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Interactive Escher

monument valley

Frank Underwood’s favorite game in the new season of House of Cards, with the optical illusions and physically impossible geometry of an Escher. I played it on an LG Pad. Like Portal, the only flaw is that it doesn’t last long enough.

The culture crash


This review of Culture Crash, The Killing of the Creative Class, from the New York Times certainly nails the problem right now for most creative types. One continues to hope, though. The Internet, one way or another, ought to be the solution at some point, connecting creator with audience, as the last paragraph of this book review hints (you’ll have to click on the link to read it.):

From the Times review:

“The most depressing of all is a decimation of cultural institutions that’s been apparent roughly since the turn of the 21st century, but has accelerated in the half-dozen years since the start of the Great Recession. It’s an underreported crisis, he asserts, that has affected not only the higher realms of culture, like classical music and painting, but also indie music and indie film and graphic design. And it’s affected not only the artists and practitioners themselves “but also the many people who supported and spread their work” — music critics and publicists and ushers and record store employees. The injury is bad enough; the notion reflected in the typo-ridden reader comments, that the marketplace rules and that anyone who can’t make it there should quit whining and find a real job, piles on another layer of insult.

Timberg — himself a culture journalist who was a victim of one of The Los Angeles Times’s seemingly endless series of layoffs — makes a good case that, as Bob Dylan once put it, “something there’s been lost.” He starts off with a chapter describing cities and times when everything fell into place: the Boston poetry scene in the ’50s, the Los Angeles art scene of the ’60s, the Austin outlaw-country subculture and the New York punk movement of the ’70s. They all had, he says, a critical mass of creators, which attracted successive infusions of like-minded souls, along with institutions as varied as art galleries, specialized magazines, universities and nightclubs like CBGB or Threadgill’s that spread the vibe, hooked artists up with audiences and, in many cases, provided them with day jobs as they developed their gifts.

That was then, this is now. Numbers tell some of the story. After the financial crisis of 2008, jobs in graphic design fell by 19.8 percent over four years, in photography by 25.6 percent over seven years, and in architecture by 29.8 percent over three years. In 1999, recordings generated $14.6 billion in revenue to the music business; by 2012, the figure was down to $5.35 billion. Of course, owing to the change in the dominant distribution model from physical CDs to (first) downloading MP3 files and (now) streaming on services like Pandora and Spotify, performing artists get a thinner slice of the smaller pie. Timberg puts a human face on the statistics with portraits, scattered throughout the book, of poets, artists, moviemakers and reporters who had been doing good work and making not great but decent livings, when all of a sudden the rug was pulled out from under them.”

Donatello, Upper East Side

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From Hyperallergic, (thank you, guys, for staying alert to the most remarkable thing going on in the city right now, in terms of art). Such an incredible opportunity, which I’m going to attend tomorrow. Apparently this museum is on its last legs, according to the Times. No surprise, there. Nice way to go out, by making history.  I really want to see Donatello’s visualization of Abraham and Isaac,  a father ready and willing to kill his son, which I expect will be a representation of all war, from pagan times to the present, a long history of human sacrifice and violence–as well as its specific meaning in the Old Testament. Hyperallergic:

It’s an improbable exhibition, with 23 early Renaissance pieces that have rarely (if ever) left Italy, let alone crossed the Atlantic to arrive at this small Upper West Side museum. After their return to Florence’s Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, it’s likely most of these pieces will never travel again because of their fragility and size. The exceptional nature of the exhibition is reason enough to visit, but the unexpected humanity of Donatello’s sculptures up close makes it essential.

And some other qualities, as well, make it once in a lifetime, for those of us who can’t fly to Italy. When they say pieces, I think what they actually are talking about are large, heavy, and apparently fragile sculptures craved from stone. But it sounds as if they are too fragile for even a second journey like this. (Is all the world as temporary as flesh? Yes. But does Donatello have to remind me with stone? Yes.) Which is to say, see it now. It won’t happen again.

Dueling Paintbrushes at Journaling Retreat ~ Day One

Today breaks clear, brilliant blue and sunny warm at our first full day of the Women’s Journaling Alpine Retreat. After we’ve welcomed the day with yoga on the sparkling lake’s edge, we breakfast and then, settle out between the two closest cabins with a view peering into the shadowed, cool forest.

We’ve designed this “Dueling Brushes” demonstration to show how differently both Jean and I approach a journal page and how differently we paint. Jean takes her thirty-five minute time frame first. With this result! And then I take mine. As I’ve mentioned I’m struggling with this new journal size (it’s smaller) and the quality of paper (some of the pages are just writing paper). So my attempt to solve the paper challenge is to glue a small piece of watercolor paper into the page where I want to

watercolor. I like the results . . . and I’m pleased with the traveling off the watercolor paper in small overlappings onto the writing paper.

I’m actually pretty pleased with the full spread visual. I like how the colors happen to balance themselves out between the pigments I chose for the landscape and the delicate hues of the pods in this
handmade black paper. Still I feel astonished that those holes I’ve had to cut for the paper clay insert add harmony to this unpredicted page so much further back from when the holes originated.

It’s that magical serendipity of the journal that continues to surprise and please and enamor me. I’m still in love with this process. Ever new . . .



Fairfield Porter, Field Flowers, Fruit and Dishes, 1974

Field Flowers, Fruit, and Dishes, Fairfield Porter, 1974, oil on masonite, Alexandre Gallery

Painting is an art that favors the old, who’ve been at it for decades. From the last year of his life, give or take a few months, when it seemed he could do no wrong and everything looked both effortless and exactly right. I found this image at the Alexandre Gallery‘s website yesterday but cannot find it now . . ..

Christmas morning


Christmas in July, oil on panel, 6" x 6"

Christmas in July, oil on panel, 6″ x 6″


A new Matthew Cornell show is opening at Arcadia just in time for me to visit this weekend, or early next week, while I’m in the city. His astonishing, small paintings look better and better. He somehow captures the light of less-illuminated things during a photographer’s beloved Golden Hour, just as or after the sun sets or rises. He somehow manages to evoke details and variations of color in the shadows, illuminated faintly by the sky itself, while creating a focal point with a small area of orange or yellow artificial light, usually from the window of a house. How he gets the amazing level of verisimilitude at the tiny scale of these paintings is a mystery, unless, as it seems Durer must have done, he uses brushes with a single hair. He can have as many as three light sources–the sky, the interior light glowing from windows and a streetlight or the sun itself shining somewhere beyond the frame of his picture, throwing another angle of illumination onto a house or strip of grass. What distinguishes his work, though, is the intense, complex feeling the images evoke–stillness, peace, satisfaction, beauty, yet also loneliness and isolation. In this show, as described in an excellent video he has produced, he returns to houses where he has lived and paints them, using photographs he takes at the site. He pushes the color just slightly so that a pair of yellow no-passing lines in a road look orange and his greens seem slightly more lush than they would in any photograph I’d be able to take. A neutral shadow becomes faintly purple next to the amber incandescence of a porch bulb. The ultimate effect is something both convincingly real and yet magical: Christmas in July. Actually, for me, it’s like Christmas morning every time I look at one of his paintings for the first time.

MsMaggie – Kitty In Green

Green Painting Retrospective #Four

Time to throw in a green kitty.  I'm continuing on with my green in March painting retrospective.  

Ms Maggie on the Rug - Painting in Green

Background and Intentions

I painted "MsMaggie On a Rug" in 2008.  I purposely chose a green dominate color scheme, just to see what would happen.  My intention was to create a design used contrasting green and red without it feeling like a Christmas painting.

My Process

I took several photos of MsMaggie on a rug on the floor of my aunt's home.  The floor was tile and inspired the grid-like pattern.  As is my habit, I used the photo for inspiration, then created drawings from memory and imagination.  This painting is based on one of several drawings that I did over many months.  The paintings became part of my "MsKitty" collection.

One problem I worked on in this design was creating a Cubist-style kitty. The Cubist devise that I was interested in was the double face.  I wanted MsMaggie cat to be looking at you two ways: head on and in profile.  I like the mystery and ambiquity.  Plus, I think cats make the perfect Cubist subject.  Cats are masters at the "looking at you but not looking at you" ability.

If you look closely, you will notice that MsMaggie is looking two directions.

Once I have a design I like, I enlarge it then get to work painting. 

About MsMaggie

This watercolor painting is one of a series of paintings inspired by my Aunt Mary's cat Maggie, also know as "the Magster", "Maggiemagnificat", and other various nicknames.  Maggie was a sweet, beautiful kitty.  She wasn't particularly vocal.  She talked with her body language and her eyes.

I enjoyed creating this particular green painting.  I hope it brings you joy.  



The post MsMaggie – Kitty In Green appeared first on Margaret Stermer-Cox – Watercolor Artist.

Everything emptying into . . .

Klettur, John Zurier, oil on linen

Klettur, John Zurier, oil on linen


John Zurier’s work looks strenuously minimal, and therefore offers little to grab onto. Still, there’s a feeling of monastic restraint and genuine feeling in his paintings, which often seem to be modest in scale, a feature commensurate with how self-effacing they are in other respects. All of those virtues are concentrated into one or two colors. Is that enough? I can’t tell from here. He appears to give me less to look at than I ordinarily like, but that could be a way to rewind all the current media noise. And maybe the lack is in myself, rather than in the paintings. It’s hard to say without seeing them, which I may try to remedy at Peter Blum on my venture into NYC next week. I think I would have passed on this, but for his artist statement, a requirement that I usually hate, but this one I love:

“I remember the first painting problem that really engaged me. I tried to paint the sky seen between two buildings so that the whole of my painting would be nothing but an empty blue space. I wanted the painting to be filled with a pale empty sky. I thought it would be very easy to do, but found it nearly impossible. The painting was a failure and I had to put it off for a long time.

In a way, my concerns now are not much different in that I want the maximum sense of color, light, and space with the most simple and direct means. I think the Japanese painter Ike No Taiga (1723–1776) was right: the most difficult thing to achieve in painting is creating a space where absolutely nothing has been painted.”

January 2008

Nature’s Gatherings

Today I am very excited to share my newest stencil designs with you! As I carefully sketched and laid out each page I  hoped that they can be wonderful additions to your journal pages and collages. You will see how I used these stencils in the photographs below, and where some of my ideas came from.




My new nature inspired stencils are from my own sketches of things that I love, birds, insects and flowers.

My inspiration for this little bird and my stencil "In The Garden" came from a sweet little stone bird I have outside in my brick patio, and the beautiful flowers of English Phlox.




I demonstrated this drawing and much more in my Nature Journaling online workshop that you can read more about here!




I also love using symbols in my work. My Earth Song Symbols began when I cut them out as stamps, which you can read about here.

Then I drew smaller versions and designed the stencils you see below. I used these images in a book as a tryptich, using shades of black and white and gray.

I enjoy stenciling on different papers and fabrics and I especially like to apply them with pan pastels.




This is how they began…


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This stencil "Under The Sun" portrays my favorite bird, the Great White Egret that thrives along our river and marsh lands. These graceful birds never fails to bring a smile to my face.




What do you see out of your windows today… is it almost spring time like it is here? 


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Here is my Earth Symbol book all folded up… I've discovered symbols are everywhere, carved on the sides of old churches in France or doorways in England, symbols representing the letters in alphabets from other cultures and especially symbols on walls of caves from times long ago.


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And here is another project where I used some of my stencil designs. 




For more about my new stencils… Nature Gatherings or Earth Song Symbols hop on over and visit StencilGirl!

And to order these, to be shipped today go to the Stencil Girl Website here!



Cosmic consciousness

Bill Santelli, The Systemic Path

Bill Santelli, The Systemic Path, acrylic on canvas

This painting by my friend and fellow Oxford Gallery artist, Bill Santelli, is on view in”Cosmos–Imagining the Universe,” an exhibition sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution,  in the Annmarie Sculpture Garden and Arts Center in Dowell, Maryland. Bill works in several different abstract modes, including prismacolor drawings I love. The Systemic Path is closer to the abstract work he does now in acrylic, but it’s from an earlier period. The exhibit runs from: February 13 – July 26, 2015. Bill and Tom Insalaco and I met for a couple hours last week to talk about what we’ve all been up to and, as a follow up, Bill suggested we have a small group show of work we’ve been doing, off and on, without ever submitting it for exhibition: in other words a show to offer a glimpse our semi-secret lives as painters. I like the idea, but it’s going to be up to Bill to take the initiative. He sounds eager to do it. We also think Tom deserves a big retrospective: he’s a great painter who has long deserved serious recognition, in addition to his extensive list of awards.