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   Also please check out my second blog, The Painting Archives to see older (pre-2004) paintings for sale.

Saturday, March 04, 2017
  new zealand

Since my last post, I’ve been to New Zealand for three weeks, teaching two workshops, and exploring many coastal and inland areas around Auckland with my Squeegee Press partner, Jerry McLaughlin, and Norma Hendrix of Cullowhee Mountain Arts. As I write this, part of me is still walking a black beach; these sublime expanses of volcanic sand were my favorite places of all that we experienced.

There was so much beauty everywhere, though--so many spectacular places and interesting sights, such good camaraderie and excellent workshop sessions--that is hard to re-enter ordinary life (even though I when I returned, it was to our place in New Mexico, which is its own kind of paradise.) The first night I was back, I dreamed about paintings all night. These were compelling abstract images that I felt directed to paint. At one point I woke up and thought of looking for my sketchbook, which was someplace in the jumble of my unpacked luggage. But I told myself I would remember the images, and fell back asleep. In the morning, the more specific ideas and images were gone. I was left only with an impression of light, misty atmosphere, oddly shaped islands, and dark sand. At first I was disappointed. But then I recognized the impressions that I had retained. This was how it was on Karekare, one of the most beautiful black sand beaches that we visited. The dreams had distilled for me a memory that seems now to me the essence of the trip as a whole.

This was a gift, because my work is about expressing essence. In the midst of travel, identifying what is most meaningful to me--and will ultimately influence my work--is usually not clear; sensory impressions, thoughts and feelings crowd together, especially when there is little solitude or down time. In New Zealand, the days were full and sometimes exhausting, and I never took the time to write notes or draw, or do anything other than a few quick paintings during the workshops to process the experience. But every time we went exploring, I was taking it all in. I felt very present and observant, and focused in the way that travel opens the eyes.

I did take a lot of photos. For me, photography is another aspect of being present, an exercise in seeing and appreciating the reality of the moment. I never directly reference photos in the studio, but find that there is an alignment between what I paint and what I choose to photograph.

When I paint, it is memory that serves me best. And of the many memories the New Zealand trip, there will be only a few that impact my work. Until I am alone in my studio, back home after such a trip, I don’t know what these will be, or in what ways they will be expressed. The process of filtering out these essential memories is mysterious and intriguing to me. I often feel that there is symbolic or archetypal meaning in what comes through, yet there is no need to understand or explain. There are simply compelling visual ideas to explore.

Karekare, 24x36", oil, sand, cold wax on panel

For the past few days I’ve been in my little New Mexico studio, a bit jet-lagged but impatient to resume work. The remaining fragments of my painting dreams are an intriguing and elusive guide as I feel my way into new pieces. The fact that my dreaming brain was so active in this way makes me believe that the process of finding essence is working at a deep level, and that is exciting. On the other hand, I try to avoid expectations about what will evolve in the studio—my basic approach is to give myself over to intuitive moves, while making choices that build strong work. While I can be guided by a particular mood or visual idea, for the most part I don’t work with specific goals in mind. My night of painting dreams left me with a sense of sweet mystery and beautiful possibility, but I need to trust in my own way of working to find my way there.  
What a beautiful, subtle piece. Those memories are floating around, and will find their way into your work no matter what. It's always mysterious and exciting how that works.

Happy painting!
Hi Rebecca
Lovely to read your piece about New Zealand and I am devastated I did not know about the workshops!!
I am an established encaustic wax artist in New Zealand (there aren't that many of us....) but obviously not in the loop..
I have also been waiting in anticipation to pre order your new book on cold wax techniques with Jerry McLaughlin , but it cost more to deliver the book to NZ than the cost of the book!!
Is there going to be a stockist in NZ? It would be great to know..
Many thanks
Mary Sullivan
Hawkes bay
New Zealand
Oh I'm so sorry you missed hearing about the class! We may be back sometime, it was such a great experience. As for the book, I am disappointed that shipping costs have soared as they have, and Jerry and I are concerned about figuring out better distribution. But it will be a while before we work anything out. There's been talk of retailing the book in NZ but at this point no actual plans in place, sorry.
Hi Rebecca
Thanks for getting back to me...no worries, I have since subscribed to takapuna art supplies newsletter so that will help 😀 They may find a solution about the cost of shipping the book, perhaps we could pre order with them and they can buy a bulk lot to distribute the cost..??? I will check out.
Many thanks

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       Rebecca Crowell