There seem to always be undertones of realism within the genre of surrealism, hence the name, and the popularity among artists and connoisseurs. Fine Art Today recently caught up with the accomplished and talented painter Jeremiah Stermer, who offered fascinating insights into his creative process and how he puts the “realism” in surrealism.
Artists are members of a select category of individuals who possess the ability to create what they see in the mind’s eye. For painter Jeremiah Stermer, his surrealist visions are often translated in the form of exquisitely rendered and veristic still life paintings. He works in one of two ways: Stermer’s creative process involves harnessing an idea and working it into a painting. His other method includes setting up still life compositions and developing them.

Jeremiah Stermer, “Artist’s Palette with Invisible Pear,” 2014, oil on linen, 7 7/8 x 10 3/4 in.
(c) Jeremiah Stermer 2016

Stermer writes, “When I lay in the background work, I am setting the stage for the final moments; like when I paint the final highlight on the edge of a thin wine glass. My version of representational oil painting is a culmination of discoveries. I like to work the thin delicate layers of paint and have them hover in micro-thin layers, playing off the neutral tinted ground – the surface of the painting support.”

Jeremiah Stermer, “Birth of Vision,” 2005, oil on panel, 26 x 24 in. (c) Jeremiah Stermer 2016

Jeremiah Stermer, “Interior 2 Chairs,” 2013, oil on linen, 13 1/2 x 10 1/4 in. (c) Jeremiah Stermer 2016

For Stermer, realism is employed as a means to bring to life scenes from his imagination, “half-sleep hallucinations, insight-visions, or just simply asking myself ‘wouldn’t this be fabulous if a vase and bouquet of flowers were hovering out before me in mid air?’” he says. “I use realism so my paintings make these scenes — imagined or set up — legible and tangible so that it isn’t so much about how it was painted, but how the whole scene affects you. As a realist/surrealist, I’ll paint an abstract idea clearly and solidly, and not for technical acclaim, but for the idea to have unquestionable clarity as to exactly what I mean it to look like and, hopefully, feel like.” Indeed, mood and feeling are Stermer’s ultimate artistic goals.

Jeremiah Stermer, “Invisible Violin,” 2014, oil on panel, 12 x 14 in. (c) Jeremiah Stermer 2016

Jeremiah Stermer, “Ocean View,” 2015, oil on linen, 15 x 13 in. (c) Jeremiah Stermer 2016

Stermer’s use of natural lighting — of particular times and seasons — is vital toward achieving his desired mood. He writes, “My favorite lighting is bright sunny light; a certain time of year — Spring, early Summer, or September — or a certain time of day before sunset while the colors are still white and gold. I’m sure this comes from my childhood summers on the Chesapeake Bay when I spent summers with my grandparents at their shore home. The scenes in and around the house had a special light which would bounce up off the water and shimmer and dance on everything, lambently. The mood from that light is at the heartbeat of my paintings.”

Jeremiah Stermer, “Pink Plastic Cup on Oriental Base,” 2005, oil on panel, 11 x 10 in. (c) Jeremiah Stermer 2016

Jeremiah Stermer, “Yellow Scarf Hover over Ocean,” 2014, oil on linen, 11 x 16 in. (c) Jeremiah Stermer 2016

Also formative to Stermer’s approach was a near-death out-of-body experience the artist had when he was 30 years old. “I touched bliss-nirvana,” Stermer says. “It has had a wonderful effect on every aspect of my life, and certainly the passion I have toward everything I paint. I realized that having this inspired look and feel in my paintings is what I aspired to and, apparently, had always aspired to. I do everything I can, as often as possible, to promote my inner tranquility so that I may go easily into a trance-like state when I paint. Everything works best for me and the painting this way. It also makes the experience calm and enjoyable.”

Jeremiah Stermer, “White Roses, Peach & Old Books,” 2003, oil on panel, 20 x 33 1/2 in. (c) Jeremiah Stermer 2016

Jeremiah Stermer, “White Roses, Peach & Old Books (detail),” 2003, oil on panel, 20 x 33 1/2 in.
(c) Jeremiah Stermer 2016

Through his delicate touch and keen observational skill, audiences can easily share in Stermer’s surrealist dreams and visions — and many like what they’ve seen. Now, at 69, Stermer has been painting for 58 years and his abilities are only improving. “As I grow over the years and my awareness matures, I see things differently and better, many of which I want to portray in paint. I assumed that as I got older my hand would diminish in ability. It has done the opposite. I see my hands painting at a level I never would have guessed I would have achieved.”
To learn more, visit Jeremiah Stermer.

You can also visit or the Art Renewal Center.
This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.


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