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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.

Friday, October 31, 2008
  thoughts on framing

I have painted for a long time using Ampersand panels, and their nice 2" cradles create a clean presentation of the work without the need for a frame. But when I returned from the Centre D'Art I Natura early this month with over 30 small mixed-media paintings on paper, I needed to consider framing issues for the first time in years. The photos above show the presentation that I settled upon. The painting is mounted on a foam core pedestal and surrounded by a floating mat, in what is referred to as an "island float" (I know, it sounds like one of those syrupy drinks with an umbrella stuck in it.) The frame itself is maple with a clear lacquer finish.

It seemed a rather daunting task to narrow down the options and find a solution that I could use consistently for whichever pieces I chose to frame from this series. No doubt there are other solutions that would have worked fine, or better than this. But I'm pleased with this look, which won out over other considerations.

When I first decided to paint on paper during my residency, my plan was to bring the work home and mount it onto Ampersand panels, and that these panels would become components in larger, multiple panel paintings. But from the beginning these paintings done at CAN seemed distinctive and separate from my other body of work, and the idea of mounting them onto panels no longer seemed right to me once I got home.

What works best for presentation and framing a particular piece seems elusive and mysterious to me. I'm not sure why...after all, I deal in subtle shifts and gradations all the time in my painting, and that's essentially the issue. But some people have such an eye for this--knowing that a quarter inch in the width of a frame or a particular off-white mat works better than another, similar choice. Many thanks to Sara at AllExperts.com for her help and to others who offered advice.

So far, I have only framed these two paintings, both of which I took to Grace Chosy Gallery in Madison, WI last week. I hope to frame the rest few at a time over the next several months. And for now, I am offering the CAN series for sale unframed, with framing upon request. (Please inquire for prices on these, which range from $100-$650 unframed...email crowellart@yahoo.com.)
Monday, October 27, 2008
  more new paintings

Here are a couple more paintings from the group I recently delivered to Grace Chosy Gallery in Madison, WI. At the top is Vestige, 36"x36", and below it a small painting, Relic, 10"x10" (both are oil and wax on panel.) The prominent lines in Vestige seem to have come out of the many drawings I did while in Catalonia, Spain last month (see September and previous October posts) and both paintings evoke my experiences there for me, in subtle ways.

I've had happy news recently--sales of large paintings both at my Santa Fe gallery (Darnell Fine Art) and at Wilde Meyer Gallery in Scottsdale. The art market is not totally dead, I guess. Now I can order new panels and pay the bills for a few more months. I really hope things pick up soon for everyone...a sale here and there shouldn't really seem quite so amazing.
Friday, October 24, 2008
  new gallery, new paintings

I'm very pleased to announce a new gallery affiliation--yesterday I delivered ten paintings to Grace Chosy Gallery in Madison, Wisconsin, including the two shown above (top:Isis, 20"x20", oil on board, and below: Casa Ramon, 36"x34", oil on board.) I included several works on paper from my artist residency in Catalonia (see posts below) and the rest of the work (all oil on board) were done since returning and with inspiration from that experience.
Friday, October 17, 2008
  back in focus
The half a brain I left back in Catalonia has at last returned to me--after two weeks at home I finally feel completely back into normal life. Perhaps it is the definite change of seasons that has helped bring things here into focus. When I left for Spain it was summer here (just after Labor Day) and the day I came home from the airport, it was a bit of a shock to see that fall was on its way in, the trees radiant with the first autumn color. Now, the leaves have mostly fallen, yesterday our winter firewood was delivered and the garden is almost gone. The late summer beauty in the Pyrenees is likewise fading in my thoughts, though I still treasure every memory.

I've started framing a few of my works on paper from the residency, and I'm also finishing up some paintings on panel to show to a gallery in Madison next week. I'm looking to expand my gallery representation--in the current economy I recall the advice of an art biz expert I heard once long ago--"don't put all of your eggs in one basket (or three or four baskets)--you want lots of eggs in lots of baskets." Trite, but so true. Back to work!
Monday, October 13, 2008
  watercolors and drawings from CAN residency

While at the Centre D'Art I Natura last month, I went out hiking almost every day, and usually had my watercolor and drawing supplies with me. There were also moments in my studio or bedroom back at the Centre, when I'd look out at some beautiful play of light on the mountainside and reach for these materials.

I did these paintings and drawings just for myself, to keep as mementos of my trip. But the experience went beyond just making postcards for myself (which is kind of how I think of these.) Since most of my paintings are abstractions that are done in the studio, I found it really refreshing to work outside, to deeply observe the surroundings, and complete the piece in the moment, in one session. I treasure these times when I felt so connected to the landscape and the old structures in the village. The fact that I did several of these while surrounded by a cloud of the most annoying flies in the world only adds to their value for me!

To see an online portfolio of these drawings and watercolors, please click here.
Thursday, October 09, 2008
  new paintings from CAN residency

I have posted a web album with my new small paintings in mixed media on paper that were done during my residency at the Centre D'Art i Natura in Catalonia last month. To see my new work, please click here.

These paintings were made on various types of mixed media and watercolor paper, with a combination of watercolor, gouache, acrylics, powdered pastel, colored pencil, powdered graphite, acrylic medium and clear gesso. I used many of the same tools to apply these materials that I use at home with my oils--palette knife, brayer, rags, brushes and squeegees. I thoroughly enjoyed using this new media, but find that now I am home again, I have immediately returned to oils, at least for now.

The painting above, Chapel, (9" square) comes out of the experience of spending time inside a small and simple ancient stone church near the village where I was staying, where sections of bright blue have been painted over the roughly plastered walls. Though quite abstract, most of the work that I did at CAN is a fairly direct response to aspects of my experience there. In this way it is a bit different from most of my work, which rises as much from the painting process as from definable memories or imagery. There was still plenty of process-oriented painting going on for me at CAN, but it was more obvious to me the exact impressions or memories that were shaping the final result. I noticed in titling the paintings, I could almost always make a clear connection between the work and something that I had experienced.

For me, this is the refreshing aspect of travel as an artist...taking in what is new, intriguing, visually startling and using this material initially at its face value. Blue walls, a red door, rough slate cliffs, weathered surfaces, the ruins of an old barn, the lines of meandering old paths, graffiti in Barcelona..all of these images and more are important in my paintings from CAN, however abstractly I depict them. (I suspect this is more a matter of how I think of the paintings than how they actually appear, given the abstraction involved.) Over time, if I can go by past experience, these images will become integrated into the main body of my work. I can still see influences in my current oil paintings that came out of my first visit to CAN in 2001, for example. If this visit was anything like the last one (and my feeling is that it was actually quite a bit deeper) my time at CAN will continue to feed my work for a long time ahead.
Sunday, October 05, 2008
  photos from barcelona

To see more photos from my stay in Barcelona, please click here. I shot mostly street scenes, caught up in the colors, textures and movement everywhere that I went. The photo above is taken from my hotel balcony, looking down at Las Ramblas, where there is a constant flow of people day and night, plus all kinds of street entertainment--music, human statues, people in costumes. I found my room to be an extremely entertaining vantage point!

I passed these flowers outside a covered market as I walked to Gaudi's unfinished cathedral, the Sagrada Familia, on my last morning. I did a lot of walking every day that I was in the city, and though I sometimes got pretty tired, it was never boring...my intended destinations usually seemed almost beside the point.

Above is one of the photos I took in the Placa de St. Philip Neri, in the old Gothic quarter. I finally found this little square after several days--it is easy to overlook among the winding streets of the old city--but on my last day I put more effort into seeking it out. It has a tragic history--the church of St. Neri was bombed during the Spanish Civil War, and many children attending the adjacent school were killed. A novel I had just read during my artist residency mentioned how the main character would often sit in this small, secluded, melancholy spot, and I thought that I would experience a quiet moment there myself.

However, Barcelona has a way of offering up surprises, and in this case, I arrived at the square just as the school had let out for the day. Instead of the solemn atmosphere I expected, things were raucous and wild, with kids running everywhere. It made me smile, and think about how life goes on as I photographed the kids playing in front of the bomb-pocked walls. I turned off my flash, which seem to flatten everything out, and let their bodies blur in the fading light.
Saturday, October 04, 2008
  more farrera photos

I like this photo taken by my friend Amr Elkafrawy, a graphic artist, draftsman and photographer from Cairo whom I met at the Centre d"Art I Natura. I'm on my balcony at La Bastida, the new building of the Centre that houses residents and contains two lovely studios. The hillside behind me was my constant view, through changing light and weather effects throughout the day, and was such a great place to sit and contemplate.

I have just uploaded a web album of captioned photos from Farrera and its surroundings, which may be viewed by clicking here. (I will also be posting a second album of photos from my stay in Barcelona soon.)
Friday, October 03, 2008
  a few pictures from farrera
Now that I am back home to my own computer, here are a few photos from my time at the Centre D'Art I Natura in Farrera de Pallars, Catalunya, Spain.

This is a view of the mountains, with the village of Farrera to be seen at the far right of the photo. All the buildings are constructed with native stone, and seem such an organic part of the landscape.

This is the view from my room, looking out at my balcony and the steep hillsides opposite. I spent a lot of time with this serene view.

The view from our studio window.

I took this while I was on a long hike up above the village.

Another shot taken on a hike above Farrera.

And finally, a group shot taken one evening before dinner. Lluis, the director, as at the far left, next to Enriqueta (from Catalunya,) Amr (from Egypt,) Marina, myself and Lynne (the other American who arrived mid-way through our stay.)

It's great to be home, back into my comfort zone, with new energy for my work. But I do miss this beautiful place where I spent most of the past month. It was truly inspiring in many ways.

To see more photos and commentary, please visit the blog of my friend Marina Broere, who was with me on this trip.


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