to do more demos in the future!

After Action Review Format

This is the AAR format I used. Feel free to copy if you like.

What Was Supposed To Happen

  • The Society of Southern Oregon Artists SOSA) invited me to give a demonstration on watercolor and ink techniques. My audience represented artists of different media and different skill levels. I had roughly an hour and a half to show how I work with watercolor and ink.
  • My intention was to show how I create a watercolor & ink painting from start to finish. I divided my work process into three phases based on the media I use: graphite, ink and watercolor. Each phase was to take twenty minutes.
  • Throughout the demo, I planned to talk and explain the development of the painting. Talking points were to include ideas, materials, working with the media, etc.

What Happened

  • I was able to follow my plan of roughly 20 minutes per medium: graphite, ink then watercolor.
  • After a nervous start, I dove in and did my best. By mentally diving in, I was able to relax and get down to the task of drawing and painting!
  • Artist members asked questions as I worked.  I was pleased to answer questions as I worked, and even more pleased that I was able to keep my focus!
  • The audience was so warm and attentive that I had a great time!  So much fun to be with a wonderful group of fellow artists!
Review - Organic Grind Demo Painting WIP

First state:  Organic Grind Coffee at the end of the SOSA demo session; August 2016

What Went Well

  • I had prepared; I had a plan and it worked.
  • Having a time line set for the demo worked well for me. I had a watch with a timer so that when 20 minutes was up I could move on to the next stage of the painting development. This method of chunks of time ensured I didn’t get bogged down in one task.
  • To my surprise, I worked on one painting throughout the demonstration. I had “work-in-progress” type paintings prepared in case I became stuck or had problems. However, I was able to work on one painting throughout.
  • Having multiple “work-in-progress” type paintings prepared facilitated the flow of the demo. I used the “work-in-progress” pieces to emphasize points about the development of a painting using watercolor and ink.
  • I was able to adjust on the spot. For example, I started the drawing phase of my demo painting using an HB pencil, true to my normal practice. Unfortunately, I draw too lightly with an HB. Once the audience told me they couldn’t see, I was able to pull out an 8B pencil which was much easier to see.
  • Having prepared and rehearsed talking out loud while painting, I was able to speak without referring to my talking points, at least after the first few minutes.
  • Another surprise was that the audience appreciated seeing me go through the drawing phase with graphite.  I had almost decided to cut out the drawing, but the audience was glad I did the drawing.
SOSA Demo Review. Final state of demo painting - Organic Grind Coffee

“Organic Grind Coffee S”; final state. Completed after the demo. 2016

What I Might Want To Do Better*

  • Get more of the plan on paper ahead of time.  I had a checklist and a narrative typed out.  But, I could have been more detailed on paper; I relied on too many things being in my head.  It might have been a disaster if I had stage fright!
  • I still get nervous when asked to do a demonstration. Practice, practice practice!
  • I might want to consider something like adding a simple PowerPoint presentation to keep the audience and me focused on key points. This is a “nice to do”; equipment will be the limiting factor.
  • Timing. I kept to my timeline, though I did not plan for a question period at the end. I think next time I might want to allow a period for questions. Could it be I was a bit nervous about questions?

*Note: My husband video recorded the demo session. He is preparing it for my review. I may identify a few more things I want to do next time around!  I hope to post a link to the video soon

After Action Review Conclusion

Review - Keys to success

For me, reviewing my preparation for and conduct of a watercolor and ink demonstration was important.  By evaluating where I am now, I can see what I might want to do to improve.  Its also good to stop and acknowledge what a grand time I had thanks to the members of SOSA.

Your Input

Your insight and opinion is valuable to me!  If you would like, please share your experiences!

Review of SOSA Demo




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Pen and Ink… Just Inking Around

Watercolor & Ink Demo

“Inking” – as in drawing with ink.

Hi!  I’ve been studying up on working with ink in preparation for my upcoming demonstration for the Society Of Southern Oregon Artists.  And, its coming up this Monday!  Note to me…that’s SOON!

SOSA Inking Demo

But I’ve been preparing.  And, besides, how hard can it be to stand in front of a room full of people and talk while painting?

Exactly; for some of us it might be easy.  Not so for me.  So I’m arming myself with knowledge!

Dip Pens

I decided I ought to know more about my materials and dip pens in particular.  “Old school” time – and its really fun!

The reasons I’m working with dip pens and nibs follow:

  • I had several laying around my studio.  Yes, several stylus (styli?) and nibs just laying around in my studio waiting to be appreciated and used.
  • I like how dip pens and nibs are sensitive to the touch and expressiveness of the artist.
  • I had ink, Higgins “Magic Ink” in black.  I also have some acrylic inks but am not using them for this demo.
  • So, you can draw the conclusion —  I didn’t have to purchase new supplies!  I like using supplies I have around the studio and house.
Working With Ink: Mapping Nibs

My Collection of Mapping Nibs; Comic Nib for Comparison.  Please note, the nibs are not in any particular order.

Something Special About His Nibs

One of the most exciting things I found out about my supplies is that I have some “vintage” nibs.  Did you know that there are such things?   These nibs were my father’s – artist John Stermer.  I cleaned them up and they work great!  As a matter of fact, several looked almost brand new.

Working with Ink: Dip Pen Nibs

My Collection of Comic or Regular Nibs Plus one Calligraphy Nib.  Note, the nibs don’t necessarily align with the list of nib types.

Dip Pen Tips – For Using

I thought I’d share some tips for working with dip pens.

  • Keep your nibs clean; they work better.  The ink flows and it is ever so wonderful!
  • The nibs are designed to be held a slant, about 45 degrees.  They don’t work quite so well on the vertical.
  • Draw moving the pen toward you; the nibs glide.
  • You can wear out a nib going back and forth.  They work better when you draw in one direction – toward you.
  • You can dilute some inks as much as you like.  Even a little bit of water can enhance flow.
  • The nibs work better on smoother paper.  I have tried using dip pens on rough watercolor paper and the ink does not flow as well. Its all a matter of taste, though.  Whatever works for the artist.
  • When you’re done with your pen, remove the nib.  Store dry.

About the Ink

I use Higgins Black Magic Ink.  It is waterproof and fade proof.  That means, for example, after the ink dries, you ought to be able to paint over it with wet watercolor with out lifting.  However, I did manage to get a smear this morning.  I have no idea why; something must have been not quite right.  Generally speaking, though, it does work as advertised.

There are other inks that are not waterproof.  They can be great, but I haven’t been experimenting with them.  They are beyond the scope of my  upcoming demonstration.

Materials: Ink, watercolor, paper, dip pen and brushes

Supplies:  Ink, watercolor, paper, dip pen with nib attached, watercolor brush and ink brush.

My Process

Back to the demonstration.  My process for incorporating graphite, ink and watercolor is as follows:

  • Graphite:
    • Draw with graphite first.  This is the most important phase.  I have to resist the urge to move on to ink and watercolor too soon.
    • Its easier to make drawing corrections to graphite drawings.  And, if there is a problem with the drawing, so goes the painting.
  • Ink:
    • I re-draw my subject with ink, though I don’t need to re-draw every line.
    • I emphasize major lines or nodes (junction points).
    • I like to use ink to map out direction or movement in the drawing.
    • I cross hatch to ensure I understand the value (light/dark) pattern of the subject.  Sometimes this is a fast phase; sometimes I want the ink to be the focus so I am more deliberate.
  • Watercolor:
    • Poetry in color!  This is splishy-splashy fun time.  It can be the hardest phase too!
    • I concentrate and work on using the paint to enhance the image.
    • The trick is to use enough to capture a feeling; not so much watercolor as to kill the poetry.

Single Best Tip

The best tip I can offer:  if you have a dip pen in your studio, give it a try!  You might have loads of fun!

Ink study

Study, Watercolor & Ink

Assorted Links:

On cleaning and care of the nibs.

  • Care and Feeding of the Calligraphy Dip Pen.  Even though the author talks mainly about calligraphy (italic) pen nibs, the same principles apply to point dip pen nibs.  I found a suggestion to clean ink pen nibs with ammonia based glass cleaners in this article.  This is for pen nibs that have caked on ink.  Ammonia window (glass) cleaners work wonders!  Brought my nibs back to clean as new!
  • Guide to Nibs and Nib Holders .  Provides a good over-view of the types of nibs and holders.




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Prepping for Watercolor and Ink Demo

Art Demonstration on the Horizon!

Greetings!  I’m so excited!   I’m preparing myself to do a demonstration (demo) of my watercolor and ink techniques.  I have been invited by the Southern Oregon Society of Artists, a large local organization.  I was thrilled to receive the invitation.  But, I also had a sobering moment;  I needed to “up my game” so to speak.

Put another way, I want to do a good demo.

Demonstration: working with watercolor and ink


What I Have Been Doing

I have been spending the last six months working on painting from life using ink and watercolor.  I have been running the demo through my head to visualize how I’d like this to happen.

Now it’s “crunch time”.  I need to get it all down on paper.  🙂

Organic Grind Espresso Kiosk; Watercolor & Ink Demonstration

Where I Am Now

I have selected my subject – the Organic Grind Espresso Kiosk in Talent, OR, (see the image above).   I like this subject; it seems simple – a building on a lot.

But, as I keep working on it, I find interesting shapes, lines and tones.  There is a lot to “simple”!

Yes, I have been working on it.  I have gone to the location and done watercolor and ink sketches.  I may go again.

Back in the studio, I’ve been doing drawings and value studies.  These drawings and studies help me discover things about my subject.  Its a way of “painting what I know” by studying it!  Fun!

Here’s an earlier version of “Organic Grind”, drawn and painted from a different angle.

Organic Grind, Watercolor & Ink

What I Will Be Doing

Here’s an list of tasks for the next phase of this demonstration operation.

These tasks, while numbered, will be worked on concurrently.  That is to say these are tasks that do not need to be done sequentially.

Task One:  Explore the issue of why I paint this way in the first place.

Task Two:  Describe in detail the “what is it that I do”.  And, to get used to talking about it.  While drawing.  And staying focused!

Task Three:  Design the physical layout of my workspace.

Task Four:  Practice and adjust!

Might as well start with task one right here!

Demonstration, Watercolor & Ink

Why I Paint with Watercolor and Ink

My husband and I like to travel and camp.  We go to interesting places such as Blue Mountain (also known as “Cliff Ridge) in Utah near Dinosaur National Monument, for example (see above).  It seems natural for me to want to paint on location.

How to Draw and Paint Nature

The question of how seemed particularly pertinent because my normal modus operandi tends to be stylized in manner.  I tend to look more at the paper than at a physical subject and use my imagination.

This is not the best plan if one wants to draw and paint what one sees.  When drawing from nature, one needs to look at the subject in front of them!  For me, this is oddly challenging!  I have a tendency to look at the paper.  I’m improving, but I still have to remind myself to look-at-the-subject!

Peggy's People Collection - RCC December Invitational

It Starts With Drawing Skills

In any case, it all starts with drawing, doesn’t it?  For me the answer is “yes”.

So, I started drawing when we went on trips.  Not satisfied; I wanted to do more.  Inspired by the Urban Sketcher movement and all the wonderful watercolor journals I see on the web, I started experimenting with watercolor studies.

Naturally, as I started I felt kind of clumsy.  Thats what happens when you do something new.  I took out a “Faber Castell” artist ink pen I had hanging around and restated the forms of my subject.  It seemed to help.

Thus my exploration into ink and watercolor was born of necessity.

So, back to work and Task Two, describing in detail how I work.  More soon!

Thank you for stopping by!  I’ll leave you with a final watercolor and ink study done from a recent trip to Hyatt Reservoir in Southern Oregon.





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Day Four: The Neighbor’s Flag

Four on the Fourth

Happy July Fourth!  For day four of #WorldWatercolorMonth, I thought it would be fun to do something in keeping with our American Independence Day celebration.  I chose my neighbor’s flag hanging of the carport.

Day Four: The Neighbor's Flag copyright M. Stermer-Cox

Color Symbolism

I am a painter and color is an important part of my tool box.  Naturally, I was thinking about the symbolic meaning of the colors of our flag while I was working on this painting.  So, I did an internet search about the meaning of the colors and went to a site called “USFlag. org”.   To my surprise, our flag’s colors did not have meaning assigned to them when the flag was adopted in 1777.  But, the colors on the country’s Great Seal did:  white being for purity and innocence; red for hardiness and valor; and blue for vigilance, perseverance and justice.

I think its often a good idea to check multiple sites when looking up something on the internet.  Just to check the facts, I looked at a few other websites.   The other websites echo the same information that the flag’s colors did not have special meaning when the flag was adopted.  How about that?

I like learning something new.

Four Watercolor Associations

Since this is day four of #WorldWatercolorMont, I thought it would be fun to make a list of four items having to do with watercolor.  The four watercolor associations I belong to popped into my head!  Here’s the list in no particular order:

There are many wonderful, worthy watercolor societies around the country and internationally.  These four happen to be based in the Northwest and West Coast, near where I live.

Wheel Rim Grill

Because it is summer here and the Fourth of July, I thought I’d share another painting.  I did this one on June 30th this year while my husband and I were on a camping trip.  The subject is a charcoal grill made out of wheel rims.  In the RV park where we were staying, each of the tent sites had one of these charcoal grills.  I had never seen anything like it and found them enchanting.

Wheel Rim Grill; ©M. Stermer-Cox

Thank you and please enjoy your Fourth!




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Day 3 – Three Broken Seashells

Its About Three

In celebration of day 3, the Third of July, and #WorldWatercolorMonth, I’d like to share three broken seashells.  You might have guessed; yes the selection of a group of three was purposeful.  The arrangement was deliberate too.  I wanted the shell with three holes or windows to be facing a different direction than the two with two holes.  I like setting up “one of these things is not like the other ones” situations such as the one depicted here.

Plus, I used a triad – red, yellow and blue.  I like using primary colors.  Mixing them together create all sorts of other colors, but they are related.  It helps to unify the color scheme.

Three Broken Sea Shells; #WorldWatercolorMonth

Regarding the technical specifications, I did this study in my Aquabee sketchbook and used watercolor and ink, just like yesterday’s study.  The study is 2.5″x4″.

Frown Attack = “Not Pleases”

Yes, I had an attack of the frowns and stares.  I wasn’t pleased with this study.  It was too this, too that.  I started coming up with my list of “not pleases”.  For a fleeting moment, I even considered not publishing this study.

OOPS!  Thats The Point!

But wait!  This is a STUDY!  The point IS that the work might be “too this and too that” because I’m trying things!  WHOA! Isn’t it wonderful to experiment and to learn?

If nothing else, I learned what I don’t like.  And, I’m thinking I’ll keep my list of “not pleases…” to myself.  Thank you!

“Pleases” Please!

Rather, I’ll share a list of three “pleases”.  (Yes, because its July third).  Much better.

So, here’s what I like:

  1. Its a study of three of my favorite broken sea shells.
  2. I wanted to work with red, blue and yellow and that is what I did.
  3. I get to try it again!

Just thinking, isn’t this what #WorldWatercolorMonth is about?  Learning.  Playing.  Painting.  And, all in watercolor!

Why Watercolor

Once again, since its July Third and it is watercolor month, I’d like to share 3 reasons I took up watercolor painting:

  • There was a beginning watercolor class available.
  • I had the supplies.
  • The location was convenient.

Thus, a love and passion was born of such mundane beginnings!

I’d like to wish you a Happy July Third and #WorldWatercolorMonth!



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Tumalo Chairs, World Watercolor Month

July – World Watercolor Month.

“Tumalo Chairs” – doesn’t that sound poetic?  In honor of July being “World Watercolor Month”, I thought I’d post a watercolor and ink study I did while we were out camping.  I was particularly pleased with this watercolor sketch.  It is done in a Aquabee Super Deluxe sketchbook.

Tumalo Chairs; Watercolor

I imagine that most of these postings for “World Watercolor Month” will be short.  After all, this is for fun and to share.  Personally, I like the idea of celebrating an art form during a month.  Therefore, my intention is to create and to post a watercolor study most days.

Tumalo and Camping

To explain, “Tumalo” refers to the name of a state park and camp ground where husband Robert and I stayed for a few days.  Tumalo State Park is just north of Bend, OR.  It is next to the Deschutes River; perfect place for a summer day.

We just returned from our trip and are unpacking.  More camping watercolors to come!

Oh, yes, those are our camping chairs, ready for sitting.  They have stools for your leg comfort, too.  I just happened to be sitting on one of the stools.  Coincidentally, the stools are great to sit on while drawing and painting.  🙂




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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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