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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.

Saturday, August 29, 2009
  new painting and studio musings

I finished the painting above, Winter Garden (30"x34") this week, meeting one of the deadlines I've been working toward (applying to the Wisconsin Arts Board for direct purchases.) As I've posted before, it's been an intense time in the studio, and continues to be. Lots of hours in the studio, passed in various states of mind. Many times I am in an almost meditative zone...things happen with the paint almost as if I'm watching from outside myself. I love those times--they are the best.

Other times, my brain is overly engaged in less than positive ways. Thinking about the work itself is fine--analysis and evaluation of how things are going are important to my process. But thinking just to fill a void--not so good. Negative thoughts, trivia, to-do lists, pointless replays...the static of the brain is endless. I try to be alert to it, recognize it--then turn it off, take a break. It can be deadly to creativity.

I am impressed by a clear analysis of this on Catherine Carter's blog. She writes about letting go of certain negative things she imagined other people might say about her work, or things they might expect from her. Many of us will read this and relate...why is it that negative comments or thoughts have such power, while positive ones seem harder to keep in mind?

In the midst of a rather grueling studio schedule, I'm aware of the need for managing my mind as best I can. And since reading Catherine's post, I've felt a deeper gratitude for all the positive comments that come my way. Like a lot of people, I have some trouble fully accepting positive feedback. BUT I'm trying to mend my ways here...to more fully appreciate what people write or tell me about my work, and to honor what has motivated and inspired them to offer the comment. It provides good energy all around. I recommend taking a moment to fully and deeply appreciate the last positive comment someone made to you about your work...feel the power there?
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
  new painting and workshop announcement

This is Blue Wall, 16"x12", oil and wax on board. The studio marathon continues, though tonight I am knocking off early to celebrate meeting the first of my deadlines--photos for publicity (including the one above) of work to be exhibited at Perlow-Stevens Gallery in October. I've got everything I need to do listed in a time line for the next month, and with enough focus I'll make it through...I recognize a need to pace myself and not get too burned out,though so far I continue to feel pretty energized.

I also want to announce an upcoming workshop, Abstract Painting with Cold Wax and Oils, that I am teaching in Longmont, CO (near Boulder) on April 16-18, 2010. I truly enjoy each of these teaching experiences, and so it's really a pleasure to have this on the horizon. Please join me if you are interested and can make it...it's been great so far meeting artists around the country and working together. This time it will be in a beautiful venue--artist KC Willis's recently established retreat center, housed in a charming old cottage and carriage house.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
  studio views

Here's a preview of some of the work I'll be exhibiting in my two fall shows--opening October 2nd at Darnell Fine Art (solo show) in Santa Fe, NM; and October 10th at Perlow-Stevens Gallery in Columbia, MO (a group show, but I have 25 feet of wall space to fill.) The proximity of the two openings in time but not in location means that unfortunately I will miss the reception in Missouri (although I'm working on a plan to visit midway through the show, which goes on through December 27th.)

Besides the work for these two shows, I'm also submitting ten paintings for the Wisconsin Arts Board Percent for Art program, and naturally, the dates and requirements for this overlap with my two exhibits...meaning that over the next few weeks I need to have on hand three separate bodies of work, a total of about 30 paintings.

The work in the top photo is mostly finished, as are the pieces on the wall in the bottom photo (the two in the foreground are in progress.) There are also some other paintings not shown in the photos...I'm actually pretty close to having enough work finished, and now I need to sort through to decide what goes where, as well as take care of the final steps of final touches, bolting and in some cases, framing.

It's been a huge push all summer, and I'm feeling happy to be this close, though of course, it's not done yet. Something sticks in my mind that I read recently on Facebook, and my apologies to whoever posted it since I am not able to acknowledge the source. But it was about "completing" a work of art as opposed to "finishing" it...to me it was about the contrast between having the time to seek out the most satisfying conclusion for a painting, and the pressure to get it done for a deadline. In my current reality, there seem to be a lot of deadlines, and I just hope that my "finishes" are close to what my "completions" would be given more time. It helps that my personal standards are high--it doesn't leave my studio unless I'm really very happy with it. But as I joked to a friend last week, coming up with 30 paintings that I'm really very happy with is a recipe for stress. (See last post...) So far, though, it's going well, and although the studio hours have been long, I have to say there aren't many better ways to spend time.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
  up north, and thoughts about stress

I went up north on the weekend to stay with my friend Jane Herrick, who was participating in the Herbster Art Crawl--open studios were being held by a number of artists in this small community on Lake Superior. Three other artist friends of mine displayed their work in Jane's beautiful studio also. Pictured above are Sandra Starck and Sally Bowker, with their work in the background (Sandra's prints and Sally's fabric constructions and paintings.)

It was good to get away for a day...I met some great people, networked and passed out brochures for my workshops, had an excellent dinner out with my friends, and walked on the lake shore on Sunday morning before I left. Beautiful rocks are everywhere on these beaches, and I found inspiration in their colors and textures.

The trip was a little pocket of relaxation in what has turned out to be a very intense month, with an unusually high number of demands and deadlines. It's all good and important stuff, and I guess I'm grateful to be busy. The present economy motivates me to accept almost any offer or possibility and run with it, which does make for a little craziness. That, of course, is true for almost everyone right now--the scramble to keep afloat.

I've never been one to insist that I need peace and quiet and isolation in order to work (having two kids while keeping my studio going made that pretty much impossible.) A normal amount of distraction and responsibilities is just fine with me. But when things edge into overload it is definitely stressful. The studio remains my refuge, and I'm working hard with good results (though pushing harder than usual past tiredness.) It's just much more difficult right now to emerge from there and deal with everything else--correspondence and business stuff, finances, paperwork, home remodeling, errands, other people's needs, regular household stuff, blah blah blah. Even my blog has suffered--I see it's been over a week since my last post.

This morning I woke up remembering my time just over a year ago at the artist residency in Catalonia, when all I had to do was paint, hike and eat. It seems like a dream to me now.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
  painting with roberto

In the spring of 1970, when I was in tenth grade and my older brother was a senior, our family hosted an exchange student from Trento, Italy named Roberto. He wrote a teasing note in my yearbook before he left that ended with "When you are a famous, great artist, remember me!"

I doubt I'll make that status in this lifetime--but joking aside, I appreciate now that he thought I might follow my dream to be an artist--an idealistic and unformed idea at the time.

This past week, Roberto and his significant other, Paola, arrived for their first visit to the US in 39 years. It turns out that Roberto (now a medical doctor) is very interested in painting, and in art in general. He wanted to learn about the techniques I use with cold wax medium, and so on Sunday we spent several hours in my studio, during which he watched me paint, asked questions, and got a good start on a small panel. After so many years of painting alone, I've gradually come to appreciate the communal aspects of painting through my workshops, and I enjoyed the quiet stretches of time when each of us was focused on our work. Sharing my studio with someone important to me from my past was a special pleasure.

Although there were many enjoyable moments during Roberto and Paola's visit--including wonderful food, conversation, and good-natured laughing at my attempts to speak Italian--Sunday in the studio was really a highlight for me. Painting with Rob made me feel connected not only with a person I have not seen for almost four decades, but also with my own teenaged self and my vague dreams and aspirations of becoming an artist. There was a kind of surreal, fast-forward sense of time, a feeling of "How did I get here?" and wonder at how this particular path has opened up over the years.
Friday, August 07, 2009
  new painting and thoughts about studio time

This small painting (Red Wall, 14"x11") evolved rather slowly, through many layers of paint, acquiring the kind of rich patina that I like in my work. It is one of a continuing series of paintings inspired by old walls and weathered surfaces, which began during my residency in Catalonia, and has continued in the months since.

Right now, I have dozens of paintings in progress, because I have several exhibits and other deadlines coming up in the next few months. I've had some very good, productive studio days...somehow finding a rhythm in the midst of summer's many diversions, and prioritizing studio time even when I have people visiting, as I do at the moment. Treating work in the studio like the job that it is. (I'm grateful to have very supportive friends and family in this regard.)

I guess I do work well under pressure, although it often feels like stress. That extra little push needed to make decisions about the paintings (is it done, does it work...) seems to help me focus, and definitely keeps me in the studio for longer hours, pushing past the point when I'd really like a break.

Something that I've noticed: Often, during the half hour or so after I tell myself that a break can wait, I make a noticeably good move on a painting or two. I guess that pushing past the comfort zone can actually give creative energy a little boost. It's definitely positive reinforcement for hanging in there a bit longer even though I feel tired and spent. On the other hand, I'm not advocating overdoing things--painting is hard work, both physically and mentally. It's really just that extra 30-60 minutes in which good things very often seem to happen. (In the painting above, that's when I added the final rich red--pushing it from a more earthy color.)
Saturday, August 01, 2009
  summer show at circa

I stopped by Circa Gallery in Minneapolis today to view the space with an eye to what I will need for my show with Maren Kloppmann that opens there on February 6. The hanging style is spare, which I like. But even with that, I'll still need quite a few paintings given the size of the gallery, and also because the other artist will have some work off the wall.

This photos show a portion of the Summer Group Show. Maren's work is the beautiful minimalist porcelain work visible here on the table and to the right of my painting (the tall vertical blue-gray painting.)

It was a long day in the Twin Cities--besides visiting Circa and stocking up at my favorite art suppy store, Wet Paint, I also met recent Facebook contact Jeff Hirst in his studio in Minneapolis. Jeff paints with encaustics, often in multiple panel arrangements, and has developed a technique of using silkscreened images on top of the wax. His paintings are gorgeous, complex in color, texture and depth. Like me, has also recently started offering workshops both in his studio and elsewhere, so it was good to explore some ideas and thoughts about teaching.


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       Rebecca Crowell