Welcome to my blog! I'll be posting thoughts about art, photos, happenings, and other things that strike me--and hopefully my readers--as interesting. And please visit my website by clicking the link to the right--thanks!
Also please check out my second blog, The Painting Archives to see older (pre-2004) paintings for sale.
I am working on several large pieces to take to a new gallery in Toronto, and cycling once again through creation and destruction...a surface on one that just yesterday was quite beautiful, is tonight nothing but an uninteresting mess. All the grace and promise gone, and nothing to do but start again tomorrow.
I'm thinking about the famous quote from Pablo Picasso: “Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction.” The surfaces of my paintings are formed by many acts of destruction, and are impossible for me to create any other way. It is by scraping, dissolving, and painting over many layers that rich, evocative textures and colors are achieved. So I suppose it makes as much sense to welcome the next stage of the painting I was working on tonight as to mourn any perceived loss.
I tell myself this as I wait for the wrenching frustration I experienced leaving the studio tonight to subside...knowing that the glimpse I had of the painting's potential still lives in my mind, and in whatever traces of that image are left in its current muddy state. The journey will continue, and there will be good days and not so good days until the painting is done.
As I left the studio tonight, I marveled that anything I paint actually does ever get finished. But hanging near my door are quite a few paintings ready to be sent to my galleries, reassuring proof that I do reach "done" on a regular basis. (The small painting above, Timanfaya #3
, 12"x12", will be on it's way to Darnell Fine Art
in Santa Fe this week.)
Struck by the variety of imagery and formats in my work, a recent studio visitor remarked about how many different things I have going on. I thought about that over the weekend as I finished up a number of small 12"x12" paintings, and as usual, ended up with a range of solutions to the unique puzzle each had presented. Some paintings emerge as soft and atmospheric with gestural imagery, and some are rather severe and geometric. Others fall someplace along that continuum. (Examples below: the two extremes of soft and geometric, top and middle image: Echoes
and Timanfaya #4
, and at the bottom, in between idea, Zoco
. All are 12"x12" oil on panel.)
I think this range is the result of my process-oriented approach (following leads that emerge during the act of painting) as well as the fact that I use the materials themselves with an experimental attitude. The longer I work with cold wax medium and a variety of tools, the more techniques and ideas I have to draw upon, and the richer the mix. There is an energy to this exploration of process and materials that compels me to keep trying new things and shaking up the older ideas.
At the same time, I pull back from paintings I'm working on that seem too different, not "me" enough. While this may seem counter-productive, I trust that over time whatever is sincere and real there will re-emerge in a more integrated way. I have always believed that, at least for myself, true change happens in an evolved and incremental manner. At this point, all of the various threads in my paintings have come about through honest searching. All seem to me hard-won, and of the same body of work.
In working on my newly designed website, I decided to present my work in the context of several conceptual categories, rather than in the simple divisions of single and multiple panels that appeared on my old website. Deciding upon these
was a helpful exercise for me. While these are not strict divisions--many of the paintings could have been placed in more than one category--grouping them helped me identify my own thematic and visual explorations.
I admire many artists whose output is far more diverse than my own, while remaining true and centered on a unique aesthetic. I believe it's a good thing to be open to diversity of expression, to whatever extent that it suits our own needs, and to trust that following new paths will still bring us home in the end.
struggles with new work
Surely all of us who paint have times when things roll along in a satisfying and productive way, and others when the process is more like wading through mud. In my case, I've been going through a rather extreme example of the latter--mired in a series of five 30x30" paintings for weeks now. I've felt impatient, frustrated and blocked (although I have actually kept at it nearly every day.)
I'm perfectly fine working under pressure in normal circumstances, to meet an exhibit or commission deadline, for example. Over 25 years of painting, I've developed confidence in my work and tend to find pleasure and energy in those kinds of commitments. And while struggle is always an essential part of the process, I'm rarely blocked or anxious about my work for more than a short time. Given all that, I was really not
anticipating the issues I've been having with these paintings.
But there is a different agenda for these--an opportunity that may be a one-time chance (more later on that, if it all works out.) So, from the start I noticed pressure in my own mind and perceptions, and I began to gradually lost the ease and spontaneous feeling that I rely on in the studio, the ability to trust in the process. I found myself slipping into hyper-critical mode, destroying most of the progress made on an almost daily basis. As a result, each painting in this small series has cycled through way more than the usual number of transformations, coming close to being finished and then once again painted over.
I've always maintained that in this kind of destruction, nothing is really lost--that each change, each new layer put on or removed, adds richness and texture, and in fact these changes are necessary to achieve the surfaces of my work. And also that every change, including radical transformations, comes about because it is needed--something is not right. Under normal circumstances I have so many paintings in progress that I don't get very attached to anything, and these necessary steps are usually exhilarating rather than anxiety-producing. In this case though, I was so completely focused on 5 paintings, that I had to keep reminding myself it was OK when hours of work once again disappeared under my palette knife or solvent rag.
It has all been a bit grueling and certainly humbling. But today and yesterday were a breakthrough--excellent painting days. I believe I just had to acknowledge that while self-criticism is important for developing excellent work, perfectionism can become paralyzing when it creeps in...and also that any one painting cannot represent the depth and breadth of an entire body of work. A painting is simply a moment in the course of a long journey. With these thoughts, I was able to loosen up, enjoy painting and feel my faith in the process return.
The photos above show four of the five paintings at the end of today, nearing completion, and a closer view of one, as yet untitled.
After several days of intensive work with my web designer, my new website
is up. Please visit and enjoy. This is a portfolio type of site, with a selected number of paintings plus information about me and how to contact my galleries.
An interesting development, noted in the new site, is that I am now represented by an agent in Ireland and the UK. He will also handle any inquiries in Europe. I'm excited by this opportunity, especially since I'll be in Ireland in September as an artist in residence at the Tyrone Guthrie Center
in Annamaghkerrig (I have actually learned how to spell that) in County Monaghan.
My old website, which many of you will have visited in the past, has a new URL, CrowellArtConection.com
. In the near future, CrowellArtConnection will undergo a complete overhaul, and will be focused on teaching information and resources for artists interested in my work and techniques. For now it is much the same as ever, but I have updated my teaching schedule
now that I've set my calendar for 2011.
Many thanks to all of you who follow my work! My aim is to to provide a more focused way to keep up with new paintings and career developments, plus a format for expanded information on painting for the artists among you.