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   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.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011
  a wide world

It's the season for looking back at the past year, and while I will spare you a detailed month by month recap of my 2011, there is one career milestone that I think is worth mentioning. For me, 2011 was a remarkable year for connecting with people and places in other countries--the year that my work first crossed international borders in the context of galleries and sales.

It started last February when I signed on with an agent in Ireland who works to promote my work in Ireland and the UK; also in February I was accepted into Gallery 133 in Toronto, and a month later I drove five large paintings across the border into Canada. Later in March, an artist from Sweden came to one of my studio workshops, and although she was not the first person from another country to attend one of my classes--I've had several students from Canada, and one from Brazil--she was the first to cross the Atlantic for that sole purpose. In April I learned from my agent that I would be showing in Dublin at the tail end of my autumn artist residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in County Monaghan. In September, while I was in Ireland, a collector in Austria contacted me to purchase a painting from my website. (Fortunately my husband was still at home and could get it packed and shipped.) My exhibit at Gormleys Fine Art in Dublin opened September 30, and sales were decent despite the rather dire economic situation there. Heading into the new year, I will be having a solo exhibit at Gormleys' Belfast gallery in February, and plan to return to Ireland in the fall for another residency.

So it's been an exciting year, and although I've had "pinch me, is this real??" moments, I've also started to see what is possible in reaching beyond our own borders. We live in fortunate times as artists--the internet provides a world context for art, and everything that happened for me outside the US this year can be traced to internet contacts and exposure. An artist can live and work anywhere now--even rural Wisconsin--and be active in a much wider art world.

(The as yet untitled 12"x9" painting above was inspired by travels in the west of Ireland.)
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
  time and patience
Because my paintings evolve in their own organic way, and in their own time, I need to be very patient with them and not push for a finish too soon. Their progress and resolution happen in a way that seems outside of clock or calendar time. Continuing to add more and more layers and paint until there is a moment when the painting comes together into a visual whole, rich and satisfying means staying in the moment, not projecting forward to the end result. Equally so, it means letting go of what is covered up or "lost" (and I always say that nothing is ever really lost in this process.)

Following this path throughout a painting is an ongoing challenge--to respect each moment for what is evolving and maturing in the painting, to avoid being satisfied too early in the process, or with a mere display of technique...to give the paint an honest chance to speak. Spontaneity and impulsive, radical changes are important aspects of my work, adding to the layering and richness of the painting, but not necessarily speeding anything along. I don't believe that my work reaches its highest level without patience for this unfolding process.

I work mostly in oil, traditionally one of the slowest ways of painting, so this approach fits with the form of my work. But I don't mean to ignore forms of painting that call for a faster pace--for example, plein air painting or watercolor, nor the many serious, accomplished artists who explore pure spontaneous expression, wet in wet painting, or any other approach to painting in which the work comes along quickly. Focus, persistence, patience, allowing the work to evolve in its own way, holding to high standards, and not settling for easy solutions are important for all of us. These qualities are seen in an overall body of work and don't necessarily have much to do with measurable time spent on any one painting. In the big picture, fast or slow, clock time is beside the point.

(Photo above, works in progress stacked in my studio.)
Monday, December 12, 2011

Last week I saw Sean Scully's watercolors at the Chazen Museum in Madison, along with a huge room of monumental oil paintings. Though I was awed by the oils, it was the intimate, sensuous surfaces and inventive patterning of the watercolors that I took away with me. Scully's watercolors have a simple, effortless look that belies the difficulties of this medium. (Photos were prohibited in the gallery, unfortunately, but above is an example I found online.)

A few days later I felt the urge to dig out my own watercolor supplies, which usually do not get much use in the studio, and have not been updated in years--I had only a couple of usable brushes and a some very used tubes of paint, some of them dried up, some student grade. As with most art media, you get what you pay for...so I experienced some frustration with brushes shedding hairs and a limited range of paints. Still, I enjoyed playing around, inspired by Scully's simple color divisions and patterns. My own color fields developed a considerable amount of texture, because, of course, that's what I like...I enjoyed working the texture through the dripping and wet-in-wet mixing of color that is characteristic of watercolor. I also worked in some of the gorgeous Unison chalk pastels I brought back from Ireland.

My Christmas gift to myself will be some quality watercolor paints and brushes, because I sense more of these small paintings ahead. I really enjoy the delightful immediacy of watercolor, and it offers plenty of challenge. In fact I tend to think of each watercolor painting as a game or puzzle--can I solve it, make it work, pull it off, or will it dissolve into a muddy mess?


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       Rebecca Crowell