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scheduleThis is how I plan my year in terms of exhibitions. A pencil. A straightedge. Some lines to see how shows do or don’t overlap, so I won’t have to send the same painting to two places at once. Almost everything I would want to get into is listed. The ones at the top with the pink dot I’ve already entered. There are so few juried exhibitions anywhere that seem worth entering–surprising because it seems like an easy way to draw in revenue, with the accumulated fees. Maybe eight possibilities this year, in addition to my two-artist show at Oxford Gallery.  Manifest might have something down the road that’s worth a try. I skipped several I got into last year, just because I thought it was unlikely that I could get into them again. I chart out the dates between delivery of the work and end of the show, so that I can see at a glance which ones leave enough wiggle room for me to get a painting back in order to resend to another show. Most of them overlap.  The “season” is mostly in the warmer months, even though a lot of shows are in the South.  Two of these are other member-run galleries like Viridian Artists (which I don’t have the money to join again), which is fine because they have good jurors, though I’m not looking to be a gallery member. Slim pickings, but a whole morning’s work to chart this out. I’d already researched and found these shows using directories of juried exhibitions on line, weeks ago, for the most part, though I found the last one only a couple days ago. Simple, humble stuff. Yet the CV I build from it matters. If I start approaching commercial galleries in New York, the long list of shows I’ve been in, and the places that have let me exhibit, will demonstrate that the work is worth considering. The lack of solo shows is a minus, but I haven’t had the body of work to do one really. I’ve sold a lot of what could expand a portfolio. I might start later this year proposing a solo show at Manifest with whatever I’ve got on hand plus the work I do between now and the fall. Then start looking for other places; but I want to knock on some doors in New York City later in the year, maybe late summer/early fall. Given the way the market works, few galleries are probably scouting for new painters, but I won’t know unless I try. I’d like to produce six smaller still lifes, like the onion I recently finished, as the core of the portfolio and then add half a dozen more from what I’ve done so far. A few very quick paintings too–I want that to become a habit.

The tricky part in all this entry scheduling is the possibility of a sale early on, which I’d have to make contingent on being able to show the work in a later show. I could always show in the earlier exhibitions without putting a price on the work.

On Being A Drawing Student

Opinionated Student

I once read that children of artists sometimes have trouble being an art student; they can be the hardest to teach drawing and painting. I can relate. I grew up in the household of an artist, my Dad, John H. Stermer. I have strong opinions about drawing, painting, art in general and my own abilities.

Study, Eggs, Shells, Egg Cup and Spoon

I'll say that again and hope you don't laugh too hard!  Yes, in spite of all the self doubt, I do have strong opinions about drawing and painting.  Many of the opinions were formed in my youth.  Things that my parents said, and Dad in particular, stuck with me.  Oddly enough, how to hold a pencil is one thing Dad taught me, for example*

Dad Learned Classical Drawing

My Dad received an education in classical drawing at The Arts Student's League in New York.  I recall him saying that the classical approach was the backbone to his work.  This was true even as he experimented and developed his own personal style. So, if Dad learned classical drawing, I figure I need to study it!  And, here I am in a classical drawing class.  

Be the Student

As I continue to participate in a local Classical Drawing Workshop (Ashland Art Center), I remind myself to open my mind to ideas. Instructors and classmates do have things to teach me.  Odd, isn't it, to have to remind oneself to learn?  The instructor, Sarah F. Burns is good and has studied many years.  I am learning from her and getting a good drawing workout.  I even come home tired!  And, yes, its OK/fine to learn something new.  

Funny how it can be hard to be the student.  But, if one isn't a good student, can one be a good teacher?

Study of Light & Dark

I'm including two of my more recent practice drawings, or studies that I am doing at home as my own homework.  I have to practice to learn!

As the class is progressing, we are studying how light falls on forms by doing value (light/dark) drawings.  Having to discipline myself to take the study to a more finished state is good for me.  The work will apply to my watercolor painting.

As we like to say these days, "its all good!"

How to Hold a Pencil While Drawing

*PS.  My father taught me to hold a pencil near the eraser end when drawing.  In that way, you have the best leverage for drawing.  He encouraged me not to hold the pencil as I do when writing.  The grip is too tight.  Considering Dad's drawings were sublime, I think he had a point.  :)

Egg and Boxes (On being student)


The post On Being A Drawing Student appeared first on Margaret Stermer-Cox – Watercolor Artist.

Fulfilling That Vision, Black Serendipity ~ September 14, 2013

Arriving two days preceding the start of our “Women’s Journaling Retreat” allows this sweet cushion of time, in which we can do exactly what we want. Which is exactly what I proceed to do.

You know from the previous blog post that I’m in the midst of this new journal format and now am upon a black page. So when I flip the page to see the back side of the black seed pod paper, I’m no longer perturbed at not wanting to sketch upon it. Instead I’m charmed by the journal serendipity that pops up in ways that can ONLY happen in a journal. These blonde seed pods, flattened and preserved in the black handmade paper echo the shape and color of the hole I’d cut to accommodate my earlier paper clay insert! Love these magical happenings.

On the adjacent page ~ I’m going to do want I was aching to do when we were up at Mosquito Lake ~ I’m going to watercolor the water lilies in the water surface. But this page is mere writing paper … so I’m trying this possibility of glueing in a small piece of watercolor paper and painting what I’d wanted. I’m pleased with my watercolor painting and find it kind of fun to try and trickle off the watercolor paper onto the journal’s regular paper. It does ripple some … but integrates the square watercolor paper into the whole page. AND – I got to paint what I really envisioned.

As I look a the full spread open, I’m again wiggling in joy at the balance that occurred unplanned. Look how the strong dark values in the lily painting even’s out that strong black seed pod page. I just thrill in how journals seem to design themselves … way better than I could have even imagined!! Now … on to the start of the retreat!

The mystery of painting

Still Life with Pocket Door

Still Life with Pocket Door

If someone were to ask me right now what my painting is about, I might offer something that would probably occur to me if I were someone else appraising the work I’ve done over the past couple years. I might say Dorsey is continuing to work in several different modes: adding to the series of large jars he has exhibited in the past, doing a few suburban landscapes, and exploring smaller alla prima paintings executed very quickly, almost like Japanese sumi-e. In all of this work, he’s drawn to the ordinary and everyday. Mostly, though, he has continued his central pursuit of fairly traditional still life. His love for this genre seems to come from a variety of influences. Yet the effect of these paintings when seen together, aside from whatever virtues still life has always had, is to make one feel as if the artist is wistful, even desperate, for a world that’s fast disappearing. There’s something about these paintings that reminds one of the rag waved in the air by the uppermost member of that pile of survivors in Gericault’s Raft of the Medusa, the one trying to catch the eye of a savior on the tall ship just emerging over the horizon before time runs out on the life raft. In a time when the middle class seems to be rapidly disappearing, taking with it the promise of opportunity for most people in our society, Dorsey seems to be drawn again and again to the subject of domestic serenity as embodied in a little heirloom sugar bowl or a couple flowers from a backyard garden. Intentionally small potatoes—though, strictly speaking, he hasn’t painted any potatoes yet. Domestic happiness was the daemon of both Chardin and Vermeer, two painters who have had a powerful sway over his work so far. It isn’t a small thing, though, to have reminders of what it meant in America to have a flourishing middle class, a thriving bourgeoisie so despised by intellectuals, the economic topsoil of a robust free society, something fast disappearing in the world right now.

This might be what someone would say about the paintings in this show, though it’s merely hindsight and speculation on my part. None of this even crossed my mind as I’ve done this work, though much of it sounds sensible enough now. Subconsciously, I’m drawn to simple and commonplace subjects, and now that we live in a time of extremes, a novel way to go against the grain these days might be to offer little glimpses of a lost American dream. But this commentary is all ex post facto on my part. None of this has much to do with what consciously drives me as I paint, which is mostly concerned with tackling formal challenges. If I have a philosophy of painting, it’s essentially that most of what a great painting conveys to a viewer is invested in the painting subconsciously and non-conceptually—at the level where a painting is a sort of visual music. It can’t be translated into words, and what matters most remains as elusive for the painter as it is for the viewer. A good painting’s effect has far more to do with the physical act of painting than an artist’s intentions. You start off wanting to create an image that captures certain qualities of light and color and form, and yet what often has the biggest impact on a viewer isn’t, strictly speaking, visible at all. It’s the silent resonance of the slow time invested in making the picture. Painting is an act of intense mindfulness, a way of training the mind for the patience required to see and show what’s actually see-able as clearly as possible, in the hope of triggering a sense of an entire world behind and around it. Slow time, as Keats put it, is how I lure my heart out into the open so that I can get to know it a little better.




Black Mirror

black mirror

For an bit of interesting commentary on the power of contemporary media, try the first episode of Black Mirror. It’s also a sidelong statement about . . . well, watch. The series as a whole is well done.


Perceptual painting on view

Dining Room into Living Room, Mark Karnes, 2009-2012, acrylic on board

Dining Room into Living Room, Mark Karnes, 2009-2012, acrylic on Masonite

In fortuitous lulls during the Siberian Express of snow and frigid temperatures here in the Northeast during the past week, I drove six hours to Maryland to see two fantastic exhibits, both devoted to “perceptual painting.” One, organized by Matt Klos, tracks the largely unrecognized history of this movement, showing how perceptual painting enables representational art to evoke a liminal, dreamlike intimation of a world around and within the surface of things. That may be a pretentious-sounding way to say that perceptual painters enable you to see what they saw, mostly through direct observation, but they also convey a loving, sustained hunger to evoke something much larger, the poetry of the everyday. I’m getting ahead of myself, though. I want to write a long post about both shows, or maybe several posts, when I’ve tackled some other things on my plate, and this is simply a quick reminder for anybody within a few hours of Annapolis to invest an afternoon on these shows before they come down. It’s some of the most compelling painting being done right now, and it’s also an interesting attempt to further define what “perceptual painting” is, in the wake of earlier shows, such as the one recently at Manifest and a year ago at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art. It kills me not to be able to attend the exhibition events today, but I pass this note along from Matt Klos for anyone able to attend:

My curator’s talk for “A Lineage of American Perceptual Painting” has been moved to Wednesday, February 25th at 5:30pm located at St. John’s College in the Drawing Room adjacent to the Mitchell Gallery. There will be ample time to walk through the gallery before and after the talk. St. John’s College, Mitchell Gallery, 60 College Ave, Annapolis, MD 21401 
A panel discussion for the exhibition will be held this Sunday February 22nd at 3:00pm also located at St. John’s College. Follow signage when you arrive to the gallery… we will either meet in the auditorium or the drawing room depending on turnout. Although not required please call the gallery to rsvp for both events, 410-626-2556.St. John’s College, Mitchell Gallery, 60 College Ave, Annapolis, MD 21401
“Lineage” Artists and Panel Discussion participants will include: 
James Fitzsimmons
Elizabeth Geiger
Philip Geiger
Mark Karnes
Scott Noel
Charles Ritchie
Aaron Lubrick and Matt Klos will moderate. Several questions will be asked of the panel including this one, The painter Jake Berthot in a letter to Ryan Smith once wrote, “The mind lies and is capable of making a justification for anything. The eye and the hand are incapable of lying. Look with your heart and it will tell you through your eye what your hand needs to do.”  Can you talk to us about what you think Mr. Berthot may have meant? What does that statement mean to you? I hope you’ll come join the conversation.
Special guests Erin Raedeke, David Campbell, and John Lee will also attend the Panel Discussion. These artists currently have work on view at Anne Arundel Community College in the Cade Gallery in an exhibition “Subject & Subjectivity” curated by Matthew Ballou. On the day of the Panel Discussion (Sunday, Feb. 22nd) artists will be on hand in the Cade Gallery to discuss the exhibition starting at 1pm. John A. Cade Center for Fine Arts, Cade Gallery, 101 College Pkwy, Arnold, MD 21012

Elmer Bishoff

Orange Sweater, Elmer Bishoff

Orange Sweater, Elmer Bishoff

Anniversary Texture, Sierras in Black ~ September 11 and 14, 2013

Early September is usually pretty active. Not only am I packing and preparing for my Women’s Journaling Annual Retreat, but it is also my birthday and our anniversary too. So this page has whispers of how terrain between Roland and I had smoothed out, the lace-y laser cut paper pattern from the anniversary card Ro gave me (sometimes draping words with a filtered or translucent paper will give you a bit more privacy on a journal page – and I inserted it with photo corners so that I can take it out to read when I want to), the business card from where we dined (disappointingly) and the bitter sweet last evening at home before I take off for the Sierras where the retreat is held.

All that echoes against the opposite page … the first full day at Lake Alpine Resort up in the California Sierras. Both Jean Warren and I arrive a

day or two ahead to finalize locations for different creative processes. This day we took off, up to a nearby duo of glacier formed lakes called Mosquito Lake.

Now I’d mentioned that with this journal, I really wanted to mix things up, right? Well, there we are at the pristine lake, I’m all seated having found the perfect scene I wanted to paint. I get out my materials from my pack, open up my journal ready to watercolor – – and – – as you see, it is a black journal page. I really, seriously considered skipping the page and going on until I found a watercolor page, but at last, decided to stick to my commitment. I worked, rather uncomfortably, with the black page. Using a white Schwans Stabilo pencil,

graphite pencils and some of my wax crayons for the color accents I depicted the lovely, sparkling lake and white cabins before me. The lettering was with white gel pen. I’m mostly pleased with the image – – but even more with the fact that I stuck to my aim of testing out new materials, papers and increasing my open minded attitude. (PS You’ll see in the next pages … I develop a way to cope with my yearning to paint on watercolor paper when the journal page is NOT a watercolor page!)

It remained a perfect day up in the azure sky-ed mountains … one of my favorite places here on earth!

Let me tell you a story of stones and shells and seed pods…


 This is a chest we have in our living room. It is against a wall that you see when you walk into the home from the front door, and because the floor plan of this part of the house is open, you can see it from everywhere. 


I have to thank Seth for his challenge on his blog, "Living With Art" for these photographs to happen." Seth made me look at this arrangement with new eyes.  To find my own connections and make me wonder why different things have found a place here.

This arrangement is featured on his new post, as well as many other corners and walls and displays from amazing artists that will inspire you and make you want you to visit again and again.

After I took my first photograph that you will see on his blog I had to take more, to give you a closer look.


Before, I used to put my collections in my studio on shelves to inspire me when I worked.  

But my studio had become more and more crowded and soon I wanted to spread out to the rest of the house.  

This is where my love for science and art are entwined.




Here there are things from the ocean and the desert…

 from my own findings or gifts from friends or family. 

Things from far far away and objects from my own gardens.

Some made from my own hands.


Each object begs for examination, each carved or molded surface, each smooth stone and piece of rough wood. They all call to be noticed. Some things here are very simple and some have intricate patterns.






 My arrangement here speaks of my love for old and new, 

for handmade and nature made objects.


When I walk by,

I have to touch and examine… 

a seashell, 

a waterworn stone, 

a seedpod. 



my world 

are all in front of me

to know, 

to love.


Let me tell you a story 

of stones and shells 

and seed pods…


Birthday Traditions ~ September 3, 2013

When I made this journal, I wanted to challenge myself. I was feeling like I’d become kind of ‘cookie-cutter’ with my journal page designs in my ole’ big Canson 10 x 14 inch journal. I chose to make the shape and size different as well as mix in un-predictable papers. So already, just four pages into this new journal I’m feeling “bothered” that some of the paper is watercolor paper and some is mere writing paper. My watercolor paintings ripple the pages and I have to use less and less water. I notice I’m feeling “squeezed” into this smaller 8 1/4 x 8 1/2 inch page format. I’m wondering why I decided to be innovative!!!? But I need to remember – – that stretching one’s self is never comfortable. And it is through these feelings that we get new experiences and creative
stimulation. Ok? Ok!

Notice what a fun element the back side of the Paper Clay insert has become on these following pages? And even what is pages ahead, like that yellow glowing area showing through the hole on the right page, has an effect upon the page design. I’m often surprised with the serendipity and how wonderfully it works out!

But with all that aside, on these two pages, I celebrate my birthday. Roland gifted me with my favorite dessert, the Marion-berry Cobbler from the Standingstone Brewery in Ashland and it of course, landed on my journal page. It was a time of confusion and crazy unplanned mishaps … between visitors dropping in to a disappointing dinner out to cancellations for my Women’s Journaling Retreat … one of the cheery-est memories I could pluck from that time is my favorite cut-outs from birthday cards. For two years in a row now, my dear “Aunt Karen” has won out as my most favorite card! See the little kitten in the back pocket of a pair of jeans? That’s it! This page always makes me smile!