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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 30, 2009
  new stuff

When I have a show coming up, pictures come into my mind of how it will look when it's all done and installed. These are general visual impressions, nothing specific--since my work evolves as it goes, and is never planned out ahead of time. But these mental pictures do tend to guide and inspire me as I work. For my October show in Santa Fe, I pictured earthy colors and textures reminiscent of the area in Catalonia where I spent a month last fall. (The painting above, Dwelling, 30"x34" oil on board, is one that I shipped out for the last part of that show, after several had sold.)

For my upcoming February exhibit with Maren Kloppmann at Circa Gallery in Minneapolis, I am picturing brighter, more vibrant color, and livelier paintings in terms of gesture and mark-making. A friend asked me tonight what is inspiring me lately, and my answer was simply ...color. Color in rich layers, color in unusual juxtapositions (or at least, unusual for me.) Nothing is very far along yet, but for now this is my guiding idea. I think colorful paintings will show especially well with Maren Kloppmann's work--what I have seen so far are her sensuous, minimalist black/dark colored and white porcelain pieces.

I have recently bought a variety of new kinds and colors of paint, and I'm also excited to work on some of the new large panels from Ampersand. Previously the largest size they stocked was 36"x24", and now there are ready made panels up to 48"x36." it's not a huge step up, but I appreciate the difference. Sometimes it only takes a small change to inject new energy, and new art supplies do that for me every time.
Sunday, October 25, 2009

The painting above, Tangled, is now at Darnell Fine Art in Santa Fe--one of several 12" square pieces I sent out last week.

For the past few days I've been thinking about the issue of self-promotion for artists...how much is too much? When I got back from my last workshop, and posted some photos of it on Facebook, that seemed fine to me. Then I realized I should do the same thing on my Facebook "fan page" (since not everyone who is a "fan" is also a "friend.") Then, naturally I wrote about the workshop here on my blog, since it was a major event for me, and my blog readers are all over--many are not connected to me through Facebook. However, my blog appears on my Facebook page as a "note"...so if we count the photo of the class that I posted on my Facebook "wall" there were four items about the workshop that went out to all of my Facebook friends. Which was probably about three too many. At least I no longer "tweet" so Twitter followers were spared!

As anyone who has delved into social media knows, there are a great many places now to post information--for me, besides Facebook, my blog, and website, there are also a number of professional sites like Plaxo, and also artist information sites that request announcements of shows and workshops. It's all good, and I've been amazed at how information travels on the web. (In the past few weeks alone I've had emails from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Singapore--in both cases artists asking about my techniques.)

On the other hand, it can seem like a chore (and sometimes an uncomfortable one) to continually go on about myself and what I do. I've spent the past 30+ years in the Midwest, where there is a strong cultural taboo against "tooting your own horn" and I sometimes cringe to hear how casually I now do so. Yet I recognize the necessity for a professional artist to self-promote. We've all heard the saying, if you don't do it, who will?

Once you've been well-received by a gallery owner or workshop organizer, it's a lot easier to approach the next one...but in the beginning, self-promotion is a very daunting obstacle to overcome. It's not just sending around announcements and descriptions of what you do--it's having some confidence that this is news someone wants to hear. Many of us pick up the skills and avenues of self-promotion gradually as we go--for me there was never a huge hurdle to jump, just a series of small steps that get somewhat easier as time goes on. (Though now on the internet they seem to be multiplying at an alarming rate, and in sheer numbers are hard to keep up with.)

I still do find it tricky to know the right level of self-promotion for each situation, though, or to correctly sense whether it is appropriate at all. I'm most at ease with situations that come with unwritten rules or guidelines--for example, in making initial contact with a gallery or in giving a slide lecture, I know that talking about myself and my work is expected. That's true also for this blog--I figure that my regular readers must be interested in my work and my feelings about it if they are sticking around. From my own experience and from the comments of others, I know that an artist's successes, failures, insights, and experience provide valuable information for others on the same path.

There are definitely situations, though, in which speaking about what I do beyond just stating the facts is not well received. Talking about my work with any degree of emotion or enthusiasm can easily be heard as boasting--causing eye-rolling and a "who does she think she is??" reaction. Because these situations are not so well-defined, it's possible to stumble into them and to end up being quite embarrassed. I'm guessing that most artists have had these experiences, and try intuitively to avoid them. (It's interesting to note that many who offer business advice for artists advocate fairly relentless self-promotion--with strangers in all sorts of situations, as well as with acquaintances, friends and family...but I can't see it.)

The key to self-promotion seems to be, who wants to know and how much do they want to know? And the people who don't even know they want to know...can you second-guess them? There are lots of pitfalls, and the truth is that in the course of self-promotion (even if you follow well-accepted, appropriate channels) you will at some point be embarrassed, misunderstood, disrespected, and/or ignored. Accept that and the way is cleared to reap much more positive outcomes. I continue to have moments of discomfort, but the rewards of growing recognition and exposure make that all pretty much OK. I wonder what other artists reading this have to say on this topic? It seems to be on many people's minds, and there are no easy answers, only individual opinions and anecdotes.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
  oil and wax workshop in door county, wisconsin

I was in Door County, Wisconsin (the state's "thumb" that juts into Lake Michigan) for the past few days, teaching the techniques I use in my work at Peninsula Art School. This location had all kinds of attractions, beyond the pleasure of teaching--Door County is a beautiful part of the state, the fall leaves are at their peak of color, my husband and I were given the sweet little faculty cottage behind the school for our stay, and the facility itself is excellent--spacious and staffed by gracious and accommodating people.

As lovely as all that was, it was undeniably three days of hard work, and very tiring--I'm taking it a bit easy today, unpacking and doing a few things in the studio. As I painted for a while this morning, I found myself mulling over a question that came up as we were wrapping up on the last day. Everyone said that they had learned a lot from the class--from me, and from each other. Then someone asked me if I had also learned from the students. I knew I had--I always do. And I said as much--but I was a bit vague and did not offer much in the way of examples (probably because my brain had started to shrivel up in exhaustion by then.)

Today though, I started to think about what this particular class had taught me. There were some helpful technical things--for example, several people knew (or invented on the spot) ways of transferring images, both drawings and photos...others thought of interesting approaches to texture, using metal washers, coffee cups, copper sheeting, carbon-coated string and mica flakes. One artist very successfully divided a panel into sections using blue painter's tape. Information was traded around product manufacturers, websites, artists, exhibits and art supplies.

In the work itself, I noted surprising and effective color combinations, and the application of the cold wax in a wide variety of ways--from thin, ethereal veils to rich, substantial layers. I was impressed again with the many variables of this process, and the individuality that different artists bring to it. As with every class so far, the students' willingness to experiment with these techniques reveals more and more of its potential.

For me, the best thing about each workshop is meeting artists from around the country--talking, seeing their work, and hearing their thoughts, questions and challenges. This group was the largest I have taught so far--twelve in all, hailing from Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Iowa and New York. Perhaps it was this particular combination of people, or maybe the size of the class, but in any case there was an unusually high level of interaction and discussion. Quite a sociable group (we even had happy hour--a few bottles of wine appeared near the end of the second day!) And very focused and hard-working. Quite a few students arrived early and stayed beyond the official 4pm end of each day.

Thanks to all who attended and to the Peninsula Art School. By the way, I signed on to do this all over again a year from now...if this sounds good to you, please consider joining me then.

Saturday, October 17, 2009
  new painting, new book

I finished this painting last week and shipped to Darnell Fine Art in Santa Fe, along with a few others, including some small paintings as requested by the gallery. Several of the paintings purchased from my show there were sent off to their owners, and sending replacements became a high priority for me--during a time I had imagined (sigh) would be a break. BUT lots of us these days go into high gear when there is an opportunity. I'm really happy about the sales and no doubt there will be a slower time not far ahead in which to relax.

The title of this painting is Garden Gate (30"x30")--the rusty colors brought to mind the fenced in gardens on the edge of the Catalan village where I stayed last fall. In posting this, I realize that I haven't yet had a blog post about the newest book of my paintings.

It's a small book (7"x7", 40 pages) about the three weeks last September that I spent as an artist in residence at the Centre d"Art I Natura in Catalonia, Spain, and the work that that came out of that experience. It's available through me (email me at crowellart@yahoo.com) for $15 (that includes S/H) or through blurb.com.
Monday, October 12, 2009
  back from missouri

When I arrived to drop off paintings for a group show at PS Gallery in Columbia, MO at the end of September, I was still undecided about making the trip back down for the opening on October 10. But the gallery itself (once a pool hall, later a hardware store, now beautifully refinished to gallery standards) the work therein, and the town of Columbia (art-friendly, charming, cultural) lured me back. My friend Chris agreed to make the 1200-mile round trip with me, which does seem a little crazy in retrospect since we only had one day that did not involve driving. Friday was ten hours in the car--somehow this seemed to go pretty fast, with conversation and several stops along the way including coffee in the river town of Hannibal (evidence of Mark Twain everywhere.)

On Saturday morning we dropped off a couple of more paintings for the show, and one was purchased before it made it onto the wall...along with a second painting of the same size and similar color that made a pair (on the right side of photo above.) Good signs! Four other small paintings were pre-sold and I'd had replacements sent from my Santa Fe gallery. So, it was a different show than I had envisioned--but that is definitely not a complaint.

Later on Saturday afternoon, after lunch at the Ragtag Theater deli, we returned to hear one of the other artists in the group show, Chris Dahlquist, speak about her luminous, compelling landscape images, and visited the Museum of Art and Archeology on the University of Missouri campus--beautiful antiquities in an intimate setting. The opening itself was fun--a huge party. Lots of interesting people and talk. Jennifer Perlow and Chris Stevens, who own the gallery, are dynamic hosts and really pull in a crowd. I should probably end the story right here, since it was kind of downhill after the opening...the drive home on Sunday seemed endless--Chris and I were both tired, and I had picked up some kind of illness that still has me down today. Still, it all seems worthwhile in retrospect, to have made the trip and the personal connections. The show is up through December, if anyone is in the area or passing through and can stop in.
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
  photos from santa fe

It's good to be home after a week in New Mexico to attend the opening of my solo show at Darnell Fine Art in Santa Fe. Four sales there as of today (which is four more than I was counting on in these times) plus good comments and feedback. I've had an equal number of sales so far at my concurrent show in Columbia, MO (at Perlow Stevens Gallery.)

So I'm feeling happy and relieved, and went grocery shopping today with a bit less anxiety than has been usual in the past few months! I really appreciate everyone who purchases my work, but I must especially thank the Albuquerque collector who bought six of the eight recent paintings sold. It was such a pleasure to meet him at the Santa Fe opening. Wonderful also to meet a number of other local artists and art collectors that night--everyone had interesting questions and comments, and it was a fun and painless couple of hours. (OK, not totally painless--high heels were probably not the best idea...)

We arrived home yesterday, after 20+ hours on the road. Today I dealt with the usual re-entry stuff, laundry, mail, unpacking and uploading photos. I also had a few hours in my studio where I started a bunch of small paintings, and worked a couple of larger ones toward completion. I enjoyed the sense of a fresh start, new work, new ideas, and it feels great to be home, however briefly (heading for Missouri on Friday for my other opening.)

Saturday, October 03, 2009
  quick update from new mexico
It's been over a week since I've had much computer time, and sometimes that's a good thing! We left over a week ago with a car full of paintings, delivering the first batch at Perlow Stevens Gallery in Columbia, MO. This is a beautiful gallery in a unique space (an old hardware store) and the town had a great vibe. The morning we came through there was a huge blues festival going on. I dropped off eleven small to medium-sized paintings, and heard a few days ago that four had already sold. The opening is October 10, and though I'm sure I'll be a bit tired after our drive back from NM, I'm hoping to make it with a little help from Amtrak and some friends in St. Louis.

We delivered the remaining paintings in Santa Fe this past Monday morning and then had a few days with family and friends in Albuquerque. On Wednesday we headed south into the Truth or Consequences area, and stayed overnight at Black Range Lodge in Kingston. This tiny village was once the largest city in NM, with 7000 residents (only 20 today, including some fascinating artists.) So, lots of interesting history. I wanted to explore the idea of holding one of my Oil and Wax workshops at the Lodge, and I'd say this is a good possibility, maybe next September.

My opening at Darnell Fine Art was last night...it was a beautiful evening on Canyon Road, lots of good conversation, a couple of red dots. I'll post pictures when I get back to my home computer. A very enjoyable time, if exhausting, as openings always seem to be for the artist. We have ne more day here before starting the return trip on Sunday morning.


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       Rebecca Crowell