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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 30, 2007
  new paintings
This is Nomen, 60"x30" oil on board. I finished it and the painting below, Anagama (78"x24" oil on board) in the past week or so, and will be shipping them out to Wilde Meyer Gallery in Scottsdale as soon as they are safely dry. I'm going to be part of a group show of abstract artists at the Tucson location of Wilde Meyer in January, so I'm starting to push towards that show.

I played around with my new color ideas in the center panel of Nomen (it's hard to see that in the photo, but you can click on the image for a larger view.) The paint was deliberately layered in contrasting bright colors, which come through in bits and pieces in the final layers. This has always happened in my work, but usually the layering tends to be the result of re-working, rather than forethought. It's kind of gratifying to realize that something that you've been doing all along can be done more efficiently, and perhaps more powerfully, by giving it conscious attention.

Anagama is named for a type of Japanese wood fired kiln...a word that has entered my vocabulary due to my son's passion for ceramics (there are abstracted images of fire and pots in this painting, rather obscured as is my tendency.) Something about the clay firing process fascinates me...not in any technical sense (I know little about that)--but the idea of it, the stoking of hot fires for many hours on end, the raw clay becoming functional vessels, and the beautiful surface effects created by the heat of the wood firing.

Monday, October 29, 2007
  itinerant artist visit, part two
Here is Jim Mulligan, the cameraman shooting for the Today Show (on the left) with Jim Mott of the Itinerant Artist Project, shortly before Jim Mott's departure this morning. Jim and Jim had each scored a deuce (2 shots from the tee) on hole #1 of my husband Don's 18-hole disc golf course. No time to play on to the rest, but it was a remarkable feat for two novices to the game-- and a nice send off for both.

Although I think I successfully avoided being caught on film yesterday, there was no escape today. One shot that was required was of me choosing two paintings from those that Jim finished while here (the final selection is up to Jim; he takes them all home with him to scan and document, then ships one back.) Don and I had decided on two the night before, the center and left pictures on the bottom row in the photo below. These show the scenic overlook near our house, and a view of our side yard. Hard to pick, they all were very nice. I was also very drawn to the image of the single chair (top left.)

The camera pointed my way again for a few direct questions about my impressions of the visit and of Jim's project overall. I tried very hard not to imagine the millions who might be seeing this! In spite of that discomfort, I was glad to speak about Jim's sincerity and focus, and how challenging I imagine what he does must be--to be so "out there" with his art, offering it up in exchange for the basics of daily living while on tour. The thing is, he's a modest, humble guy, and his project pushes him into somewhat uncomfortable and unfamiliar aspects of human interaction. But he's very charming and likable, and probably most people tend to open up to him as we did.

All the media attention aside (Jim also had a phone interview with Canadian Public Radio this morning) the visit was wonderful. I highly recommend hosting Jim, to anyone (artist or not) so inclined. He is also seeking exhibition venues at colleges and universities, and all of the paintings that he does not use as exchange on his trip are for sale--as are prints and notecards of his work--on his website.

PS: I've had a few inquiries about when the segment filmed here will be aired on the Today Show. It will probably be within the next month or so--there needs to be a more extensive interview done with Jim when he gets home (to Rochester, NY) and after that the footage must be edited and produced. The final piece will only be about 5 minutes long. Amazing what goes into such a short story!
Sunday, October 28, 2007
  itinerant artist's visit

Jim Mott's visit would have been enough weekend excitement by itself...but NBC's Today Show heard about his Itinerant Artist Project and chose his stay with us to film for a segment of Bob Dotson's American Story series. (When a producer from the Today show called me Thursday to set things up, my husband and I had trouble believing this was for real and not, perhaps, an elaborate hoax. But we played along, and good thing too--because it was no prank at all.) Filming took place today and there is a bit more to do tomorrow morning.

I tagged along for most of the day as Jim was filmed painting--first at a nearby scenic overlook and then at the Norske Nook, a restaurant in Osseo, WI--close to our house and well known for its pies and home cooking. Besides trading paintings for staying in people's homes across the US, Jim has added a new twist to his current trip--he is attempting to spend no money except for gas, and to this end has successfully bartered paintings for food, admission to a museum, hotel lodging and even to pay off a speeding ticket. The cameraman for the Today show wanted to capture him bartering for lunch at the Norske Nook...and the manager there was very pleased with the idea (I guess it didn't hurt to have the attention from NBC either.) In fact she gave all 3 of us lunch and pie. With a nod to pop artist Wayne Thiebaud, Jim pulled off a very nice little pie painting, performing admirably under pressure (fellow painters, imagine doing this with TV camera rolling.)

There is more to tell about the weekend--besides Jim's visit, Chicago encaustic painter Kathleen Waterloo also stopped by today on her way back from her opening at Circa Gallery in Minneapolis last night. Her show was stunning, and it was also the grand opening at Circa's new location, so it was quite a party (my husband and I were there too.) Kathleen couldn't stay long, but we had a great talk and studio visit...I hope to keep in touch with her in the future.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
  call for hosts
This coming weekend I'm expecting a visit from Jim Mott who is staying with us as part of his Itinerant Artist Project. I'm not sure of all the details of his current trip, but the basic idea of his project is that he travels the country, staying with willing hosts--in return, he gives them a small painting done at their location. The hosts are usually non-artists, and he asks for nothing special in accommodations. He generally stays for several days in one place, but he just emailed that he would be interested in an overnight stay in the Sioux City, IA area later this week (I think he means for Friday night.)

If you're a potential host, please email Jim at jhmott@juno.com, and pass this on if you know of someone else who might be interested. To find out more about Jim's project, click here for an article recently published in the Christian Science Monitor. I'll be posting my own report about his visit here soon.
Monday, October 22, 2007
  reception at darnell

These pictures were taken at Darnell Fine Art, on Canyon Road in Santa Fe, where I had an "unofficial" opening and reception on Thursday night. Unofficial because it wasn't on the regular calendar of shows--it just came about when Janine, the director, heard I was making a trip west. I made sure I had enough work there to justify such a thing--and although two of my paintings got held up in transit (DHL!) I had eight on display.

The reception, and even my little talk, went very well (I'm not a fan of public speaking, but I'm OK with a bit of advance warning.) Really, it was a lot of fun, and a decent turn out for a Thursday evening.

It was also a preview of my "real" opening at Darnell, which will be a year from now, a solo show in October of '08. This news came a bit before the reception, and I spent some time looking over the space I will be given--the three front rooms of the old adobe that houses the gallery.

This is the last installment of my road trip report--if you're just starting to read, you can scroll down to October 20 and back up to get the right order.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
  on canyon road
Where I come from, you would not see a painting hanging on the outside of a gallery...I think it's great. That is my painting, Aura, on the porch at Darnell Fine Art.

Prior to the reception at 4pm on Thursday, I spent most of the day wandering up and down Canyon Road. I loved having no agenda--for the first time in years of visiting the galleries along this street, I was not scouting around, or checking them out or wondering if they would maybe, maybe, maybe give my work a chance. I could just enjoy the art and engage in conversation if I felt like it...very relaxing.

I made it to most of my favorite galleries, and admit (if it's not too tacky) that I felt a bit smug about the ones that have turned me down in the past. It's hard to be a really evolved soul when dealing with rejection and competition, that much is clear! Well, they always have their reasons when they say no, and since I'm really pleased with how things are at Darnell, I guess it was for the best.
  flagstaff and phoenix
We spent last Sunday up in the mountains near Flagstaff, taking a few short hikes and lots of photos. The golden aspen leaves, the mountain views, the perfect weather--only superlatives come to mind as I try to describe this...guess I could throw in a few very dusty, rutty roads, and surprisingly large numbers of other people and cars for good balance. Like our other days in Flagstaff, this day was punctuated by delicious meals at various restaurants (suggested by our son, eager to escape dorm food.)

On Monday, we took a day trip to Phoenix and Scottsdale so that I could visit Wilde Meyer Gallery and meet the folks there. After a year and a half, and quite a few of my paintings sold, it seemed time to make personal contact. The gallery on Marshall Way in Scottsdale is very attractive... several medium sized rooms with Chinese antique furniture and animal sculptures set on the tile floor, which nicely complemented the 2-D work. The photo to the left gives a sense of the colors and textures of the gallery...my work isn't visible, but you can see one of my e-pen pal Patricia Oblack's paintings on the left wall near the back of this view.

After the gallery visit, we met up with our old friend from student days at Arizona State, Timothy Chapman, who also shows at Wilde Meyer. Don went off to play disc golf, and Timothy and I had a nice time drinking coffee and driving around in his truck, including a stop to see a second Wilde Meyer location a mile or so up the road. Later, as Don and I left Scottsdale, we drove through a bit of Tempe, amazed at the changes since we left in 1985. How is it possible that Tempe now has a beach?? When we lived there the Salt River (on which this beach is now located) was a dry gulch for most of the year. Mind-boggling. Everything looked much more developed, built up...we didn't even bother to go looking for the little house we owned near ASU. Nothing is constant but change I guess. Trip report continues tomorrow...
Saturday, October 20, 2007
  road trip report

I'm just back from an extraordinary road trip to Arizona and New Mexico...eight fully packed days and way too many hours in the car. Of course I'm tired, and will soon enough be mired in the details of re-entry after time away. But for now I just want to say that I'm really grateful for the whole experience--the vast and beautiful western landscapes, great visits with family and friends--and pleased too with the business side of things, which went very well (my visit to Wilde Meyer in Scottsdale and the reception at Darnell Fine Art.) The photo above was taken in Flagstaff, our first destination. I will post more photos and details soon.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
  new painting

This is Iz, 64"x24", oil on board. At the photo retreat last weekend I got a few tips for getting better images of my paintings--to shoot in "raw" mode (I had seen it on my menu, yes, but had barely wondered what it was!) I'm also playing a bit with manual settings instead of shooting in automatic. In this image, both the light and dark panels are coming through pretty well, so I'm pleased.

The particular shade of red that dominates the large bottom panel--it is called Antique Red, by Sennelier--is very appealing to me.It's intense and somewhat bright, but not like a cadmium color--I think o fit as a more subtle, natural color.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
  another photo

I forgot to include this photo with the others in my last post--it's one of my favorites, from the series I took of grape vines and leaves.
Sunday, October 07, 2007
  photography retreat

I've just come back from a weekend photo retreat at Villa Maria in Frontenac, MN. ..tired but full of thoughts about photography and my creative direction. The workshop included a focus on spirituality in a broad sense--awareness of beauty, being present in our surroundings, being open to receiving insights and direction from beyond our ordinary chattering brains. Meditation sessions were held each of the two mornings, and readings and discussions preceded each of our forays out to take photos on the beautiful grounds of the retreat center. The idea was to use the camera as a tool of reflection--to heighten awareness of what resonates for each of us in the world or when turning the camera on ourselves. We had several assignments including spending an hour in one area to explore its photographic possibilities in depth, taking a series of self-portraits, and making photos as a small group (photographing each other,)

There were five other women besides myself, plus the workshop leader, Wade Britzius. For me it was refreshing to explore an art form in which I claim no expertise at all, at the same time surrounded by people who were quite knowledgeable about photography and intent on their work. As a group we shot hundreds of photos, which we then edited into a short slide show last night--an interesting process in itself as everyone had sorted through their stuff on computers, choosing a dozen or so each, while others looked on and made comments.

I don't mean to say that I'm a beginner at photography--I've taken countless photos of the usual subjects--family events, travel, friends. And I have stacks of my own photos in my studio of rocks, lichens, foliage and grasses, clouds, water... (I never copy these directly but refer to their colors and textures for inspiration.) I have a good digital camera to take pictures of my paintings, and my knowledge of how to use it has been sufficient to produce decent, if not wonderful, images.

But for all that experience, I've only occasionally thought of photography as anything but a means to an end--to document something, or to provide a painting reference. Sometimes I've been lucky and actual art has occurred, but not with much intention on my part.

This weekend opened up the idea of approaching photography with the same eyes I use as a painter, to be far more aware of composition and content. I'm suddenly much more interested in taking photos for their own sakes. At the same time, I can't help but mull over what connection this might have to my painting. I've always believed that the "real" world energizes my abstraction, so maybe paying more attention to it through the camera's eye will feed this connection.

In addition to the photo at the top of this post are a few more from the weekend, below. Interesting that many of my favorites were shot in black and white. There are several grape vines, since I chose a grape arbor as the place to spend my hour of investigation. The shadow image is from the session when we broke into small groups, and last is a self portrait.

Friday, October 05, 2007
  new painting
This is Vertical #11, 90"x12" on board. It's one of the paintings I've earmarked for Darnell Fine Art in Santa Fe.

It's been an unseasonably hot day here, which in the fall tends to bring out swarms of pesky Asian lady beetles. Today's photos session involved a lot of pauses to flick beetles off my paintings..they were all over the outside wall where I take my pictures. There--a gritty little glimpse of my life in rural Wisconsin. It was a sticky, hot day in the studio, with lots of all my favorite insects of the season--not just the little lady beetles (which bite and stink) but wasps, flies and box elder beetles.

I am very happy now to be off to the photo retreat weekend mentioned in yesterday's post.

PS: please click on the photo for a larger view, then hit your "back" arrow.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
  no down time
It continues to be a challenge to keep one step ahead of what is needed and requested by my galleries, but somehow, so far, it's still working. Or should I say. I'm still working (constantly) ...by putting in my studio time, and doing whatever is next, I've been able to finish quite a bit of new work. Ideas, energy, focus--these things have not deserted me, and for that I'm very grateful. I'll be shipping some of the new work to Santa Fe and hauling some there, and also to Scottsdale, when I go West next week.

I guess I did have a bit of a break in mind for after the road trip...but that is not to be. Requests from my St. Louis gallery as well as an invitation to participate in a group show in January in Tucson mean I can't let up yet. Which is not a complaint, really! It's been very crazy/busy lately, but it's all good.

Of course, the trip to the Southwest will be a break of sorts (though not especially relaxing, I think) and this weekend, I'll be at a photography retreat in Minnesota. The workshop, Seeing Into Life: Photography as Sacred Vision will be led by my friend Wade Britzius--a photographer and teacher of nonviolent communication, and all-around wonderful person. I guess I'm hoping it will add a little extra energy and inspiration to get me through the next few months.
Monday, October 01, 2007
  new painting
Here is one of the new paintings I've been working on...this one doesn't have a title yet. It's 50"x30," oil on board.

A couple of weeks ago in my post "ruts and grooves" I said I felt I was in a color rut. Since then I've been working with two strategies, one of which is evident in this painting. That idea is to have more colors and brighter colors working together in certain panels, getting away from my tendency to stick with closely related or monochromatic colors. I like the effect in this painting of the various colors appearing in bits and pieces. My friend Sally commented that this is how bright color often appears in nature. Like a flower, a fallen leaf on a rock, or bits of sky seen through branches. Below is a detail of the color/texture of the middle panel.

The other idea I've been working with is to build up my color layers in a more deliberate way. If I anticipate a dark color as the final state of a panel, I'm deliberately applying several layers of intense color first, then selectively scratching, gouging and rubbing through--a bit like a scratch board technique. This has enlivened some of the earthier color panels I was getting frustrated with in my earlier post.

In a way it's nothing new for me--my work has involved lots of interaction between paint layers for quite a while now. But it's usually been more the result of trial and error than forethought. It feels good to take control of a technique that I've been using rather unconsciously--seems like the best way to push and develop it. At the same time, I want to avoid a formulaic approach--surprise and experimentation are part of what keep me in the studio.


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       Rebecca Crowell