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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, August 27, 2008
  Video of me and my work
This is the video of me that was made last winter by my friend and videographer Wade Britzius. It was a fun project at least from my point of view--all I had to do was talk and paint! I'm so pleased with what Wade came up with in editing and producing this. The soundtrack is by my nephew David Crowell, a composer and musician currently performing with the Philip Glass Ensemble.

So, here I am in my studio--allowing the world to see the truth of my messy work table, ratty painting clothes and all! Nothing was cleaned up. I might have done so if I'd had more notice, but Wade called me one day and said he'd be in my neighborhood, and could we do the shoot in a few hours? I ended up liking that realistic, gritty aspect of it.

Mainly I wanted to share a bit of my process, and how I think about my work. This video played in the gallery when I had my solo exhibit at Darnell Fine Art in Santa Fe in July, and people seemed to enjoy having the bit of personal background and information that it provided.

Friday, August 22, 2008
  residency ahead
In a little over a week, I'll be on a plane to Barcelona, heading for three weeks at the Centre D'Art I Natura in the Pyrenees village of Farrera. It is my second residency there, and the last time I went (seven years ago, almost to the day) I lugged all of my oil supplies--my suitcase weighted about 80 lbs. This time, I decided to travel more lightly by bringing only water-based and drawing media, for work in mixed media and collage.

It's been years since I've done any serious work using anything but oils, and in spite of beginning with a carefully thought out supply list, I got a little carried away with buying new supplies. But I've been so excited thinking about the potential of various materials--alone and in combination with others. So I have watercolor, egg tempera, powdered graphite, powdered pastel, various types of gel mediums, water soluble pencils and crayons...and on and on..actually there is probably as much weight in all this stuff (plus various kind of paper and multi-media board) as I had with my oil paints!

In order to weed a few things out, or at least to prioritize what to take, last week I started to experiment and familiarize myself with some of my new materials. And at some point I realized it could be useful to paste swatches of especially interesting textures and surfaces into this small sketchbook, with notes. The page above shows a texture achieved by sprinkling powdered graphite onto clear gesso, and then spreading gently with a fan brush. It has a very delicate appearance, each particle of graphite distinct. This example is black and white, but I have also been discovering some beautiful color effects, layering materials in much the same approach as I do with my oils.

My intention during the residency is to respond to the setting I'll be in (the ancient stone village, craggy mountains, grassy meadows...) and to use particular aspects of my surroundings as jumping off points for abstract works. The new materials and techniques will be part of the exploration, but I want my focus to be on the place itself, rather than on the experimental way I'm working with the materials right now. So gaining some mastery over this media ahead of time seems like a good idea. I also plan to do some realistic painting and drawing in the field (again, something I have not done much of for years...since the last time I was there.)

I don't actually think I'll have to force any of that focus on my surroundings--it is truly a spectacular location!
Friday, August 15, 2008
  more new paintings and a noteworthy blog

Here are the other two of four paintings that I drove up to Circa Gallery in Minneapolis yesterday (see previous post for the other two.) Both of these were inspired by my recent trip to Lake Superior, at least in their final stages of composition (some of the individual panels have been in the works for a long time.) The top one is titled Sea Cave (50" x 30") and the other Cairn (48"x20".)

is named for the carefully balanced piles of rocks that are seen everywhere, in people's yards and along the beach. (I've seen such piles in many other places, too--including most recently the area near Abiquiu, NM known as the White Places.) I have attempted to make a Cairn of my own in the garden, without much success...

Speaking of New Mexico, my Santa Fe friend Diane McGregor has been writing about her work, and about abstraction and painting in general on her blog Working Space.. Her entries are thought provoking and deeply considered, and definitely worth a read.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
  new paintings

I have just finished four new paintings which I will deliver to Circa Gallery in Minneapolis tomorrow. Two of these are pictured above-- Glyph (46"x30") on top, and below it Amber (#2) (54"x24." )
Sunday, August 10, 2008
  desert photo

I'm kind of proud of this photo, taken in the arid foothills just east of Albuquerque when we were there last month. (Especially pleased that I did not need to crop or edit, the only changes I made were to resize for posting...) I like the qualities of line and texture, the simple composition, and the way the lines radiating away from the crack in the rock echo the lines in the dry plant.

For me, taking photos reinforces, records and documents my way of seeing nature, in terms of texture, pattern and contrast. Sometimes I think about painting when I'm taking a photo, but in the end I use my photos only rarely, and only very indirectly, as painting references. On the other hand, it's only in the past few years that I've started to appreciate or value my photos for their own sakes. Sometimes, I think they might even be Art--but I lack the background or understanding of photography (especially of it's more technical aspects) to believe that with much confidence.

Which really does not bother me--I'm happy with amateur status! As with a few other things in my life that I enjoy (like dance) but at which I'm not exactly proficient, photography enriches my life without being central to it. Maybe the pleasure comes from the "beginner's mind" operating so naturally when you fully realize your own lack of expertise, but totally enjoy something anyway.
Thursday, August 07, 2008
  lines about lines

I've been studying the paintings in this book, Richard Diebenkorn in New Mexico and paying special attention to his use of line, because for the past year or so I've become more conscious of this element in my own work. In Diebenkorn's paintings I appreciate the interaction between his quirky, meandering lines--that seem oddly descriptive, yet not specific to anything I could name--and the fields or blocks of color on which they often ride. The lines clearly dominate in certain paintings, but are supported by the underlying color in a way that energizes both. (The painting on the cover, shown here, is unfortunately not an example of what I'm talking about...)

In my own work, I tend to push back my linear elements, to keep them subtle. Yet I've also done paintings in which they make a strong statement, and some of these are among my favorites. So I find myself becoming more interested in the expressive potential of abstract lines, and wondering where this will take me.

I seem to have the most interesting results with indirect techniques. For example, I like to draw with the edges of squeegees and pieces of cardboard, or transfer charcoal lines drawn on paper by rubbing over the back side with a brayer, or draw with my non-dominant (left) hand. It seems that if I am one step removed from drawing a direct line with a conventional brush or paint stick, if I have given up a small amount of control, the results have more character and energy. I think this is because when I draw directly and deliberately with my right hand, years of academic training immediately kick in. In some cases, this is exactly what I want, and that works fine. Other times, I feel a loss of fluidity and too much dictation from my brain.

As a student, I was intrigued by something called "ant drawings" in which you did not look at your drawing at all, but instead followed along the contour of some object with your eyes, crawling slowly like an ant, noting every nuance. When you did look at the drawing you'd made (your hand moving along with your eyes) it might look nothing like the actual object, but was clearly an intense and detailed response, and showed the interaction between brain and hand when there was no critical, analytical interference. It seems to me there is certainly a place for that kind of thinking as I draw, but there is also a need sometimes to override it or subvert it. To request a less controlled place in my art brain to step in and play a part. (I do that with paint all the time, actually--my techniques are almost always a blend of spontaneity and control--but for whatever reason, drawing has tended to be stuck in a stodgier role...)


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       Rebecca Crowell