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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.


Sunday, July 29, 2012
  painting for an audience




I can only stand to watch other people paint for so long before I have to join in--and so, during the Oil and Wax Workshops that I teach, I have my own work in progress during the times set aside for concentrated painting. I usually have several things going--developing the panels on which I have demonstrated various techniques (I do formal demos several times a day of various techniques) plus a few other panels that are partially done when I bring them to class. When I teach in my own studio, I work on whatever I have lying around.

The panels that begin as demos provide an ongoing example of how I develop my work from the earliest layers, while the more advanced panels I bring in show the potential for richness and depth when many layers are in place. I use my paintings as an ongoing demonstration of a crucial concept that I teach--that of staying open to change, and pushing on through early phases of pleasing surfaces to more complex layering. Students are often startled and even distressed to see that I have completely painted over something that I've been working on for hours. There is no better example to set, and it is absolutely true to my working methods in my own studio.

Many students have told me they appreciate seeing my work in progress--being able to observe in action what I teach about fluidity, responsiveness to the paint, and non-attachment to the early phases of the painting. My intention is not to set myself up as a model to follow, but simply to show hands-on how a painting moves through various stages, beyond what I can show in the fifteen minute demos I do for specific techniques. (And as I've mentioned, the itch to paint is pretty strong when I am in any kind of studio setting!) For me, a fully developed painting requires many layers and a lot of time, and working on my panels for long stretches in class conveys that better than anything I can say.

Often when the class is working quietly, and I become involved in my own painting, one or more people in the class come spontaneously to my table to watch me. Respectful silence prevails, with perhaps an occasional question or observation. Sometimes the question is, "does it bother you to have people watching you?" (I hear this from other instructors too--I gather that what I do is not a very common practice.) The short answer is no...the longer answer is that I am in the workshop to teach, and my working practices can be part of that. (I do make it clear on the first day of class that even while I'm painting, I remain available for questions or help and that no one should worry about disturbing me.)

But the truth is, it is a mystery to me how it works, to have an audience. It's not that I block it out--I am certainly aware of the eyes upon me and the interest of the observers. Maybe it's a bit like an improvised jazz performance, in which the musician is confident of basic structure, and builds upon it with spontaneous and playful moves. Maybe having an audience even encourages boldness and risk taking, a bit of showing off, rising to a challenge. If that is the case, it 's all for the good, because sometimes I surprise myself and feel like I am one of the audience too ("what will she do now?!") I feel a bit self-conscious, but not in a bad way...I still connect with the work in a way that feels normal and comfortable.

I do think the quality of the audience--a small group of other artists who are intrigued and respectful--makes a difference to me. Their rapt attention is a gift.

All the paintings on this post were done during my classes in July at Cullowhee Mountain Arts in North Carolina. At the top, Links, 16"x16" and Illumine, also 16" square, oil and mixed media on panel. Below, Cullowhee, 12"x12" oil and mixed media on panel.

 
Sunday, July 22, 2012
  cullowhee mt. arts wrap up


I've just finished my two weeks at Cullowhee Mountain Arts, and posting a few photos from last week when I had 14 students, my largest class ever. (Quite a change from the week before, when I'd had only 4 in my class.) At first the numbers were daunting, but everyone seemed to settle in and find personal space by the end of the first day--fortunately, we had a very large painting studio and access to hallways and another studio next door. The photo below was taken in the hallway and also shows the 60-second drawings that the class did the first day. (The idea for that exercise is courtesy of Lisa Pressman.)

Overall the facilities that we had at Western Carolina University were outstanding--what a pleasure, for example, to present my power points and slide talks in a conference room instead of to a group of people huddled around my laptop, which is often the case!

It's obvious to me after this week the advantages of having four full days of work time (at CMA, the fifth day is for wrapping up and open studio visiting time.) The longer work time facilitated individual styles to come forward in the work, in a way that shorter sessions often do not--and in a large class, the variety was striking and delightful to see. I am posting a few of the better photos I took--I'm sorry not to include everyone and their work, but here's a sampling, starting with a painting by BJ Lantz--the white at the bottom is more luminous than I was able to capture.



This painting is by Judy Schwartz, who commented that painting in this style brought back childhood memories.



Jeanne Garant with her beautiful minimalist work. She is holding a strip of rusted metal she plans to attach to the painting.



Lisa Boardwine talking about one of several of her paintings that were richly developed by the end of the week.



A complex, elegant composition by Linda Benton-McCloskey.



A richly colored and textured diptych by Colleen Lineberry (excuse the weird angle at which it is photographed, please!)



Finally, a shot of the class at work on the second day. I really enjoyed the energy of 14 people hard at work...the ideas, the questions, the "ah-ha" moments. I hope and plan to return to Cullowhee Mountain Arts next year.

 
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
  mid week, cullowhee mt. arts


I'm halfway through my first week of teaching at Cullowhee Mountain Arts, an exciting new program of workshops held on the campus of Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC. We have use of the excellent facilities of the art department, which seems quite an outstanding one for a smallish college (both BFA and MFA programs are offered) and each session is a week long. When I first heard this I wondered if it would be hard to fill the time with enough information and things to do in class (most of my workshops are 3 days.) As it turns out, the week already seems short, each day packed with interesting ideas and interactions. I can see the benefits of the long session in the work of the artists in my class--they are taking the necessary time to build up rich surfaces without the urge to push for a conclusion, and making great use of the stretches of uninterrupted work time. There is also time for discussion, for presentations, for impromptu get-togethers after hours. It's a rich environment of learning and sharing.

It's also a special pleasure this week to be teaching down the hall from Lisa Pressman's encaustic class. Lisa and I have been aware of each other for a few years online, through blogs and Facebook, but met in person for the first time on Saturday when we both arrived on campus. We hit it off right away and discovered much in common, and we talked about ways to collaborate and combine aspects of our teaching during the week. On the first day, Lisa offered to run my class through her exercise of 30 drawings in 30 minutes. This was like an aerobics workout with pencil, charcoal, pastel, ink and paint sticks. The pacing was very fast as Lisa gave us drawing prompts and handed out various materials. At certain times we passed the drawings around, worked over each other's pieces, or worked simultaneously on the same drawings. My own drawings are shown, in part, above. I have found myself studying them off and on each day since, seeing ideas, sensing possibilities. It was exhilarating to work so fast, as a group, keeping just enough focus on the task at hand to make a drawing work before moving on.

Lisa and I are also working on two collaborative panels which we have passed back and forth during the couple of sessions in which we've worked on them so far, and have brought our students into each other's slide presentations. In addition, each instructor this week has done an evening presentation and studio demo, and we have all had the chance to see what various students are working on. Lots of interaction, and getting to know people in various fields, from different parts of the country.



This spirit of cooperation, friendly interaction and collaboration has really defined the week so far. As it grows, the potential for the Cullowhee Mountain Arts program to bring together artists for intensive weeks of interaction and sharing is very exciting. Many thanks to program director Norma Hendrix, an excellent artist herself, for her vision and persistence in launching CMA this summer.
 

       www.rebeccacrowell.com




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