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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, March 30, 2009
  david crowell jazz

My nephew, jazz composer and sax player David Crowell--along with his ensemble-- have released their first CD, Spectrum, on the Innova label, which describes it thus:

New York City-based saxophonist and composer David Crowell fuses strictly notated composition with jazz and ambient improvisation. A love for the music of composers Steve Reich, Philip Glass and John Zorn merges with his roots in jazz and improvised music to create a focused and original sound. Satisfying for its diversity but coherent in its message, Spectrum travels a vivid emotional landscape.

I have been playing it over and over in my studio, and find something fresh with every listening.

I was really pleased when David asked if he could use my paintings as cover and insert art for the CD. It is a great fit, and an honor for me to have a part in this. It's actually the second time that David and I have collaborated--his music is featured on the YouTube video of me painting and discussing my work.

Below are two other views of the album--showing the back cover and one of the insert pages. David's mother, my sister in law, Dee Hunt, did the design--

Thursday, March 26, 2009
  new painting

This is a new, untitled (so far) painting, 36" square. I really enjoyed working with these colors, which are kind of unusual for me--layers of greenish gray and transparent orange, touches of red in the main panel.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
  registration deadline

I'm getting really excited about the upcoming workshop that I'm teaching at Rochester Art Supply next month, in Rochester NY. The dates for the class are the weekend of April 18-19, and registration closes next week, March 25. I'll be teaching techniques for using cold wax and oils to build up color and texture layers on multiple panels. If you are interested in attending, please click on the workshop link above for more details about the class, fees. Registration is limited but there are currently spaces for a few more people.

It will be a small group and I'm asking that participants have prior experience with oils, and either a background in abstraction or willingness to experiment. I'm expecting we'll pack a lot into 2 days, and ideas will flow.

A couple of people have asked me why I want to do this, to share my techniques with other artists--as if I have secrets to guard. They have asked me in a tone that borders on kidding, but it's a legitimate question, really. When I was first invited to do this workshop, to teach techniques that I have spent years developing, I will admit to some hesitation--mainly because I cringe at the idea of technique as an end to itself. When the point of a workshop is to say "here's how to paint like me" I don't think anyone really benefits--especially not the students, since just appropriating an instructor's technique leads to shallow work.

Instead, I expect that the techniques I teach will be added to the complex, personal repertoire of tools and ideas that each artist is already using. Technique is nothing more than means to an end, and true artists work in individualized ways with unique results. I look forward to seeing what happens as the participating artists carry the techniques I teach forward in their own work.

(The small painting above is as yet untitled--8"x6"--and recently completed.)
Thursday, March 19, 2009
  new painting

This is Shoreline, 24"x22." It is one of a series of medium sized multiple panel works I have finished in the past few weeks. Another one below, Early Light (18" square) has already found a home.

Monday, March 16, 2009
  new small painting

I'm sending this one off today--it is what my sister-in-law Cheryl is giving her husband for his birthday--Brick Wall 6"x8". I want to put in a long-overdue word of gratitude here for the support that family members have given over the years in purchasing my paintings. My brother Hugh has the most extensive collection of my work on the planet (except for what is stored in my studio, I suppose) and Cheryl and Larry are not far behind. Since it is a bit disconcerting that most of my paintings are sold through galleries to destinations unknown to me, I appreciate knowing that there are some that will stay in the family and extended family into the future.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
  opening exhibit in madison

Here are several photos from my opening at Grace Chosy Galley in Madison on Friday night. I was pleased with the work itself, and the opening was a good time.

I've mentioned in previous posts that this show is unusual for me in that the work is united by a theme; it all relates to my residency in Spain in September. Some of it, the small works on paper, were actually painted there, and the rest of it was done in the aftermath.

My artist statement for this show:

The work in this exhibit was inspired by a month (September '08) that I spent in Catalonia , Spain . The first part of the month I was an artist in residence at the Centre D'Art I Natura, followed by several days in Barcelona . For the three weeks I spent at the art center, I was able to focus entirely on my work, and on the environment around me--the rugged landscape of the high Pyrenees, and the tiny, remote, ancient stone village of Farrera in which the Centre is located. I drew, photographed and made watercolors during hikes and walks in the landscape, and also worked in my studio with its amazing mountain view for many hours a day.

During my residency, I used water-based media and drawing materials on paper, instead of my usual oil and wax on panel. These materials were easier to transport, provided a challenge that I enjoyed, and led me to new ways of expressing myself. (Several of the works on paper from my residency are displayed in this exhibit.)

Travel has a way of focusing the eye on the colors, textures and objects in the environment that make it unique, and this is especially true when one stays a while. Once I returned home, a particular memory or visual impression from my time in Catalonia would often come to me as I worked on the oil paintings in this exhibit, and this memory would guide its development and completion. Besides my views every day of the play of light on the mountain sides, the grassy meadows and other aspects of nature, I was also charmed by the houses and old churches in this region. They are an organic part of the landscape, made of slate and other stones taken from the surrounding mountains. Because of this, abstracted buildings and walls found their way into my work, which has always been based in the natural landscape. Even the dark interiors of the older houses, brightened with color on the walls and furnishings, had an atmosphere that influenced my work. I also responded to urban sights in Barcelona --the contrast of the ancient with the new and stylish, and to things I saw in the museums there (particularly the Egyptian and Pre Columbian museums.) All of these sights and visual experiences had an impact on the way my work evolved while I was there, and since coming home.

Other formal issues that I began to explore during my residency in Catalonia have continued to play a part in my work. These include strong visual contrast, more use of lines, and subtle variations in predominantly white panels. These all come from abstracting certain aspects of the landscape, which had a drama that comes through in stark contrasts, and an arid, thin atmosphere that is evoked with lighter colors. The lines are a direct result of using drawing media during my residency, both in realistic sketches and watercolors, and in more developed paintings. I have also continued to develop complex texture in my work, as the rough rock, worn paths, old walls, and rugged mountainsides were some of the most memorable aspects of Catalonia.

Finally, I sense an emotional quality to this work that relates to my time there—a feeling of calm and peace, and also of freedom and spontaneity. To be in a remote, beautiful place for an extended period of time, in the company of other artists, to work--or not work--according to my own rhythms during the day, to walk for hours with my camera and sketching materials, and to be treated every night to great food and conversation—all of this renewed my creative energy and showed me ways of bringing this experience and state of mind into my ongoing work.

Rebecca Crowell, February 2009
Sunday, March 08, 2009
  blog appearances
This week three art bloggers have featured my work on their blogs. On Pam Farrell's artblog, my studio appears as the latest installment of her ISBP series. Pam has been showing photos of various studios along with artists' comments about connections between the physical environment in which they work and the work itself, and it's really fascinating to get a peek into the working spaces of others.

On Gwendolyn Plunkette's blog, Ancient Vessel, my work is part of her Interactive Blogpost series about the elements of Rituals, Collections, and Time. She writes about my work: With (Rebecca's) process of selectively adding and scraping away, she makes paintings that at first glance, resemble aging and ancient walls. But the palimpsest-like surfaces of her work take us beyond "the wall" to another level of thought becoming parallel markers of the passage of time.

Finally, a newly-launched blog by Belgian artist Anne Dijon-Willame, Art et Vie, features photos of several of my paintings, along with the work of other painters and photographers that Anne admires, and whom she feels brings our foccus on to the beauties of every day life. I very much appreciate Anne, Gwen and Pam's posting of my paintings, and I love the idea of this kind of virtual curating--finding work or ideas that focus on a certain theme, and bringing it together.

I am currently away from my home computer, but as soon as I return to it on Tuesday or Wednesday, I'll be posting photos of my recent exhibit at Grace Chosy Gallery in Madison. The opening was Friday night, and was a good time, with interesting people to meet and talk with, and some old friends in attendance. Time now for a few days away from thinking about studio work (though I found myself in a Dick Blick store today going a little crazy with the credit card!) Tomorrow, the Edvard Munch show at the Chicago Art Institute.
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
  framed painting
Here is another approach to framing one of my small works on paper. This photo was sent to me by Ed Hall who purchased the work from me unframed and promised to let me know the end result (called Slate Cliff, it is one from my Spain residency.) Ed had the framer float the painting on an off-white mat, and the spacer that keeps the painting away from the glass is also cut from the same mat board, so the edges and corners inside the glass appear seamless.

Sunday, March 01, 2009
  new painting

This is Ruined Barn (68"x24") delivered to Grace Chosy Gallery in Madison along with the rest of my show on Friday. It is the largest piece of mine in the exhibit. In spite of fairly intense snow the evening before, the roads were OK and I was able to take off and make the trip with no problem. Although it was tiring (I was gone a about ten hours, 6 of those on the road) I enjoyed the day--which included lunch with a friend, and a little shopping besides time at the gallery.

I took yesterday off to clean up the house a bit, file papers, and do the sort of things that get shoved aside under a deadline. This morning I've been spending time with my studio diary, planning in a general way what I need for various commitments ahead, and examining scribbled notes and rough sketches I've entered over the past few months. Ideas are surfacing, and I feel my creative energy rising. I'll probably extend my little rest away from the studio through today, but I'll be back at it tomorrow.

It's interesting to me that I no longer tend to feel a let-down or blocked period after an exhibit, though this was definitely a pattern in the past--along with major pre-show anxieties and a pattern of injuries or illnesses just before an opening that took me years to recognize. I'm not sure what has changed. But I really appreciate that things flow better now, my energy is more sustained both before and after a show, and I'm not likely to wind up sick or limping through an opening. Of course I'm not above feeling a bit on edge, but for the most part I get past it--and I really don't miss that old roller coaster ride of emotions surrounding an exhibit.


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       Rebecca Crowell