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My Trip to Paris — Part Two: The Paintings

I had an amazing time painting in Paris. Getting out and painting in this old city, known for centuries of great art, connected me to so many of my heroes and gave me a chance to meet lots of tourists and locals. I cannot wait to go back – there are paintings there I still really want to make!!

They are displayed in the order I made them.

Oil Painting

Hyacinths – on a Rainy Holiday in Paris

It was rainy and a national holiday, so all the museums were closed, so I bought some hyacinths from the nearby flower market and made a still life in the little apartment I was staying in with my aunt.

Oil Painting

The Louvre, as seen from the Tuileries

I love the Louvre so much, I must go back someday and paint the iconic entrance with the pyramid. When I first arrived, I shied away from making a painting that would be so direct, but after spending two weeks in Paris, where they really embrace beauty directly, I realized it’s just as affected to avoid beauty as it is to seek it exclusively.  Best bet is always just paint what moves you. Be real, even if it lands you in a cliche.

Oil Painting

From Pont Neuf, The Seine

Mid Morning looking sort of toward the east.

Oil Painting

Cincannatus in the Tuileries

With a view of the Musee D’Orsay in the background 9 to the left of the statue is  the tip of the museum, with it’s massive clock face peeking out a tiny bit behind the trees).  I finally had a day where Paris had those impressionist clouds you see in paintings.

Oil Painting

Sculpture in the Petit Palais Garden

My local friend showed me this wonderful little park.  Many paintings could be made here.

Oil Painting

Looking out of the Louvre Courtyard

Here I am, nearing the end of my trip, embracing the obvious beauty and being happy about it. Archway to a view with a grand building? The more the merrier.

Notre Dame, oil painting by Sarah F Burns

Notre Dame

My last day painting in Paris, I was under the influence of the Corots I’d seen in the Louvre. I was also recreating the point of view of some impressionist paintings I’d seen.

Filed under: Flowers, Inspiration, Landscape, painting, Paintings, Still Life, Uncategorized Tagged: 2015, flowers, france, Inspiration, landscape, louvre, oil painting, painting, paris, plein air, Sarah burns, sarah f burns, travel

when the ocean calls



When the ocean calls

you need to listen.

She will tell you the story of your heart.

She will guide you in walking gracefully

as you move towards your next destination. 

When the ocean calls she will say

Listen to your dreams.

Live with intention.

Embrace your life.

Never forget who you want to be,

for that is who you really are.


Artwork by Molly Dufort

She will teach you about the vastness of the sea,

the ever-changing colors of each day

and the landscapes of your heart.


When the ocean calls, 



Artwork by Heather Pearlstein Sha 

This last weekend the ocean called. We went camping together, my husband and I. Spending time with family,  and friends, teaching a workshop and walking on the beach with our dogs were just what I needed.



Artwork by Susan Lehman

I have wonderful news about my book with North Light. Not only will it be out before spring in 2016 (advanced copies may be available in late December!) but my editor Tonia and the team have chosen a title for it!

Storytelling with Collage:

Techniques for Layering Color and Texture

I can't wait to see my first proofs!

About a week ago now, I finished the writing, projects and the photographs for my final chapter deadline! Since then I have been in a kind of daze, knowing that the hardest part of my book is finished (I think!) and thinking that now I have time… but what direction should I go in?

The ocean said be patient,

soon your path will be clear…


_DSC0028 2





In my studio I am easing slowly into new projects, organizing and making space… and getting ready for my next workshop that you can read about here



Please visit my River Garden Studio Facebook page

and if you are inclined LIKE it,

and check out my Workshop Schedule!


“Nature may reach the same result in many ways. Like a wave in the physical world, in the infinite…”

“Nature may reach the same result in many ways. Like a wave in the physical world, in the infinite ocean of the medium which pervades all, so in the world of organisms, in life, an impulse started proceeds onward, at times, may be, with the speed of light, at times, again, so slowly that for ages and ages it seems to stay, passing through processes of a complexity inconceivable to men, but in all its forms, in all its stages, its energy ever and ever integrally present. A single ray of light from a distant star falling upon the eye of a tyrant in bygone times may have altered the course of his life, may have changed the destiny of nations, may have transformed the surface of the globe, so intricate, so inconceivably complex are the processes in Nature. In no way can we get such an overwhelming idea of the grandeur of Nature than when we consider, that in accordance with the law of the conservation of energy, throughout the Infinite, the forces are in a perfect balance, and hence the energy of a single thought may determine the motion of a universe.
Nikola Tesla (via inthenoosphere)”

Nikola Tesla

Thoughts on Drawing

Drawing Skills

I have been working on my drawing skills.  Hmmm, seems like I say that often.  Do we ever quit?  I hope not.

Drawing - Three Coffee Cups

Graphite on sketch paper
May 2015

Goal – See and Draw As An Artist

I have also been working on an upcoming show.  As I prepare paintings and look at my inventory, I reflect on what my artistic goals have been.  In 2002, the year I started focusing on making art, I set as one of my goals “to see and draw as an artist”.  As you might imagine, this could well be a life goal.

I thought I’d share a couple of my latest iterations.  My recent personal challenge is to pay more attention to drawing the structure or form of what I see.  I want to get the ovals of the cups right.  I want to understand and see how light falls on the objects.  I want to see and feel how to create depth.  It is fascinating.

Life Drawing At The Art Student’s League

I thought I’d share a  blog post that I found interesting.

The blog post is “Life Drawing in the Early Years of The Art Student’s League”.   My father attended the League in the late 1940s and early 1950s.  Thanks to the GI Bill, my father was one of the cohort of students to attend and study after World War II.

This particular article goes back to the beginning of the League.  As a daughter of an artist, and art student, I find the history fascinating.

I’d like to share some notes from the article that stick in my brain:

  • When women were first allowed to study at the League, they had to study in separate class rooms from the men.  Can you imagine trying such a separation today?
  • I am impressed with the rigor of the class room instruction, especially the life drawing.
  • Its interesting that early on there was an emphasis on drawing from casts.  That particular type of study waned during the 20th century, but is back in favor.
  • Life drawing has long been the center of study.

As I draw in my home studio, I do not have plaster casts or live models.  But, I do have coffee cups, cigar boxes and candle holders.

Its all good.

Please enjoy!

Drawing - Two Cups and A Candle Holder

Graphite on sketch paper
May 2015


The post Thoughts on Drawing appeared first on Margaret Stermer-Cox.

Organic repetition in geometric form. To view similar pieces…

Organic repetition in geometric form.

To view similar pieces available for sale, visit

“Ether” is the last painting in my alchemical elements series….

“Ether” is the last painting in my alchemical elements series. Quintessence is considered as permeating the whole of creation and binds all things together, the foundation without which the Elements would be dead matter.

“Ether” is the only painting still available in my elements series and may be viewed or purchased at True Love Art Gallery in Seattle through May 10th.

In alchemy,  the divine silver waters are associated with the…

In alchemy,  the divine silver waters are associated with the moon, which resides over the feminine. 

CCC Hosts Uku-Aotearoa-The Spirit of Materials Cultural Exchange

Tall Hinaki 4, Kapowai Series; Dragonfly Lake, 2007; Colleen Waata Ulrich

Tall Hinaki 4, Kapowai Series; Dragonfly Lake, 2007; Colleen Waata Ulrich

Clatsop Community College is honored to present Uku-Aoteroa-The Spirit of Materials, a ten-day cultural exchange with six visiting indigenous Maori clay artists from Aotearoa, New Zealand.  Invited artists include Colleen Waata Urlich, Baye Riddell, Dorothy Waetford, Todd Douglas, Carla Ruka, and Rhonda Halliday. These highly respected artists are supported by New Zealand Maori Art organizations, Creative New Zealand and Toi Maori Aotearoa to act as cultural representatives to communities around the world. The exchange will feature a series of events in the Astoria community that will provide a rare opportunity to interact with people from a unique indigenous culture.

A special exhibition of Maori clay artworks will be held in the CCC Art Center Gallery, 1799 Lexington Avenue, Astoria, from May 7 to July 30. This exhibit will open with a welcoming of the artists on Thursday, May 7 at 6:00 PM. The Maori artists will be in attendance and available to share their connections to their work and its surrounding mythological and historical origins.

The artists will also give a free public presentation at the CCC Performing Arts Center, 588 16th Street, Astoria, called, Uku-Aotearoa-The Spirit of Materials on Friday, May 8 from 6:00 PM to 8:30 PM. This presentation will include a conversation that will engage the community by examining critical issues surrounding cultural landscape, collective and individual vision, and the value of myth and memory. Nancy Cook, CCC Writing Instructor, will lead artists in a discussion on the spirit of materials and related relevant questions.

Artists, students and community members are also invited to participate in two all-day hands-on clay workshops led by the Maori artists on Friday, May 8 and Saturday, May 9 from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM for both days in the CCC Art Center Ceramics Studio, 1799 Lexington Avenue, Astoria. Seating is limited for this event; please contact [email protected] for additional information.

Clay artist Colleen Waata Urlich has been made an Officer of the NZ Order of Merit (ONZM) for her service to Maori arts in the New Year Honours. 30 December 2014 Northern Advocate Photograph by John Stone NAG 31Dec14 -

Clay artist Colleen Waata Urlich has been made an Officer of the NZ Order of Merit (ONZM) for her service to Maori arts in the New Year Honours. 30 December 2014 Northern Advocate Photograph by John Stone

The Spirit of Materials Cultural Exchange is centered around the broad potential of the arts and humanities, and will cultivate the North Coast community’s knowledge of post-colonial indigenous identity and creativity. Events will include sharing of stories and meals, challenging dialogue, cultural/collaborative art-making workshops, and educational outreach. Community members will have an opportunity to learn about and consider the traditional and evolving meaning of oceanic arts. Our community will also have the opportunity to develop relationships through personal interaction and examination of shared values. This exchange continues the rich cross-cultural history that has existed at mouth of the Columbia for thousands of years.

Colleen Waata Urlich, who is leading the traveling Maori collective with Baye Riddell, has been sculpting, molding and nurturing Maori art for years. She is a Maori clay artist and senior foundation member of the National body of Maori clay workers. Colleen has been involved with various Maori art initiatives. She is a founding member and coordinator for the Maori contemporary clay artists’ movement that begun in the 1980s. Colleen, along with Manos Nathan, Maori clay artist, participated in the Pacific Rim Exhibition in 2012, an indigenous gathering of artists from around the Pacific Rim that took place at Clatsop Community College.

“Our return to Astoria with a group of younger clay artists, who have yet to experience the warmth and hospitality offered to us on our first visit, has been keenly anticipated. Our regret is that Manos Nathan has been unable to join us but all the current participants worked with Richard Rowland, ceramic artist and CCC Instructor, in January 2014, during the International Indigenous Artists Gathering “Kokiri Putahi,” in Kaikohe at Kohewhata Marae – a traditional meeting place – which brought together some 145 indigenous artists from Alaska to Australia,” says Urlich.

Seven Days, by Baye Riddell, 2012

Seven Days, by Baye Riddell, 2012

Baye Riddell began his vocation as a ceramicist in 1973 and has been working as a full-time ceramicist ever since. In 1987, he co-founded Nga Kaihanga Uku, a Maori clay workers’ organization. “When I took up pottery in the early 70s there were no Maori ceramic traditions to refer to and so my first attempts to express my culture in fired clay were very tentative and clumsy. I was nicknamed “the Native” in the local pottery circles at the time who were mainly influenced by Japanese and European approaches to ceramics. Since those days however I have been privileged to be a part of the birth and growth of an exciting Maori ceramic movement which has forged a unique identity in the ceramic world.”

Dorothy Waetford’s early career began as a performing artist as a member of the contemporary Maori dance company Taiao based in Auckland. Excited by developments in the contemporary Maori art scene, her interest led her to choosing clay as a preferred medium for art making. “The rich, cultural heritage I come from is the ground beneath my feet in the space I work from.  In that space, I search for sculptural forms connecting the past with the present and use clay as a medium to transfigure the spiritual into physical, contemporary space.”

Paihau (fin of a fish), 2013: Dorothy Waetford

Paihau (fin of a fish), 2013: Dorothy Waetford

Todd Douglas is a fulltime ceramic artist living and working at Muriwai Beach. Primarily self-taught, Todd’s work is recognized for utilizing a broad range of ceramic techniques and surface treatments as well as combining materials such as clay, wood, lashing and LED lighting. “As soon as I touched clay, I was hooked.  Bringing together the four elements – fire, earth, air and water, clay is like no other material.  It has fascinating physical properties such as its malleability but it also has many cultural and spiritual significances.   As it is at the heart of so many creation stories, it’s a reminder of the interconnectedness between people/s.”

Carla Ruka is a contemporary Maori clay sculptress. Her inspiration and ideas descend from her ancestors. 

The clay artworks and images she has developed over the years are based on the korero of her Marae (Mahuri), Kapa haka (Maori Performing Arts), Maori Spirituality, indigenous cultures, her whanau and the Taitokerau/Hokianga area. “Clay is my therapy. It molds and develops images of my wairura (spirit). As a contemporary Maori Clay Artist, the artworks and images I have created over the years descend from my ancestors and are inspired by the people around me.” “I continue to surround myself in cultural and community activities.”

Rhonda Halliday is a Maori clay artist whose work focuses on learning more about her cultural heritages, Maori and Pakeha, and finding an identity that integrates the two. “Our ancestors used metaphors to express themselves in their artworks; to tell a story, an historical account of a person/s or an expression of thoughts and beliefs. My work is also a metaphor used to express personal feelings from research into the many areas of history between my Māori and Pākeha connections. There are still many more conversations to be captured in clay.”

“These gifted artists have been selected by the Maori to honor and keep the life of their ancestors and their communities alive. Clatsop Community College has brought another educational and cultural experience that can impact our blended and evolving global community.” Richard Rowland

For information on any of the events please visit or contact [email protected] ; 503- 338-2449.

Cool Kitty – Watercolor in Blue

My husband and I used to have a cat that was way-too-cool…at least sometimes.   He’d look at you and not look at you.  He was a great cat.

Cool Kitty

251 Cool Kitty 11.5 x 15.5 Watercolor Watercolor on Arches 140lb Cold Press Paper KittyKitty
“Cool Kitty” is so named because of color and expression. This kitty is the silent, strong type. It pretends not to look at you directly; that would be bad manners. But it knows you’re there and it sees you. I painted him blue to emphasize the cool, in control expression.

After yesterday’s “Spice Kitty”, painted in warm colors, I thought I’d show you the opposite.  Blue is the ultimate in cool, thus the double meaning in the title “Cool Kitty”.

You might notice that my “KittyKitty” collection is an exploration in color as well as shape and design. I considered various blue pigments and their relative value or tone.  So while the painting is blue, it is as much an exercise in light and dark contrast as it is in color.  In addition, some blues are warmer – closer to green; and others are cooler, closer to pure blue or purple.

Did you notice something about the white?  If you look long enough, the blues create the illusion that the whites are warm.

Another consideration with color is how the color makes us feel.  Blue can be relaxing and calming.  Or, it can suggest coldness and winter.  In this case, I wanted to capture a feeling of “aloofness”, or being withdrawn.

There is so much to consider with color – even a painting done in simple blue!

My intention with this design was to go for the big shapes that suggest a cat while not looking like a cat in particular.

Hmmm, its a “looking but not looking” sort of thing.  Please enjoy!



The post Cool Kitty – Watercolor in Blue appeared first on Margaret Stermer-Cox.

Whaler’s Cove: Values & Aerial Perspective

                                                                                “Whaler’s Cove” ~ 12×8 Oil Painting

April 13 2015
Point Lobos

After exploring the Monterey coast waiting for the sun to rise and the fog to lift, I discovered a hidden bay at the entrance of Point Lobos called Whaler’s Cove where I noticed the subtle effects of aerial perspective and receding values that would create a beautiful painting. This quiet bay was undulating with sea kelp which was quite a contrast to the dramatic sea pounding with waves on the coast that we saw earlier this morning. My colleague Kris Baxter and I climbed up the embankment and set up our easels for a morning of plein air painting.

Painting in the fog offers an interesting study in values. In this little painting of “Whaler’s Cove,” I found that the overcast sky provided a neutral background that simplified the details of the masses as the landscape fell away from us. The teal blue water breaking along the beach below complemented the grey palette of the painting, offering an illuminated focal point for the painting. The values lightened and got colder as the scene regressed into the fog creating the feeling of depth or aerial perspective. The foreground was darker and warmer which brought the cliffs closer to the viewer.

Personally, I like painting a marine painting at low tide when the rocks are exposed and there is less water so that I can  play with the rock shapes and colors. Also, the early morning light shows more of the rock structures allowing me to exaggerate edges and make a strong design with planes of interesting color.

In most cases, the sky will illuminate your painting and will be the lightest plane in your picture. I find that having the sky as the light source will create a very low contrast painting that can be boring to look at, and understanding this can often save a painting from disaster.  Instead, I called attention to the beautiful color in the water scarf and combined it with the light to create the effect of glared light on the scarf that becomes the lightest part of the composition.

Transitions are often overlooked in a painting and many artists will finish with a flat painting without transitions. I often tell my students that every inch of your painting should be in transition ~ either from dark to light value, or cool color temperature to warm. In this study, notice that the sky has transitions from dark on the left to a lighter value on the right, and likewise from top to bottom. The water also transitions from dark in the back to light in the front. This transition or gradation establishes depth.

When painting from nature, I establish the brightest spot first and then judge all the other values in the painting by it. The effect in “Whaler’s Cove” would have been lost if I made either the sky or the foreground too light. The dark silhouette of the foreground rocks are painted against the distant mass of the water giving the composition a sense of strength and balance, and the contrast in their value helps push the background slopes of the cliffs further back creating depth.

Plein air and alla prima artist Stefan Baumann, host of the PBS painting series “The Grand View, America’s National Park through the eyes of an artist” and author of “Observations Of Art and Nature,” travels in his vintage travel trailer painting America’s western landscape. Baumann paints outdoors with oils and canvas capturing stunning vistas, wildlife, western landscapes, National Parks and still life, thrilling art collectors throughout the world. He has many international collectors acquiring his paintings as investments. His painting style is called Romantic Realism with Luminism, and the extraordinary way he captures the effect of light is a truly American style used to paint the Western landscape. He can be seen plein air painting in Yellowstone, Yosemite and in the Grand Canyon. Baumann’s “how to paint” DVDs filmed on location in the National Parks are the very best on the market.

The post Whaler’s Cove: Values & Aerial Perspective appeared first on Stefan Baumann – The Grand View: Paintings by Stefan Baumann.