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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.

Monday, April 30, 2007
  artist interview
An abstract painter that I have corresponded with once in awhile, Glenn Ossiander, was recently interviewed by art writer Molly Barnes. Click here to view this discussion of his art and life. Glenn's paintings have a very fresh, vibrant feeling and brilliant color, and I share his excitement with the effects of layering one color over another, allowing underlying fragments to come through.

He makes some interesting comments about painting that I wish he'd been given latitude to go into in depth...but it's only a half hour long and Molly Barnes kept firing all sorts of questions at him. There is a bit about how he began painting non-representationally that fits in well with my last post and ensuing comments/discussion.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
  thoughts about painting technique
There was a lot of curiosity at my recent opening in Milwaukee about my painting techniques. I was asked (more than once) about how I use wax medium and board panels, how long it took to develop my techniques, and if I worried that other artists would copy them. People also were interested in the process of arranging the panels--the thought process really--if these arrangements are preconceived or arrived at through trial and error.

I did the best I could with these--in some cases the answers are straightforward, in other cases the territory is more murky. I don't really remember, for example, when I started mixing cold wax with my paints, and what led to what on the path to how I now work. I don't consider my techniques to be something static or completely "arrived at" because they're always evolving. And certain things I do vary so much from painting to painting that there is no easy answer. But I tried to be honest and clear in my replies.

Most of the people asking detailed questions about process and technique were other artists--I either knew this from what they said, or guessed by the nature of their questions. I recognize the motivation for such questions as being somewhat personal. Which brings me to the question I found most interesting of all--if I am so open about how I paint, do I worry that other artists will copy or steal my ideas?

This one I'm very clear about, because I have been that person probing into someone else's technique plenty of times myself. Not only in conversation, but also in countless museums and galleries, or with an art book or exhibit catalogue in front of me. I've questioned, wondered, and made notes and thumbnail sketches about color and compositional ideas, the use of line or contrast, and effective combination of media. I've soaked up all kinds of things, some having to do with technique, some with ideas and concepts. It's both admiration for the work of others, but also frankly, an acquisitive process--because I see something in another person's work that I want for my own. Other artists know exactly what I'm talking about here, right?! It's right there in the heart of the creative process, all that taking in and mixing up, and forming new connections and conclusions.

I wonder...could it be that over time, the more influences you integrate into your own work, the more personal and individualized your work becomes?
Monday, April 23, 2007
  more from polderland opening

Here are a few more photos from Friday night's opening in Milwaukee--the first is of the owner of Polderland Gallery, Marina Broere, with her brand new door sign(she has changed the gallery name from MB Gallery.) The other is of myself and my husband, Don, in front of "his" painting, Glen...we have that little joke between us, because in the lead up to the show I asked his opinion of Glen (something did not seem right about it to me.) He thought the contrast was too strong (the upper panels used to be more starkly black and white.) I agreed and spent many hours fine tuning and making it work. When he realized how much time I'd spent on it after his comment he felt a bit bad for me and wondered if he should have said anything! But I value this kind of honest feedback, and I respect his very good eye.

If anyone has by now not had enough photos of the opening, there are more on Marina's blog also.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
  opening at polderland gallery
Here are some photos from Friday night's reception at Polderland Gallery in Milwaukee. It was a memorable night...really one of the most enjoyable openings I've ever had. Lots of people came through (it was an Art Crawl night for the whole building, which helped!) and there were wonderful conversations, questions and reactions--the positive response was really overwhelming.

Thursday, April 19, 2007
  new painting

Here is one more new painting, Aura, 40"x40"--that is already hanging at Polderland Gallery in Milwaukee ready for my opening tomorrow night. It's one of my favorites. I've had the largest panel painted for a couple of months, undecided about whether to display it alone or in a more complex arrangement. When I placed the contrasting panels and that intense ultramarine one around the edges, the whole thing became more vibrant. I was pleased with the large panel in part because I managed to leave it alone at the point you see it, resisting the urge to go back into it one more time, and it feels fresh and lively to me.

Here is the artist statement I wrote for this show--one I've used before actually, with a few changes. They are hard to write...I try to talk mostly about the process rather than telling people what they should get out of the work. but it is always a challenge!

My work arises from various interwoven sources--nature, memories, emotions and personal symbols all play a part, as do purely abstract aspects such as color, texture and contrast that evolve in the act of painting.

Most of my paintings are made of individually painted panels, juxtaposed in ways that evoke for me an idea, place, or situation. The divisions between panels provide contrast, tension and structure. Arriving at the arrangement of panels is as much a part of my process as actually applying paint.

As for technique, I’m very experimental in my approach, using just about anything I can find to make a mark, and to develop complex colors and textures. My tools include brayers, dishwashing scrubbers, squeegees, palette knives, erasers, sponges, foam pads, sticks and yes, the occasional brush. I build surfaces by applying many layers of paint, and also by scraping, gouging and dissolving parts of the layers so that underlying bits emerge. I use tube paint, oil stick and powdered pigments, with a cold wax medium to enhance transparency and to facilitate the layering process.

Each painting is an open-ended exploration, undertaken with a blend of spontaneity and careful analysis. It is my hope that in the end, my work has a certain clarity or integrity that invites contemplation.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
  news from polderland gallery
Marina Broere has written on her blog about her studio/gallery space in Milwaukee, Polderland Gallery, where an exhibit of my work opens this Friday, April 20th at 6pm.

Included in her post is the enlightening explanation of the word "polder." (Not some kind of donut, which was my guess.)

Marina has put a huge amount of work into preparing for my show, which makes me feel quite honored. She has done a great job with publicity, and as it is an Art Crawl and Open Gallery Night in Milwaukee (and pleasant spring weather has at last arrived) we're expecting a good crowd.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
  isthmus link
The e-world continues to amaze me...tonight when checking my blog stats I noticed that a number of recent visitors had linked to my site from an online version of the newspaper The Isthmus, published in Madison WI. What's up with that?? I wondered, and clicked on the referring link. There I discovered a link to the post I wrote yesterday about visiting Parfrey's Glen near Madison, under the heading, "Madison Miscellany." (if you're clicking on that link after today, 4/15, I suspect you'll get the current day's page, but you can always search--or just take my word for it!)

It definitely made my day. Or perhaps I'm just easily amazed...
Saturday, April 14, 2007
  glen again

Today I was back at Parfrey's Glen (see March 26 post) a beautiful spot near Madison WI. On this mild spring afternoon, melting icicles added drips and splashes to the watery sounds of the small stream, which over eons has carved this deep gorge. A late snowfall had left the trail icy and very slippery in places (I did wonder just how crazy I was to be hiking up there alone)...but lots of green shoots were coming up and the moss glowed against the remaining drifts.

The painting shown here was inspired by memories of visiting this spot a number of years ago with my two boys. (I have reworked it a bit since my original posting of it in March, enhancing the color and softening the darks and lights a bit.) That visit was in the fall, and the high contrasts in the painting evoked for me the drama of the setting--they weren't meant to be realistic. But the funny thing is that today, the actual colors around me corresponded very closely to the colors in the painting--the snow, dark rock and new spring greens. Today I saw my painting over and over again along the trail.

The stop at the Glen helped break up a long day of driving to and from Madison to deliver my paintings to Marina Broere for my upcoming show at her gallery in Milwaukee. She and her husband kindly met me mid-way, to spare me the last leg of the drive from Madison to Milwaukee. We had a nice lunch at a Chinese place before transferring paintings from my van to their truck. I felt some relief at having this body of work change hands, at least for the next month or so. I'm ready to take a small break and then move on with new pieces already begun.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
  new painting
I'm not really cranking these out as fast as it might seem from the past few posts--it's just that I'm finishing up a body of work that I will exhibit at Polderland Gallery in Milwaukee, with an opening next Friday evening, April 20th, from 6:30-9 pm. As each is bolted together and complete, I'm taking photos and will soon add all of these recent works to my main website.

This painting, Canyon, is 54"x 36". The bottom panel has more detail and color than shows in this photo...it's always hard to capture the nuances in these high contrast paintings.
Saturday, April 07, 2007
  new paintings

These are Column #13 and #14 in my ongoing series, and are 89"x12" and 86"x12" respectively. They are the paintings that rode out to NM in the back of my van last week.

Since my art brain doesn't generally come up with long-term projects or goals for "x' number of paintings with a particular focus, it surprises me to have carried on the Column Series for so long. This was not something I planned when the idea first evolved over three years ago. Since this is the only series I've ever sustained for more than a couple of paintings, I really don't know how long I'll stay with it, but for now the format still intrigues me.

It's a more direct approach to arranging panels than my other, more complex and often asymmetrical approaches. Within the basic simplicity of one panel above another, the challenge is to find tension and balance in juggling all the art elements in play--light and dark values, quiet and active textures, neutrals and strong colors. I want each Column to be an individual, able to stand alone with an atmosphere and presence of its own. At the same time, because I tend to create them in groups of two or three at once, there's often a unified feeling within each group, the result of working back and forth (and often trading panels) between them.

In their final stage, all the panels for each Column are mounted together on a cradle of ash boards that "floats" the painting out from the wall. Coating the sides with flat white gesso is the finishing touch.
Thursday, April 05, 2007
  home again

We staggered in at 11pm last night, after 20+ hours on the road, topped off by a break-down on a back road 45 minutes from home. That meant an extra 2-3 hours engaged in the sort of activities that you would expect, dealing with motor club, tow truck, transferring stuff to our other cars in the parking lot of the repair shop in the blast of a freezing early spring wind. But I guess in 3000 miles over mountains and through deserts and major cities, we did pass by a lot of worse places to break down.

Here are two photos of a more pleasant leg of the trip, the drive from Colorado to NM. It was an extremely scenic route on two-lane roads, through several mountain passes and across broad valleys and rolling hills.

Things in Santa Fe are currently a bit up in the air due to gallery personnel changes..I'm not sure quite where I will land when things settle out. I'm confident that all will end well, but I'm going to have to call on reserves of patience and optimism to get me through the next couple of weeks! I did drop off two Column paintings, talked with some key people and had a nice afternoon walking around Canyon Road with my husband. Although dealing with uncertainty is a bit nerve-wracking, the bottom line is that I'm willing to bide my time and to jump through a few more hoops if necessary.

Speaking of nerve-wracking, as I unwrapped the two Column paintings I was delivering at the gallery, I discovered a gouge in the surface of one panel--about 1/4" across--very noticeable. And also very perplexing, since the panel had been covered with bubble pack the whole trip. Fortunately, my textured surfaces are quite forgiving, and after a run to Artisan, a nearby art supply store for paint and wax (it's so huge and well-stocked--I tried not to be too distracted!) I was able to make a decent repair. At Artisan I bought my only NM souvenir of this trip--a tube of Williamsburg NM Earth, made especially for the store and displayed temptingly by the checkout counter. I'm looking forward to trying it out later today as I make my way to the studio through piles of laundry and duffel bags awaiting unpacking.
Monday, April 02, 2007
  NM update
Well this will be a quick post...written in an internet cafe in Santa Fe, about to deliver some paintings to my new gallery. I will write more later! For now, I'll just say it's been a great trip so far...it was back to winter for a few days in the mountains up past Denver, wonderful cross-country skiing (I even managed to enjoy snow--which I was very tired of back in Wisconsin.)Then yesterday, a spectacular drive down to NM, the full moon rising over the Sangre de Christo mountains. I'll post some pictures later...for now, off to Canyon Road.


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       Rebecca Crowell