On Process: The How and Why by Rebecca Stern



People often ask me about my process - how do I begin a painting, where do I get my inspiration and how do I know when to continue or when to stop. When I work, I’m not thinking about process so it’s always hard to translate into words. I purposely avoid planning my compositions beforehand as it interrupts my spontaneous creativity and inserts a judgemental voice.



I know that my first marks are my favorite. They’re free, refreshing, a release.  Done quickly from a territory deep inside me. I’ll pour, scrape, drip or use a large brush to apply the first colors to form large gestural movements that often determine the form of the painting. These marks are in control of where the painting goes, serving as a roadmap.


Then I begin to play with negative space, depth, movement, and tension. I juggle many paintings at once, leaving time between to let the works marinate. I allow my workflow to be a turn towards observation. I want to understand what each unique work is trying to say. Over time each painting takes on a life of its own and leads me in a process in which I am an active observer. This contemplative space informs the next marks, as I play with balance - pushing the viewer's eye to take a specific path through the work.


A painting is complete when there is nothing else that needs to be added. Marks left are traces of an experience, a struggle, an idea, a feeling. There’s balance between pushing, pulling and release. The viewer’s eye takes a path throughout the work and gets lost in a beautiful mess of details. The piece speaks the things that I don’t want to.



See more of my new work here.

Reflections on Change by Rebecca Stern

2018 has been a difficult year thus far.

Losing my father turned my world upside down and backwards and affected me in ways I never would have imagined. I now think about death and life much more than I ever did before. This major life change altered my work in the studio.

 January 22, 2018

January 22, 2018

I spent most of January dragging myself to the studio every day and making work that truly felt like someone else made it. Odd shapes, colors that weren’t mine, everything felt foreign. My normal reaction to this would be frustration and self-doubt.  Instead of fighting this new territory, I decided to ride the wave.


After many destroyed canvases, and paintings on paper that got torn up to repurpose into collages, my work and the world started to make sense to me again. It was a slow transition to this point, but once I got there it was pure bliss. A feeling in which nothing else mattered except my present interaction with the materials and the confidence that whatever I did was the right thing. And if it didn’t turn into a masterpiece, it was okay because it was an experience to create it. And that experience, would inform the next piece I made and so on in a never ending cycle of influence.


This new work was pouring out of me, like I couldn’t put paint to canvas fast enough.

Through creating, through thinking, through feeling, through attention and presence it became clear to me what brings me back to the studio. This experience pushed me to write a new artist statement, a task which I dislike greatly but as with my painting, this time it flowed.

"I externalize my internal monologue into a visual narrative. In the studio, I am in control. Regardless of what else might be going on in my life or the world,  I paint, collage, stitch, and construct materials. My aim is to understand the relationship between my existence and the events that take place around me. I create a “mental landscape” to explore themes of intrinsic motivation, control, chance, change, and balance.  Gestural marks produce a visual depiction of thought patterns illustrated through repetition, texture, juxtaposition, color and negative space. Manipulating materials in my studio assists me in mitigating the fact that I can’t control what goes on in the day to day. I’m on a journey towards accepting what is.   It is this fact that brings me back to the studio again and again."


 "Where I Was Standing" - Acrylic, ink, stitching and paper on paper - 2018

"Where I Was Standing" - Acrylic, ink, stitching and paper on paper - 2018

See more from the new series title Remnant, here.

Creating on the Go: Backpacking! by Rebecca Stern

Creating outside of the studio is a challenge in general as it imposes limitations on size and materials. However, when preparing for my first backpacking trip knowing I wanted to create on the trail was even more of a challenge. My Fiance Tom and I planned to hike part of the Appalachian Trail with our dog Sansa. We had done a lot of hiking and camping but never backpacking - we were excited for the adventure!


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I knew that keeping the weight of my art-making supplies down was going to be key, so I ended up having to make a lot of sacrifices in that regard. I later learned while on the trail, that the simple supplies I brought were just enough and something I looked forward to doing at the end of a 12 mile day - along with my Top Ramen of course.


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As an abstract painter, I take my thoughts and emotions and use the materials at hand to translate into a visual representation. But on the trail, creating felt different. I was present and focused on taking care of my basic human needs. I didn’t care that I hadn’t showered and didn’t have makeup on. I didn’t stress about the future or the past. Instead of my emotions dictating my work, I noticed my surroundings influencing my work.  My color choices were based the things I saw on the trail, especially the colors of all of the different types of moss. My line use was indicative of the terrain I hiked that day and my brushstrokes were fluid, calm.


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In a way, this trip felt like a hiatus from my normally overactive brain - a welcome retreat.


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