Dennis Stern should have been into body-building, like his dad, who ran Stern's Gym in North Park for 42 years. Instead he became fascinated by the Old Masters around age five. "I'm self-trained," he says. He spent years studying the baroque and particularly rococo artists. Rococo is by definition 18th-century decorative art, "colorful, fragile, pastoral, with trivial subject matter," but that encyclopedia definition doesn't bother Stern. "I spent my youth trying to discover the techniques and the materials they used," he says. He never took to harsh, "degraded" modern art. Instead he fell in love with Rubens, Titian, Tiepolo (the king of Venetian rococo, who rocked early-18th-century Venice with his The Sacrifice of Abraham). The result of all this study is an 18th-century San Diego painter who can paint -- not fakes of these masters, he insists -- copies using his own style, or other subjects, using the style of one of these painters. He recently completed a pastoral after François Boucher (a rococo giant of 18th-century France) in one frenzied night. It depicts a water mill with pastoral figures, forests, and pink-clouded sky. Look at a Boucher. Look at a Stern. Hard to tell 250 years stand between the two. Although reticent about quoting prices, Stern is available for commission and says $100 usually secures his services.