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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, September 23, 2009
  leaving behind work in progress

Today my old friend Nancy from grad school days came to visit; we had a wonderful time for the few hours that she could stay. It was great timing for a studio visit--I've rarely had so many finished paintings on hand, with all the work for two exhibits done but not yet wrapped up for the trip west. (That is tomorrow's job.)

The panel above is something I've been working on--I have a side panel in mind to add on to it, but this one is complete. Actually, if I am in a very minimalist frame of mind, I can also see the possibility of it standing alone as a single panel (there is more to it than is visible in the photo--click for a larger view.)

Nancy and talked about how there can be a let-down or loss of energy after a big exhibit, and that it's good to have some work in progress so that the studio does not get completely cleared out. On the other hand, I know there are times when an interlude for incubating new ideas is a good thing--it's not all about productive momentum.

I have four or five large panels that I've developed in the last week or so, and have a sense of turning in a new direction, so at least this time around I think I'll come back from New Mexico ready to work. It's actually kind of hard to leave them right now.

This may be the last blog post for awhile, since we hit the road on Friday morning with the car full of art. We'll be dropping off one batch of paintings at Perlowe-Stevens Gallery in Columbia MO and the other at Darnell Fine Art in Santa Fe, then staying in the Santa Fe area until the opening there on 10/2. Lots to do before actually leaving...preparing all the paintings for hanging and transporting, getting the house ready for our house-sitter, and tying up lots of loose ends. I look forward to being on our way and adventures in the days ahead.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
  new painting

No title for this yet, but it is another in the Journal series--I've been playing around with obscured script drawn or scratched into the surface. It seems to be opening up new ideas and directions.

This is a small painting, 8"x10," and that represents another trend in the studio--smaller paintings have been requested by several of my galleries and for other upcoming events. I guess it is a sign of the times. I've always enjoyed working in various scales, and small paintings appeal to me for the way the layering process moves along more quickly and ideas follow.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
  new painting

This is Journal, 18" square, oil and wax on panel. I've been pushing the idea of scratching and mark-making in some of my recent paintings and in this case, I used something evocative of handwriting, but obscured. Ive kept journals and studio notes for many years, so this feels quite personal. The colors are also a departure...purple has been finding its way onto my palette. The darker panel here is built up with reds and dark purples. I'm packing this one up today to ship to Darnell Fine Art in Santa Fe for my upcoming exhibit.

I'm happy to have all of the work done (drying now) for my two October exhibits, the one in Santa Fe, and a group show at Perlowe-Stevens Gallery in Columbia, MO. I'm still working on a few small pieces that may get included, but otherwise, I'm starting new large work, and feeling that fresh-start energy.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
  new painting

The painting shown here is Hermitage Wall, 46"x30" oil and wax on panel. I took the photo during my residency in Catalonia at the Centre d'Art I Natura (CAN) just a year ago, inside an abandoned, ancient hermitage church near the village. I feel the connection between the two images mostly in the contrast between stark geometry and organic textures and colors.

That residency in Catalonia has been on my mind a lot as the season turns, and as I get ready to exhibit some of the paintings that have evolved since then. When I was there, painting, hiking around, absorbing all I could, I was simply there--it was my reality. Although I wondered about the impact it would have on my work at home, I could only speculate--it was too soon to know. A year later, I see more clearly how the experience translated into new directions.

The paintings I did while at CAN contain the seeds of many different ideas. It was a time of taking in all I could, responding, experimenting. A year later,the aspects of that environment with the most personal meaning for me have filtered through and revealed themselves in my work--the intensely textured surfaces of old walls and lichen covered slate, and the paths used for centuries through the mountainside and from one tiny village to another. I find symbolic meaning in them, which provides creative energy and momentum. These ideas have moved away from being specifically "about" my experiences at CAN and now have a broader sweep. I find myself noticing rugged, eroded surfaces everywhere, and seeing them as metaphors for time passing.

When I talk to other artists about my time CAN, I end up urging them to go there if at all possible--or to some other residency place--the location itself has a huge impact of course. We all have out individual preferences and places that call to us, landscapes or cities with which we believe we'd resonate. I'll say it again to those of you who read my blog--please, if you haven't already done so, think about traveling for the sake of your work. Besides an amazing experience, it's an investment that continues to feed your work for a long time after you return.
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
  new painting and thoughts about spontaneity

The painting above, Mallolis (30"x34" oil and wax on board) is one that I'll be packing up in a few weeks to take to Darnell Fine Art in Santa Fe. My exhibit that opens on October 2, although the work will actually be hung several days prior to that. Like other work in the exhibit, called Old Walls and Lost Paths: Remembering Catalonia, its imagery comes from the landscape and experiences of the three weeks I spent in Spain just a year ago.

This morning I started a new panel, mainly for some relief from all the fine tuning I've been doing to finish up paintings for two fall exhibits. The initial layers of my panels are done with broad, gestural marks and rough palette knife scrapings. I do this to activate the surface and lay a foundation--and it's a fun stage for me, done without much conscious thought. Then follows a long process of adding layers to the end result of subtle color and textural modulations. Less fun perhaps, but much more satisfying.

Often there is something pleasing and abstract-expressionistic about the first layer or two...my work at this stage seems to appeal to some of my studio visitors as much or more than my finished work. It's colorful and energetic. But a painting early on isn't yet "mine." To me it lacks individuality and depth, and the sharper edge that conscious decision making brings. Intuition and spontaneity always play a role (see my last post!) but tempered by careful analysis.

Sometimes I hear abstract painters faulting themselves for being unable to really let loose in their work and paint with abandon. There is a value placed on complete spontaneity and gestural mark-making. From what I've seen, though, what results from this tends to be a rather generic type of abstraction. Maybe there aren't actually that many different kinds of spontaneous marks and compositions that humans tend to make with painting tools.

I think that spontaneous, intuitive mark-making is a great way to start, to explore and discover. But then comes the hard part--the challenge to develop an abstract language that is distinctive, and meaningful, and that somehow reflects one's experiences or thoughts. Many times there is a reference to something in the visual world--to the landscape, to calligraphy, to the figure. Is it possible to develop an abstract language without conscious focus and decision-making? Surely all the artists we know for their gestural styles (think of Jackson Pollock, Cy Twombly, and Joan Mitchell, for example) must have reached a turning point when they identified what was most expressive in their work and consciously set out to develop it. Once a path is found, all kinds of ideas open up, and the dance between spontaneity and thoughtful decisions can begin.
Saturday, September 05, 2009
  studio view

Aaaaaah...I wish I could be so relaxed about it all!! It's good to have a dog around to lend another perspective. Louie does not struggle with perfectionism or stress over deadlines.

I am feeling some relief actually--for the past few days I've been finding closure for most of the paintings that I need for upcoming exhibits. From here on, it's mostly tweaking and refining.

Of course, I can say that now...but from one minute to the next, my satisfaction with a painting sometimes disappears, and I find myself tearing back into it. This is followed by long hours of working my way back out of the mess. In the end, the result is almost always an improvement, but in the midst of it it can seem I've made a big mistake.

Actually, going back in to make changes is not as impulsive as I'm making it sound. It's more that I finally acknowledge something about the paining that I've been uneasy with, that is not working. Try as I may to convince myself that what I've got going is just great, my inner critic is quite insistent on having her say.

In the midst of struggling to pull it all back together, I try to remember that there really was a good reason that I did not leave well enough alone. My picky, picky perfectionist eye had found something that didn't work, and if not dealt with, the flaw would always bother me. Better to spend a few hours now dealing with it, I tell myself (as the clock ticks toward deadlines, I'm exhausted and it seems I'm taking two steps backward for every one forward.)

Drama, drama--I guess there would be less angst if I could fully and completely learn the lesson that seems to take a lifetime: "trust in the process." I sometimes have my doubts, but in the end each successful painting proves this to be true.


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       Rebecca Crowell