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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, February 28, 2007
  snow..and more snow
Close to two feet of snow fell last weekend, and more, much more is predicted starting tonight. I'm not posting any photos...we've probably all seen enough of them from around the country in the past few weeks and frankly I'm just tired of the whole white scene. I will just comment that yesterday when I dug out my car and got into town it was the first time I'd been anywhere since last Thursday. Now I don't really expect to get out again until Friday or Saturday.

Thankfully my studio is only a short slog across the backyard. So in an attempt to find the silver lining in this dark snowy cloud, I'll say that these conditions are ideal for focusing on getting a lot of new paintings finished. I didn't even have the diversion of internet for two days, after a huge avalanche slid off our metal roof and clobbered the satellite dish.
Saturday, February 24, 2007
  new gallery
I'm very pleased to announce my newest gallery affiliation, with 707 Contemporary, located on Canyon Road in Santa Fe. I visited this classy, beautiful gallery in October. Unlike many Canyon Road galleries that are housed in charming old adobes, 707 has a modern structure, and a light, airy and spacious feeling. Although I love the older buildings, I could more easily imagine my work in 707. Fortunately, so could Janine Stern, the director, when I contacted her with one of my portfolio packets. She has received my first painting (Veil, pictured here: 48"x24" oil on panel, 2006) and called today to say she loves it.

I plan to deliver more work when my husband and I drive out to NM at the end of March, the latest of many trips to this area. I'm so attracted to the landscape, the culture, and the long history of artists, writers and other creative people associated with Taos and Santa Fe. Friends and family living in the area have made visiting especially pleasurable and easy.

Because of this ongoing connection with Santa Fe and surrounding cities, being accepted by this gallery has a bit of a"meant to be" aspect to it. On the other hand, I've trekked up and down Canyon Road plenty of times in the past with little hope of ever showing there. It seemed closed off to me as a Midwesterner, and I wondered if my work was ready for the classier contemporary places. So now, as well as feeling that this is "right" in the natural progression of things, I'm also feeling a bit amazed. I'm excited to see how things play out, and looking forward to working with Janine and her associates.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
  studio visitors
This afternoon the art club from New Auburn WI visited my studio, as part of a day they spent learning about art life beyond graduation (they also toured the art department of a local university. ) So, 21 students and their teacher shuffled through the mud and melting ice (yes, it's lovely!) to my studio. I had put up a few older paintings so they could see something of my progress over the years, talked a little about abstraction, and did a short demo with my various tools and materials.

I was impressed with the eagerness on the part of 5 or 6 of them to ask questions...everything from what kind of music do I listen to while painting to inquiring about my favorite color. One guy got right to the point, within the first five minutes--how much do you sell these for? (Gasps and murmurs all around at my reply.) There was a also a general buzz of appreciation when I showed them a poster put out by the Ampersand company (manufacturers of Gessobord panels that features my paintings. This is a career that can even include product endorsements!

But they also responded well to the work itself and to what I explained of my process, with thoughtful questions about whether I have definite ideas in mind from the start and if I ever change course as I work on the painting. They seemed to "get" that the work was created intuitively and expressed something personal to me. Overall it was an interesting half hour or so. I didn't have much of anything planned out to say, which is just as well since I ended up letting the questions take over.

Afterwards I wondered what they may have gained from this experience... if maybe a few would be motivated or inspired in some way. Besides the ones asking questions, there were also a few quieter students who seemed drawn in, and several kids offered comments and thanks to me on their way out. It made me remember times during my own growing up years when I was able to clearly imagine an art-centered life after meeting someone who had one.

A bigger wonder was if I'd given them at all a realistic impression of this life. Of course, I didn't have a lot of time...but still...I know I left out some important points. Like about the hard work, the strong commitment and of course the thick skin and focus that it takes to keep going. And about how hard it is to beat the odds and make an actual income. And about the down times and discouragement that most of us feel at some point. Oh, it could have been dark!

Of course, had I gone on like that, it would have made for a rather odd field trip, if field trips are meant to open doors of possibility...I do hope that instead I conveyed the joy and excitement of doing what I love, and maybe that's enough. Only experience can really convey the rest of it anyway, and if any of those kids do take this crazy path in life, they'll go through it all.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
  new paintings

I have a lot of paintings in progress right now but not many that are actually finished, bolted together and photographed. In fact, these two Column paintings are all for now. They are each 69"x12", so quite a a bit shorter than the rest of the paintings in my ongoing Column series. This may be the start of a new series, as I have two more in progress that are of similar dimensions.

It's been a very busy week in the studio...I've been spending a couple of hours more per day there than is my usual habit. And I've had several paintings come together very nicely, at least one more that I'll probably just hide away for now, and a number of 'starts" that look promising.

Orderliness and general tidiness (never my strong points) have gone by the wayside. It is a big mess in the studio, which is OK for me--but I'm having a class of high school kids visit this week on Wednesday, so maybe I should try for a little straightening up. On the other hand shouldn't they get to experience typical, normal chaos? It would give them a more realistic idea of studio life (mine at least). Ah, rationalization. I'd rather paint than clean.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
I've been working towards an exhibit which will run from April 20-May 19 at Polderland Gallery (formerly MB Gallery) in downtown Milwaukee's Arts Building. The gallery is a wonderful space that is both intimate and light-filled, and doubles as the painting studio of painter Marina Broere. Opening night, 4/20, coincides with Milwaukee's Spring Art Crawl, when many local galleries hold receptions and events.

In order to create enough work for this show, as well as to supply various other galleries, I've been putting in a lot of painting hours. Things are going well...right now it seems that the more I paint, the more fired up I get, and the more ideas flow into my brain at 5:00 a.m. (or whenever I happen to be lying awake.) It's a time of high energy and productivity...in spite of it being February, a dreary month in Wisconsin. (The studio is a great distraction from gray skies and subzero temperatures.)

With a new gallery on the horizon and good sales of work overall, I think the need to be more productive is probably not just a temporary situation. No complaints--this is a problem I'm happy to solve! I guess that answers will come--they usually do in a "sink or swim" situation.

A couple of thoughts I've had (and it would be great to get a discussion going with others who have been in this situation...let's say a bit overwhelmed with commitments.) One thing is to have a lot of paintings in progress at the same time--going from one to another as things reach a stopping point. My studio motto these days is "keep moving."

On the other hand I hate the thought of just cranking things out--I don't want to lose the thoughtful quality that I value in my work. My solution so far is to keep the "finished" ones in full view (I've had to clear some more wall space) so that I continue to look at them every day. Over a week or so of seeing them in at least my peripheral vision, I notice things that need to be reworked.

The last thought is about mental focus, about keeping higher energy and momentum. What I have now seems to be inspired by necessity, aided by a shot of adrenaline when I think about my commitments. But I'm working on a few changes in my personal life that I hope will help sustain it over time. Nothing too huge, because that never works, does it? Just being more aware how I tend to procrastinate and give in to things I don't really want to do, and being more conscious of scheduling my time.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
  things happen
This post comes under the heading of "things happen for a reason" (and assorted other cliches such as, "when one door closes another opens" and my dad's favorite, "illigitemi non carborundum"...if I have that spelled right...and no I'm not going to translate.)

Remember the post I did awhile back about rejection (see 1/17)? I was hoping that gallery would take me of course, but being turned down meant that I dove into my photo portfolio submission project in earnest...convinced that I had a chance with other galleries in the same area, which was one I thought would be great for my work. Over the course of a week and a half, I sent out a pile of photo packets.

And as a result I've now been contacted by two of the galleries in my target area. The first one that called did so within a week of getting the portfolio (which was a big surprise--I expected the whole process of getting someone's attention would take weeks, during which I'd have to make a pest of myself with follow up phone calls, emails etc.)

This is a gallery that I've visited in person, and found very beaustiful and classy. It had become my top choice gallery. So--I'm sending them a painting this week, and we'll see how things play out. I'm not quite ready to say which gallery and where, since things are still a bit uncertain, but if all goes well I'll give details pretty soon. All I can say now is that I am really pleased and excited.
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
  making photo pages
A couple of people have asked me how I make the photo pages posted on 1/19 that I use for gallery submissions, so here are directions and tips. I need to credit painter Glenn Ossiander for the basic idea for these, which he shared with me a few years ago.

To make photo pages: (I use a PC--there may be differences for a Mac.)

In Microsoft Word (or other word processing program) create a header and footer for your name at the top, contact info below. Use one font, but experiment with sizes, colors and other settings to find something pleasing. Use this same format for every page you send out as a group. (I do think it's OK to have both "landscape" and "portrait" formats in a group of photos, so I use whichever is appropriate to the painting.)

Then create a text box (under "insert" on the tool bar) and into it insert a photo of your work from your picture files. (I'm not going to go into that, but it's pretty self-explanatory once you do it.) You'll have to experiment with the size for the photo--most of mine seem are about 800 pixels high/600 wide. The text box can be moved around to find the best placement. Then add another smaller textbox for the info on that particular image, title, size etc. Again, experiment and find a good type size and settings, but use the same font throughout your page. Make sure things are centered as you want them.

When you're ready to print, go to "properties" for printing options (from the initial printing box that appears when you push print.) Here's a great tip I learned--select "transparency" or "film" for your paper type, even though you're actually printing onto paper (preferably the very highest, professional quality.) Also select the "best" or "high" setting for print quality. You can also choose "preview before printing" to make sure everything looks good.

If you are printing several pages of photos (I have a set of 10 I'm sending out) save all of them into one file in your documents so it's easy to just click through the whole batch instead of searching for them here and there in various picture files (as I have always done in the past.)

I've been sending out ten photo pages in a packet to each contact, using a nice, laminated 2-pocket folder (look for the kind with little tabs at the inside corners to hold everything in place.) I include a cover letter, resume, SASE and artist statement too, of course. You could add anything else you have such as a brochure, or whatever is requested by the gallery. Have your packet weighed at the post office the first time, and purchase plenty of appropriate stamps so you can do postage at home. Mine cost $2.55 for each envelope (outside and return.) Another thing to watch for, if you change paper brands for some reason mid-way, the weight may change and your postage will be off. (I learned this the hard way.)

And finally, some more advice learned the hard way: If you are going to mail out a bunch of these, don't start with the galleries that you're dying to get into. It's counter-intuitive I know--but start at the other end of your priority list. You're bound to discover things that you want to change as you go along, or discover something crucial you left out (my inital set of photos lacked my email address!) and you won't have to cringe thinking of who got your first attempts.
Saturday, February 03, 2007
I just left the studio with a lot more questions than answers, which I guess is a good thing, but a bit unsettling. I tried something really different for me, pressing charcoal gesture drawings into wet paint, with fresh and interesting results--but so unlike anything else I've done that I can't quite see claiming them as my own. They're so...figurative. I'll probably end up obscuring the drawings with layers of paint, so I'm not posting any images at this point. I suspect they are just a step in some process that has yet to unfold.

Also in the past few days I have totally destroyed two paintings that I considered close to done and bound for my upcoming show in Milwuakee. I went back into them and made changes that led to other changes, and pretty soon there was not enough left of the original idea to pursue. It is a hard thing to learn, over and over, that destruction often leads to a better creation. There is that long moment when you just feel kind of sick over the loss of what at least had the potential to be good. But I've had this experience so many times, I know what to do...take a deep breath and repeat the magic mantra..."Trust in the process."


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       Rebecca Crowell