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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 28, 2010
People who are new to my work often have questions about my paintings and art life (people who know me may have them as well.) To cover some of that ground, I've decided to post a few of the questions I get most often. This first post covers FAQs of a personal (but not too personal!) nature, and next time I'll cover the more technical types of inquiries.

How do you find time to do all this stuff--painting, teaching, exhibiting, blogging, writing?

I think it works because it is all related and fits together. Painting gives me the material for all of the rest of it and of course, it's my most essential activity. I would be painting even if all the rest of it were to fall away.

There are definitely times when various tasks and commitments pile up and I feel overwhelmed, pulled in too many directions. And there are chores that get neglected like paper work, updating my website and data files. But when I look at what actually does get accomplished, it gives me confidence and momentum. And the bottom line is, I like doing all of these things and there is nothing I want to cut out.

How long have you been teaching workshops? Do you plant to teach in my area?

Teaching is a relatively new addition to the mix--my first workshop was in April of 2009. I enjoy it very much-it provides income plus many intangible benefits. I travel, I meet fascinating people, and sharing my experience and knowledge is very satisfying. I have been very gratified by the response to my classes.

But teaching is also something that I can and probably will cut back on in the future. Recently, I counted up all of the classes I've done or am scheduled to do in 2010. I came up with thirteen, including all formats and types--about twice what I anticipated when I started out. I plan a more restrained 2011, with an emphasis on classes held in my studio. (As much as I enjoy traveling, it takes a lot out of me.) I do have a few other interesting locations that I'm working on, though, and have accepted one return engagement. I intend to post my teaching schedule for next year on my website by December.

How do you find your galleries, or do they find you?

There's a different story behind each gallery that represents my work or has done so in the past. Usually I approach a gallery because of research I've done or on the suggestion of an art friend, and send a packet of photos and information. Sometimes I'm contacted by a gallery...last October I had a call from Telluride Gallery of Fine Art in Colorado. I checked out their website, and looked over some material they mailed me, and was very pleased to join the gallery. Other times, when I do my research, I decide that the location or type of gallery is not what I'm looking for. I think it's important to choose representation carefully, and also to reevaluate it periodically.

Locating and approaching galleries, and evaluating how they are working once you're in them is a huge topic, and an evolving lesson. Each artist seems to have a personal and anecdotal take on it. So far my experience has usually been along conventional lines, researching galleries and locations, and sticking with established ways of submitting my work.

Do you ever do art fairs?

I've never gotten involved in the art fair circuit, although I know of many artists for whom it works well. I'd rather work with galleries because I don't enjoy marketing my work directly. But that does mean that the people who purchase and collect my work usually remain anonymous to me. Sometimes I wish I knew them a little, and could talk. That is a great advantage to selling face to face.

And finally...how can you find anything on that messy paint table?

Ha, ha, my favorite question. There actually is organization here, it's just hard to detect under the layers of crud.

Monday, August 23, 2010
  old walls

The photos above were taken in a limestone brewery built in the 1850s in Mineral Point, Wisconsin (the town I spent this past weekend teaching an Oil and Wax Workshop.) The building, owned by artist Diana Johnston (who participated in the workshop) and her husband Tom, is now called Brewery Pottery Studio. It serves as their home and studio, and much of the ground floor is occupied by a gallery showing the work of area artists. (The outside view is at the bottom of this post.)

On Saturday night, Diana and Tom welcomed the workshop artists to their remarkable building for dinner and a tour of various cavernous rooms not open to the public. There were several workrooms for making pottery and Diana's welded objects and clocks, a large room that served as basketball court and teenage hangout when their kids were younger, and eerie subterranean caverns cut into the earth, once used for storing beer. Spring water flowed through channels in the floor of one room on the lower level. Everywhere were 19th century doors, some with the original brewery labels such as “Bottling Cellar” intact, eroded walls with the original brick exposed, and the occasional glimpse of the old cork used as insulation. Their living quarters on the top level of the building were beautifully and charmingly adapted to the quirkiness of the building.

I had forgotten my camera that first night, but Diana graciously invited me back today to photograph and have another look around. I love the textures and patinas created over time on old walls and other surfaces--the fissures and chips of age and wear. Perhaps their poignant beauty has become more significant and symbolic to me as I myself age, and I see the effects of time passing on others around me.

While I don't ever use photographs as direct references in my work, I am pleased to have some record of these walls as inspiration.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I know I'm not alone in finding red a difficult color to work with, at least in the color fields that typify my paintings. I've often spent many hours building a surface that seemed to have the depth and complexity I like in my work, only to see it flatten out when I come back to the studio the next day. I've developed a few strategies to help enhance the texture and contrasts in a red color field, though I do still struggle.

My usual approach to building rich surfaces is to vary a color with lighter and darker shades layered and juxtaposed with the main color I'm developing. However, red is difficult to lighten or darken--adding white leads quickly to pink, a color with a completely different emotional aspect. Adding black or another dark color usually results in mud. Without some degree of contrast though, red does not easily rise above the admittedly brilliant but flat color that comes from the tube.

Another strategy works better--using related colors for layering--oranges and purples, and also bits of contrasting blues and greens. (I often build up the initial layers in a painting I would like to steer towards red with contrasting colors.)For dark contrast I like a bit of sepia or other dark earth color.

I find it helpful to apply the paint rather roughly and allow it to dry somewhat between painting sessions. This creates surface texture and allows for more interesting scumbling and glazing opportunities. When cadmium red medium is my base,I like to scumble over it with a brighter color like cadmium red light or cadmium orange, and glaze with one of the transparent reds available--such as Sennelier Antique Red (a bit like Indian Red, but without the heavy opaque quality) and the quinacridone reds (Daniel Smith has some beautiful ones) or a dark color like asphaltum or sepia.

Powdered pigment, powdered graphite or charcoal brayered into the surface also create texture and contrast. But no matter what approaches I use, in every red painting I've done, working and working the surface seems to be the only way to develop richness and luminosity.

I also find red paintings hard to photograph...the one above, Red Cliff #3, 54"x30" is a bit less orange than it appears here. It is a commissioned painting that I delivered a couple of weeks ago to my gallery in Santa Fe, Darnell Fine Art.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
  another road trip

I got home last night from two weeks on the road in NM and Colorado, during which I taught one private and one group workshop, and delivered work to my Santa Fe gallery. Today is the stage I call "re-entry" when I'm road-weary, exhausted in body and mind--and bewildered by the sheer number of things to unpack, emails to catch up on, huge weeds in the garden and spiders reproducing in the corners of the ceiling. (Sorry, arachnophobes...it's country life.)

Rather than forcing my brain into thoughtful blogging mode, I'm just going to post a few photos from my recent workshop at KC Willis Gallery and Studio in Longmont, CO. This three day workshop was attended by seven very accomplished and involved artists, and was one of the most interactive groups I have taught. We had some great discussions and some good laughs, and it was a thoroughly enjoyable time--with many impressive paintings begun.

As usual when cold wax artists gather, there were new ideas contributed for tools, techniques and sources for materials. The photo below shows a selection of painting tools that Nancy Green brought along--she has been working with cold wax for awhile now and used all of these for creating interesting textures.

Sunday, August 01, 2010
  on the road
This is just a quick post to say that I am on the road, currently in Santa Fe. I have had very little computer time and even less to reflect and process, which for me are necessary preludes to blogging. I'm just noting here my intention to post something longer, with a photo, soon--but it may be a week or more before that happens. A little blogging break, I guess.


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       Rebecca Crowell