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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 28, 2011
  quiet times, busy times

December through mid-March was a relatively quiet time for me, without a travel or teaching schedule. Those days are behind me now--I've launched into a much busier schedule, and I'm looking back at the winter now with slight nostalgia. In retrospect this timing worked out well, coinciding with the cold, huddled down time of year. It was a very productive time in the studio. It's not that I miss winter itself (which we still seem to be in half the time, anyway) but I do miss the focus on simply painting and being in the studio.

Of course, I still had plenty to do all during that time--shipping work to Ireland, getting ready for my trip to Toronto, having my website updated. Life never seems completely quiet! But simply being at home most of the time, and making it to my studio nearly every day, makes me feel grounded and calm. Recognizing that this is good, I've started to consciously set up times of the year when the schedule is less demanding. My intention is to keep a similar block of time next year, early winter through early spring, as a period when I will avoid scheduling much.

Busy times have their own pleasures too, of course. I just had my first studio workshop of the year, and am feeling the glow of its success. Five artists from various distant places (including Sweden!) came together for three days of intense exploration of cold wax medium techniques. It was a friendly, compatible group, and the artists were very open and full of ideas. There is nothing like the energy that flows in these workshops! I have several more to look forward to through the spring and summer--two in the Carolinas in April, one in my studio in May, in Davenport Iowa in June, in Telluride, CO in July, and in Mineral Point, WI in August and again in October. Two of these are upper level classes that I'm adding for the first time this year, so they require planning and preparing the new material. (For details on all of my upcoming workshops, please click here.

My travel plans include road trips for several of these classes, plus a residency in Ireland in September, at the Tyrone Guthrie center. I guess it's fortunate that I really enjoy travel, whether it's a road trip for a day or two, or off to another country. The class, the exhibit, or whatever the purpose of the trip may be provides structure--but there is also times for meeting new people, and often for spending time with old friends too, and seeing sights.

I have two exhibits scheduled at this point for 2011, one at Woodwalk Gallery in Door County, Wisconsin (opening July 3) and one at at Darnell Fine Art in Santa Fe (opening July 22.) In addition to creating work for those shows, I also just received a large commission for a 5x8 foot painting, for a cancer care center in Texas.

As I write all of this, my head starts to spin thinking of the mountain of to-do lists that will be generated by this schedule. I know that the key to handling a busy schedule is to take it one step at a time, and try not to freak out at the cumulative pile of stuff to do ahead. Also to pay attention to the usual advice: eat right, get exercise and good sleep (not always easy to shut down the brain!) and take time out for fun and for open-ended studio sessions, with no big agenda on my mind. It's the time of year to remind myself of all of this, breathe deeply and carry on.

The small untitled painting above (12"x12" oil on panel) is one I am sending to Woodwalk Gallery to start off their spring season.
Friday, March 18, 2011
  parting with paintings

The painting above, Threshold (60”x36”) is one of five that I delivered to my new gallery in Toronto, Gallery 133, on Tuesday. I hope that my work does well there, and that this painting and the others will soon find new homes.

Parting with my work is not hard for me, though my husband says he remembers a time early on when I did not detach so easily. I guess that’s true, but my focus has shifted over the years to the process and the journey of the work, rather than holding onto the final result. Aside from a few paintings I have kept that hold personal significance, or that I want to give my sons, I acknowledge the need to sell my work to keep going--so I’m sure part of my attitude also comes from pure practicality.

That said, a part of me is always curious about where my work ends up. Although once in awhile I meet a collector at a gallery opening or learn a bit about the circumstances of a purchase, usually I don't know much about the sale of my work (this information is not routinely provided.) Since it's left to my imagination, I sometimes daydream about where my paintings are hanging...over beds, couches and dinner tables, in entryways, hallways, kitchens and bathrooms, in grand homes and modest ones, a part of people’s lives. But what is most important is not where specific paintings are hung—it is knowing that something I’ve done has connected with someone else’s emotional life and experiences.

Like a lot of artists, I find this sense of connection to be both a powerful motivator and a vital source of energy. It is hard won, elusive and mysterious—this basic, gut-level communication with another person, often a complete stranger. It is acknowledged through comments, conversations, and recognition of various kinds. But one of the strongest affirmations of this connection is to sell a painting directly to someone who has fallen in love with it.

For me this kind of sale happens only occasionally, since most of my work goes out to my galleries soon after completion (truly the best arrangement for all concerned, since I am no sales-person and I am very grateful for what my galleries are able to do for me!) But once in a while, a friend approaches me about buying something from my studio, or someone contacts me that knows me through email, my blog, website or Facebook. In making a direct sale, it is quite moving to know who has purchased the work, where they will hang it, and most importantly how they feel about the piece.

The last time this happened to me was a little over a month ago, when I posted the painting below (Timanfaya #3, 12"x12") on my blog, and heard from Seth Apter, a mixed media artist in New York, whose work focuses on paper arts and textural assemblage. We have corresponded a few times in the past, and he reads my blog with some regularity. Timanfaya #3 spoke to him strongly--his excitement over it came through in his initial blog comments and later as we wrote back and forth discussing price and shipping. When I wrapped up the painting for shipment, I felt deeply satisfied to know who was at the other end, and how he felt about the work. And it's funny, but in knowing all of that, my usual detachment abandoned me it was a bit hard to send the painting off.

We decided to post simultaneously on our blogs today, he from the point of view of a collector, and me from that of the artist. Please click on his name above to read his thoughts.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011
  toronto report

I'm writing from Canada, near Toronto, where my husband and I have been since Monday afternoon. I delivered five paintings to Gallery 133 in Toronto on Tuesday, and loved the space, the personnel, and the vibe of the gallery. Once the art business was accomplished, it's been all about enjoying the time in Toronto, a city I have wanted to visit for a long time. We've seen several of Toronto's interesting neighborhoods, eaten great Thai food, and in general relished our time in a new environment.

The friend we are staying with, Janice Mason Steeves, and I have visited numerous galleries, and we've enjoyed what seems like one, ongoing conversation about painting, cold wax medium and teaching workshops (which she also does) since I walked into her house two days ago--with barely time out to sleep.

Here is Jan in her studio, with several of her paintings in the background. Jan uses cold wax medium in her work--in fact, I first met her about a year ago at a workshop she took with me in Wisconsin. We have kept in touch since, and even met up in Barcelona in November. Her work lately has become very abstract and vibrant in color. She has developed a unique way of gouging of the paint surface that yields a most interesting line.

Don and I plan to leave tomorrow morning for the long drive back. I will take away not only great memories, bit also an appreciation for a number of Canadian artists whose work I had not viewed before seeing it today in Toronto galleries. These include Ed Bartram, Stu Oxley and Zhang He.
Saturday, March 05, 2011

Whether you're reading this post on Facebook or on my blog site, stop for a moment and notice what other information sources are competing for your attention, just on the computer alone. How many other tabs are open? How many Facebook or blog posts have you read prior to this that are lingering in your mind, and how many have you glanced at as next in line? Are you multi-tasking, maybe researching a trip or purchase? And beyond the realm of the computer, is there a TV or radio on within your hearing, or is your significant other or your child trying to tell you something (and you're only giving half an ear?)

Even as I write this, I'm monitoring open tabs for incoming emails and Facebook notices, downloading some music, and approving a new member for my ning site. And that's just on the laptop. I'm also slightly distracted by a phone call I need to make, some logistics to work out for upcoming workshops, my husband's plans for the day, and news of more snow on the way. It's 10 a.m. and I feel like I've already reached information overload. It's normal life...I spend parts of every day immersed in this information soup, as most of us probably do. I love the benefits, the connections, conversations, awareness of issues, and other perks of our information culture. Yet I have no doubt that this flood of scattered bits of information creates stress--I can feel it in body and mind.

And it is interesting to consider that it also may tamp down creative focus, according to an article in the current issue of Newsweek magazine. The article discusses the effects of too many bids for our attention on effective reasoning and decision making. This line in particular struck me, as an artist:

(research)...has shown that decisions requiring creativity benefit from letting the problem incubate below the level of awareness—something that becomes ever-more difficult when information never stops arriving.

For me, my studio is the antidote to information overload, because I control it in a conscious way to be conducive to painting. I only take a phone in there if I am expecting an important call, and there is no computer. Once in awhile I do listen to news on public radio, or a music station, and quite often I have my Ipod playing in its dock (usually at a "background" volume, unless I am looking for a particular energy.) But sometimes, I really prefer silence above all. For me (and this will be very individual,because we all have our strategies) creative focus and incubation come about more naturally and powerfully in a subdued atmosphere. I also value the quiet times I spend out walking, cross-country skiing and doing modern dance, all of which bring focus to a quiet center. Though I have never practiced formal meditation, I suspect it too would be excellent--and that all mind-quieting practices are related, and are vital for creativity.

The painting above--El Golfo, 60"x36" oil and volcanic sand on panel.


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       Rebecca Crowell