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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.

Sunday, January 27, 2008
  new painting

This is called Thicket, and it is 48"square. It was a challenging painting to resolve, because of the visual weight of the upper right panel. In the end, I added considerably more texture and depth to the other panels, allowing the eye to roam around rather than to be pulled and stuck to the upper right.

Along the way, I experimented with different arrangements, and different panels--but I kept coming back to this configuration, compelled by getting it to work. I liked the tension derived from the slightly out-of balance feeling of this painting, but I did not want it to seem randomly or haphazardly put together, and I wanted the quiet, meditative feeling that characterizes much of my work to be there.

The title comes from a childhood memory, very strong, of playing in the backyard and crawling into some thick underbrush--it was winter, and I found myself hidden and surrounded by leafless stalks and branches. At that moment, I felt very isolated from the rest of the world, and completely a part of nature. There were a few other times like that when I was little, when I had that sense of merging with nature. A few times after I grew up too...

I used to always mention these experiences in my artist statements, because they have been such a catalyst to making art they way that I do...but I stopped doing that at some point. I guess I realized that probably a lot of people have these experiences, or others of a similar spiritual bent. And it seemed a bit pretentious, or maybe just overly personal, to go on about my own. Actually, I'm surprising myself by writing about this in my blog--it's not what I had planned to do. But Thicket has led me to these thoughts...and maybe my blog is a good place for them--more personal than an artist statement, and not necessarily a one-sided monologue.

PS: I just realized that I wrote "Thicket has led me to these thoughts" rather than the other way around--which tells you quite a bit about my process.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
  new painting
Tentatively titled Rust, this one is 42"x42," oil on board.

Here is something I'm thinking about.

On Monday night, insomnia plagued me for most of the night, and finally at 4;30 a.m. I was seized with the idea of painting. (Am I obsessed, or possessed, or what?) So I left the warm bed, made coffee, bundled up (it was below zero) and headed across the back yard to my studio. The scene around me was really beautiful. A full moon, low in the sky, washed the fields with luminous white. The twigs on the lilac bush by my studio steps were each dusted with new snow, and there was a crispness and clarity to the atmosphere unique to the time of day and the deep winter surroundings.

After starting a fire in the wood stove, I worked steadily until about 8:30 a.m., all that time aware of the sky growing lighter--which is, of course, the opposite of my usual experience of gradually losing the natural light. There was something magic about working in those hours, a feeling of expansiveness and possibility. When my lack of sleep finally hit, I went back to the house and slept until noon, but continued to feel creatively energized for the rest of the day, and I was amazed at what I accomplished.

I can't imagine keeping those hours very often--I really do NOT consider myself a morning person! But it was an interesting experience. I used to occasionally go to my studio very early when I was in grad school, with similar good results, but I haven't thought of doing it for a long time.

Years ago, I read someplace that people are potentially very creative and focused in the pre-dawn hours...maybe I'll try this once in awhile, at least when I can't sleep anyway.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
  new painting
This is Summit, 24"x18," oil on board. I've been interested lately in this format--I've done several so far that are similar to my larger paintings in composition but much smaller in scale.

Having no immediate plans to send this little painting anywhere makes me happy, because for months I've been shipping or delivering almost everything as soon as I'm done. Yes I know it's great to have that demand for my work, and I appreciate that a lot--but there is a downside. The process of digesting and learning from the work is rushed, and besides that I don't even get long to enjoy my own paintings.

Now, in the months leading up to my solo show at Darnell Fine Art in Santa Fe, in July, things will be different--I'm hoping to hold onto a lot of what I do until then. I'll ship enough to NM to cover the rest of winter and spring, but that's a fairly slow time in Santa Fe, and I think that my other galleries are pretty well set. I have one delivery of large work to make to my St. Louis gallery within the next few weeks, and after that it's full speed ahead to the Santa Fe show.

So--deep breath! One show, 14 or so paintings--a body of work that I can hold back, learn from and enjoy until delivery time in early July. It will be a challenge to pull it all off, but it seems like (potentially at least) a more clearly focused time than I have had for awhile.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
  managing time
After my last post in which I declared my intention to finish a painting a week, Diane McGregor emailed to ask, OK, but how? She suggested a blog post on the topic, and since I've actually been working at nearly this pace for about six months now, I guess I can offer some tips. (Though I fear this may be a bit boring.)

First, an observation about how it feels to work at a faster and more intense pace. On a good day, I can feel really positive effects--I'm more efficient, less distracted, more focused, more able to know which color or technique I need to use. Better creative flow, for longer periods of time. As near as I can tell, this is a direct result of practice and producing a lot of work. Although I sometimes feel burned out, it hasn't been a huge problem--nothing a day or two away from the paint won't cure.

My work is very time intensive, though, so I don't want to give the picture that I'm just whizzing along. Each panel in my multiple panel work has layer upon layer of paint, and every painting is the result of many different panel arrangements tried and rejected. Given this, the following tips are things that I've found help me be most productive:

Having lots of stuff going at once: for me that means piles of panels in various stages of completion. When I come to a stopping point on one, I can move onto the next. When I'm really under pressure, my mantra is, keep moving. Every painting needs time to be contemplated and analyzed--but I think most of us can sense when that is productive and when it is going nowhere.

Art supply considerations
: I try to keep plenty of everything on hand that I normally use, and I treat myself often to different tools and colors of paint...I find it very energizing to have new things to play with. Also, In my work, pre-gessoed panels (I use Ampersand gessobord) save huge amounts of time in that they are ready to use after removing the wrapping, and Dorlands Wax Medium speeds up drying time of the oil paint.

Logistics of dealing with finished work
: I used to spend a lot of time photographing my work, and when I had to package and ship something out it seemed like a fresh problem every time. Mostly because I do all of these things more frequently now, I have my routines in place and they take little time or thought. I take almost everything to Pak Mail for packaging, and they allow me to ship from there using my own personal DHL account (this is a money-saver...I drop off the printed waybill with the work.)

: I'm sure this one is obvious. To keep my studio time as a top priority, I schedule whatever appointments, errands, meetings etc. I can after 3pm, which gives me most of the day to work before having to leave home. Also, if I'm expecting an important call, I take my phone to the studio, but otherwise I usually let the answering machine take over. Email works well for keeping up with most of my friends and family--I can do it when I'm taking a break anyway.

; During my studio day, I tend to work in about 2-hour stretches, broken up by meals, email, walking with the dog, blogging (!) and those ever-helpful caffeine breaks. This is a good pace for me, and I can put in 6-8 hours of studio work a day.

So that's about it from my perspective...everybody has their own issues and methods I'm sure. Comments and further tips appreciated!
Sunday, January 13, 2008
  interpreting the abstract
This photo is courtesy of Patty Oblack and her husband Darryl, who made it to the opening of Interpreting the Abstract, a group show that included her work and mine, at Wilde Meyer Gallery's Tucson location on Thursday night. Shown here is my small multiple panel painting, Deep Blue (24"x18" oil on panel, 2007.) A glimpse of Patty's painting is seen to the left.

Though I went back and forth about going to the opening myself, in the end I was satisfied with getting reports from Patty and from my son who happened to be in Tucson at the time. "Crazy-busy" time is still here, or never went away. Last night I calculated that I need to finish at least a painting a week between now and late June in order to meet current obligations. To avoid becoming overwhelmed by this, I figure I have to just take one day at a time. Plus I'm thinking one day a week of No Painting...including No Thinking About Painting...is in order. I had one of those yesterday and it was truly refreshing.
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
  interview with diane mcgregor
I met Diane McGregor last fall when I was in Santa Fe. She showed up at my reception at Darnell Fine Art and told me that she really likes my blog--it was amazing to talk to a complete stranger who had the inside track on my art life. She is in fact the first and only complete stranger I've met who reads this--living proof that I do have an audience! (I really do appreciate everyone who leave comments, but meeting someone in person is the best!) After our conversation at the reception, and a number of nice emails since, she's no longer a stranger. I hope to spend some time with her next time I'm in Santa Fe.

Today Diane sent me this link to an interview with her that was posted on her friend Jennifer Jones's blog. Her thoughts about abstraction and what has lead to her present body of work make an interesting read.
Saturday, January 05, 2008
  an artist statement
Yesterday I faced that recurring challenge, writing an artist statement--this time for Wilde Meyer Gallery, which is mounting a group show of abstract artists that includes my work, opening next week (1/10/08) in Tucson.

A few years ago I took an online course from Alyson Stanfield about writing artist statements that was extremely helpful and has helped with this chore ever since. Through various interesting writing assignments, she guided participants towards crafting a statement that was concise and intriguing enough to lead the reader to want to know more. The sort, condensed version isn't right for every situation, though (and this was also addressed within Alyson's class.) What I needed for Wilde Meyer was a longer and more detailed statement, that they could use as background information--to attract press, to inform collectors--something with substance to help them answer questions about my work. I'm sharing what I wrote, both for readers who have questions about my work and just because it's as good a summary of what I do as I've written to date, and I'm kind of pleased with it. The accompanying image is Vertical #15, which will be on display at the Wilde Meyer exhibit. It is 66"x12," oil on board.

Artist Statement

I live and work in a beautiful rural area of west central Wisconsin, and this allows me a great deal of solitude and connection with nature, which is an important source for my imagery. I have been working as a professional, full time artist for over 20 years, since graduating with an MFA in Painting from Arizona State University. In that time my imagery has ranged from representational views of the landscape to pure abstraction, to a blend of abstraction and referential images. At present you may see textures and colors reminiscent of rock, rust, foliage or sky, alongside areas of pure color or abstract markings or symbols.

I use many techniques in my work, including some from an early foray into printmaking, and I maintain an open, experimental attitude towards materials and tools. All of the following, and more, can be found on my work table--paint sticks and tube paints, metallic colors, powdered pigments, powdered graphite, marble dust, cold wax medium, brayers, rollers, rags, bits of plastic, twigs, whisk brooms, dish scrubbers, sponges, squeegees, paint scrapers and palette knives.

My techniques involve building up layers of paint over many painting sessions, and also selectively removing and erasing certain areas. I do this by scraping, gouging and dissolving paint so that underlying areas emerge. Sometimes I apply a thin layer of paint, and then burnish it to allow a glow from underneath to come through. The cold wax medium that I use enhances the transparency and brilliance of the oils, and creates a smooth matte finish. My techniques result in a subtly nuanced, rich surface that resonates with the complexities of nature that I look to for inspiration.

Most of my paintings are made of individually painted panels, which are then mounted together--the divisions between panels providing tension and structure to what is otherwise flowing, organic imagery. I lean towards either a vertical or square format for my work, both of which seem to enhance its abstract qualities. I think this may be because a horizontal format is often associated with realistic landscapes—when I do use horizontal compositions, I notice more of these associations. So it becomes a matter of my intentions for the painting.

I’m often asked how I decide upon the arrangement of panels. Sometimes, the need for certain colors or textures in order to resolve a composition guides me as I paint--and other times all the panels evolve separately and come together later. I consider the specific arrangement of panels very carefully, and can spend nearly as much time figuring this out as I do actually applying paint. There is an aspect of collage work to this, in that I often discover unexpected and pleasing juxtapositions in the process. I regard everything as in flux and up for change until finally settling on what works best—what is most evocative of a place, a memory, or is just inexplicably “right”--and then I have the panels permanently mounted together with bolts.

Even in my own mind, there is no single interpretation of my work. Each painting is an open-ended exploration, undertaken with this blend of spontaneity and careful analysis. It is my hope that in the end, my work has a clarity and integrity that invites contemplation and the viewer’s own imaginative response.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008
  today show link
Here is the link to watch the Today Show segment with Jim Mott (with a few bits of me, my house and some lovely views of Wisconsin countryside.) For more on the story, see entry below and archives from October 28 and 29 of my blog.

PS: If you get a different video on the screen, look at the list to the left and click on the image for Jan. 2nd, called "he captures US with a brush."
  today show recap
Well, that was fun! The segment on the Today show about Jim Mott and the Itinerant Artist Project ran as scheduled and I think did quite a good job of profiling Jim and his work and travels. There were good shots of his work, and him painting, and his personality came through nicely. I hope the publicity brings good things for him.

There were a few shots of me, and some audio of me talking. Nothing embarrassing. Our house looked fine--good editing job!

No mention was made that I'm an artist, too...probably they wanted to emphasize the way Jim takes his work into the world of non-artists. But I'm fine with that--it was just fun to be part of it all. On the other hand, I've had a jump in blog hits today from people googling key words related to the show. That's really nice. If that's you, welcome to my blog!
Tuesday, January 01, 2008
  update about today show segment
Jim Mott just called to say that the Today Show bit is now scheduled to air in the hour between 9 and 10 eastern time--9:35 to be exact (8:35 for those of us in central time.) So we'll see! I guess it could change again at the last minute. But he does think it will end up online later, which will definitely be the easiest way to view.
  some new year's day fun
Spend a little time with this video today if you're in the mood for a laugh...the next time I listen to somebody talk about art I'll probably be imagining them as one of these little creatures!


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       Rebecca Crowell