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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.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006
  away with "good"
Lately sales of my paintings have picked up considerably, especially at Wilde Meyer Gallery in Scottsdale. This is definitely a happy development. But now I need to structure my time to meet these(and other) new demands. My plan is to give studio hours top priority every day, get a handle on certain time-wasting activities (like too much emailing, my downfall) and more carefully consider requests and invitations.

And how nice it would be if there were clear steps or definite rules to follow, to make the most efficient use of studio time! I actually have figured out a few things that seem simple enough, but unfortunately they are easier to see in retrospect than in the moment I need them. One of these is that "good is not good enough." Often I leave the studio thinking that what I've done is..."good, not bad at all" or something like that. The next day I see that "good" left overnight, looks "barely OK" in the morning. So I'd love to get better at identifying "barely OK" a lot earlier in the process and not invest so much time in it. Maybe it's my basically hopeful nature getting in the way! In the end I see that a painting has to reach higher levels to survive my critical eye or anyone else's. So--I'm off to banish "good" for another day--
Friday, October 27, 2006
  new mexico report
It's wonderful to be home after 20+ hours of driving, though re-entry into "normal" life always has its challenges. I'm taking time out from sorting through piles of mail and laundry to post a few photos from my trip--not necessarily the most scenic, but perhaps most expressive of my trip. This one was taken of my son as we wandered around the deserted plaza surrounding the old adobe church of San Francisco de Asis in Taos. He and I drove to Taos from Albuquerque on the mountain road (as opposed to the more straightforward highway that runs along the Rio Grande) and had an excellent day checking out galleries and the fascinating Melissa Zink retrospective at the Harwood Museum.

These two photos I shot in the foothill trails on Albuquerque's east side, near the home of my friend and web designer Pamela Grimm, whom I was visiting. The left one is a self-portrait (obvious perhaps!) taken as I hiked to top of a small mountain. The right one I shot after noticing a shadow moving on a rock...it was quite some time before I glimpsed the person making it, hidden from my view by the boulder in the foreground. I think there's something rather mystical and timeless about this shadow man's appearance in the landscape.

I'm so pleased with the trip, though to be honest I wasn't sure I could afford to take ten days to satisfy what seems to be an annual urge to be in NM. But it was an energizing trip, including the chance to spend time with my college student son, touch base with other family and friends, feast on great food, and have plenty of time to explore area galleries and museums. Some signigficant art business was conducted, too--sometimes you just have to go places in person. The landscape was very compelling no matter where I was--even in urban settings it seems present in the form of warm adobe walls, and flowers blooming. Now I'm back home in the land of frozen gardens and leafless trees--I think I'll be feeding off my SW experience for quite some time.
Monday, October 23, 2006
  so far in NM
Yesterday I was walking up a dusty trail into the foothills on Albuquerque's east side, taking photos and entranced by cacti and birds flitting through the brush. The sky was very intense in its blueness, and it was the time of day when the contrast of late afternoon golden light and deep shadow tends to send me into a reflective mood.

The first time I saw this part of the country (when I came to graduate school at Arizona State University in 1985) I found it harsh and a little scary. But in time, walking around the desert, I opened up to its stark beauty. Now it all feels like home to certain part of me that seeks focus, simplicity, quiet, subtlety. Odd to feel I belong here...the mesas and arid ground covered with spiky plants are so far removed from the soft hills and leafy expanses of the Midwest. But I know it's a feeling I share with others. One of the things I love about being here is knowing how many other artists and writers have experienced the aura of expansiveness and freedom of the high desert.

I'll be here a few more days, and this has been a great trip so far. I don't have a way to post photos until I get home at the end of the week, but look for them then!
Monday, October 16, 2006
  on my way
Tomorrow I leave with my friend Chris for nine days in NM (well, actually a few less than that considering 20 hours of driving time each way!) I have lots planned, including scoping out some galleries and doing a little art biz...also seeing family and friends. I love that area, and have been able to make a trip out every fall for three years now.

I'll attempt to post sometime during the trip, or if not, there will be a wrap-up after I get back. And now I must go pack!
Saturday, October 14, 2006
  lotsa pots
I've just returned from several days in Door County, WI with my 17-year old son whose passion is making pottery. Since the weather was cold and blustery, we spent most of our time visiting pottery galleries up and down the peninusla. Although we did brave the weather enough to enjoy a chilly walk at Cave Point Park, pictured here. (Incredible to contemplate that prior to drifting north, this area was once a coral reef near the equator.) Caves all along the shore were created by the erosion of the waves, and the beach was pocked with small pools and white boulders of all sizes.

At the pottery places, we examined pieces made by many techniques, including wood firing, raku and pit firing. There were even musical instruments--drums and horns--at Potters Wheel Gallery in Fish Creek. The clay artists that we met were all very friendly and happy to engage in shop talk with Ross, and to give him tips on colleges he might want to consider for next year. This photo was taken at Ellison Bay Pottery, run by John Dietrich and Diane McNeil, who specialize in pit fired pieces. As a painter I loved the subtle surface colors and textures created in the firing of this work.

We also saw impressive glass work at Clayton and Clayton Glass Art Studio. Keith and Deanna Clayton were getting ready for a major exhibit at SOFA in Chicago, but took time out to show us around their extensive studio operation near Ephraim. They work with glass in a sculptural manner; Deanna creates beautifully textured vessels made over wax molds (the name of the process is pate-de-verre)and Keith shapes large slabs of glass and fabricated metal elements into wall mounted pieces.

Finally, on our way home yesterday evening, we made a stop at Mill Creek Pottery outside Shawano, where potter Simon Levin and family once again affirmed my impression that as a group, pottery people rank among the friendliest and most generous I have met. Simon showed Ross around his studio and huge wood kiln, and threw a pitcher on the wheel as we talked, finishing it by pressing outward on the sides of the perfect cylander to create an organic, subtley moving shape. His work was among my favorite on the trip.

I find myself drawn more and more into the world of fine crafts through Ross's interest. He suggested I might like to paint on a fired clay slab, perhaps one on which I've drawn some lines or made other textural marks. Sounds like fun--if I get anything worth posting, I will!
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
  away from my studio
It's snowing as I write this--ridiculous weather! Nevertheless my younger son and I are taking off this afternoon for a road trip, as we do every year at this time during state teacher's convention. These trips started when my boys were 5 and 8, and over the years we've gone all over Wisconsin and into Minnesota and Iowa for a few days of wandering and relaxing. This year's destination is Door County, Wisconsin's "thumb" that juts into Lake Michigan.

Early next week I'm on the road again, driving out to New Mexico with my art friend Chris. I'll be gone about nine days--seeing my older son who is a student at UNM in Albuquerque, and spending time with other friends and family out there. This is the third fall in a row I've found myself in that area--I think it now qualifies as tradition!

As happy as I am about all of this adventure, I'm not eager to leave my studio for so many days. It's one of those times when one painting seems to feed into another and back again in a productive flow. But I do know from experience that the Southwest always energizes my art brain, so I'm hoping to return with plenty of ideas.
Sunday, October 08, 2006
  into/out of nature
Friday was a day of gorgeous fall leaves and art for my friend Patricia, her daughter Maddie and I as we traveled west to the Wisonsin-Minnesota border to enjoy both indoor and outdoor sculpture, and a visit to printmaker Christine Herman's studio.

Sculptor and good friend Christina Yocca is pictured here at the reception of the group show, Into/Out of Nature, at the Phipps Center for the Arts in Hudson, WI. There's also a shot below of her outdoor sculpture, located in nearby Willow River State Park. The idea behind the show at The Phipps Center was that five sculptors would exhibit both indoor and outdoor work--the ones outside were site specific for the state park, and interacted in some way with the environment...the interior sculptures represented reflection or response to outdoor experience. Chris's outdoor piece, Whispering Wall, containes a trumpet flower shape made of fibers, clay and wax in a wall-like matrix of branches. Placing an ear to the trumpet shape focuses the viewer's attention on the sounds of the surrounding meadow and trees. (Maddie preferred to look instead.) Coming from one direction along the path, the sculpture blends into its setting--Patricia and I missed it the first time through. After turning around to search better, we spotted it right away in the view shown below.

The other highlight of our day was a visit to abstract monotype artist Christine Herman in her studio and home across the St. Croix River in Stillwater, MN. Christine contacted me a few weeks ago after seeing my article in the Daniel Smith art materials catalogue and realizing not only our proximity in location, but the fact that we shared certain approaches in our work. Because I started out in college as a printmaker, and have made my share of monotypes in the past, there are clear connections in our images and processes. I still use some printmaking approaches in my work--and Christine's approach to monotype is quite painterly. This intersection of media provided an immediate connection. Her layered abstractions are subtle while maintaining strong contrasts in color and texture. It was delightful to meet her and her husband, Robert, and to spend some time in her studio.
Monday, October 02, 2006
  new painting

Over the past few weeks, I've had as many as forty "floating " panels in my studio--ones that haven't found their place in a finished composition. In various stages of paint application, they are tacked up on walls and stacked here and there on the floor, and I move them frequently as I look for configurations that work for me. On Saturday, I had two studio visitors--my artist friend, photographer and media artist Patricia Marroquin Norby, and her friend Carol Gunderson, a Native American beadworker-- and things came together in a fascinating way.

Because my multiple panel paintings aren't bolted together til the end, thinking up new arrangements for the various component pieces is a sort of puzzle that can be worked on endlessly in my studio. I sometimes spend almost as much time moving panels around as I do actually painting, and finding final results that work for me has gotten to be a fairly refined process. There is nothing random about it, and lots of trial and error.

Some people, when they are in my studio, have the idea of joining in this process. It can be an irresistable urge once a person realizes how modular the panels are, how neatly they fit together and how one small change can affect a whole arrangemnt. But for reasons I hope are now obvious, I don't usually encourage their input very much. It's not that I don't appreciate feedback and ideas--I do--but more significant changes happen when an entire panel is moved than through a comment like "how about more contrast?" or "that blue seems a little strong." It's usually better for me if people take my arrangements as a given, and just react the painting as a whole.

But it was odd...somehow when Patricia and Carol went into "how about putting this panel over here" mode, I didn't have my typical, slightly defensive reaction. No gritting of teeth, no sense of being caught between a desire to be open minded and an urge to defend my turf. Maybe it was something in their choice of words or tone of voice, or that I felt they really "saw" and understood my work to an unusual degree. It was, instead, an exciting moment. We moved panels, tossed ideas around and quickly and decisively this painting came together from five already completed panels.

It is 24"x66," comprised of 5 panels. No title as yet. Suggestions?


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       Rebecca Crowell