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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.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011
  thought about writing

Writing fills a strong inner need of mine to record and document my life, and to observe my thoughts, experiences and surroundings. Even in childhood, I used writing to a search for what was real and true via my own experience and the observations of others, and that has continued all my life in the form of journals, letters, newspaper articles, art criticism, essays, a couple of self-published books about my work, and now this blog. Whether for a private or pubic audience, writing has been a touchstone for many years, and I can't imagine life without it any more than I can imagine life without painting.

But, I'm a painter first and foremost...why the focus on visually interpreting my experience, when writing has this obvious pull? I've been thinking about this question, and also the balance that the two activities provide.

Painting comes first for me for several reasons-- the most obvious one is pleasure in the process. It is compelling, always pulling me on, a journey of endless discovery. Beyond the joy of the process, I also love what painting expresses and reveals, both during its creation and as a finished object. In painting I feel I tap into basic aspects of life that I hold dear--trust, generosity, communication, openness to possibility, creation of beauty, peace of mind, and the celebration, mystery and acceptance of being human. Both the paintings themselves and the process of creating them are spiritual in essence. This is true not only of my own work, of course. It's what I find compelling in the work of others that I admire and feel pulled into, the basic glue that binds viewer and artist.

Writing (always non-fiction, in my case) is for me a very different process. While pleasurable in its own way, it draws on skills and energies unrelated to the kind of creation I experience in painting. It requires that I pull existing thoughts from my brain—where they are lurking, usually half-formed and unorganized --and then that I form logical and cohesive structures from these thoughts. There are parallels to painting for sure, especially in forming structures and in the rather picky editing I apply to both forms of expression. And writing does lead to discoveries...I often don't know where I am heading with something until it is mostly written, and this is a familiar mode in the studio as well. But in the end, everything I write I already know in some way, it is a matter of digging it out and clarifying, making connections.

On the other hand I often feel that a painting comes from some place beyond me. While writing is very satisfying to me, it is firmly rooted in my own brain, and lacks the mystery and power of painting... more akin to sorting and organizing the closet than channeling something mysterious and magical.

I often do a bit of "writing" (nothing legible) on my paintings to add visual texture. The diptych above is Black Beach, each 16"x16" (2011.)
Wednesday, April 20, 2011

After over two weeks on the road, I'm back home and reflecting on the trip...feeling very grateful for all the people who made it possible, who provided places to stay, memorable meals, companionship and conversation, opportunities to relax, and many other forms of hospitality. And of course, I'm also thinking of the artists who came to my two workshops and those who provided working spaces in Asheville,NC and Beaufort, SC. Both workshops went very well. Painting sessions were intense, lots of good work was created and connections forged among the participants.

The kind of trip that this one was, with 1-2-3 days here and there, is difficult (at least for me) when it's over. Along with the suitcases and crates of workshop materials I've hauled home are a great many pieces of mental luggage that have been dumped unorganized into my brain during the past two weeks. Ideas, notes, impressions, reminders, things to follow up on..some of it exists in physical form on business cards and lists, but most of it only in thought, and all of it seems a huge jumble this morning, as I sit with my coffee and contemplate return to normal life. I know I need to give myself some time to get everything-- both mental and physical-- sorted out and dealt with.

The truth is, re-entry into usual life after a big trip is never my favorite part...and this return seems especially disorienting. Besides the general chaos of things needing attention, there is also a strangeness to our surroundings here. It is as if time stood still while we were gone, because there have been only small advances into spring. The Wisconsin landscape is still very bleak compared to the lush greenery and flowers of the southern places we visited--the trees are leafless, the ground is muddy and snowy in patches, with only a few green things poking up. At least my daffodils have bloomed...hardy things.

But it's home, home sweet home, and I am eager to be off to my studio this morning. Whatever else goes on, the studio is my quiet center place.

The painting above, Stripes #3 (12" x 12") is a small one I finished before the trip and had along on my travels.
Friday, April 15, 2011
  cold wax workshops

Winter, which was still hanging on a week and a half ago when we left Wisconsin, now seems far away. My husband and I are now traveling through the Carolinas and Georgia, a wonderland of spring flowers, leafy trees and warm sun. I'm in between workshops—last weekend I taught my first Level 2 Oil and Wax Workshop in Asheville, NC, and today I begin one of my basic level classes in Beaufort, SC. As always when I teach, I've worked with enthusiastic, involved artists and have gained new ideas for what is possible with the medium of cold wax. Some new ideas are contributed by the artists who attend class, some already well-tested, while others arise spontaneously as we work ...often in the midst of one of my demos someone will suggest a variation or new direction that has come to mind, and I'll try it out on the spot to see what will happen.

Cold wax medium mixed with oils (or powdered pigment) is a mixture seething with potential and begging for experimentation. All of the techniques that I share in my workshops began as “what if” questions, arising from years of painting experience and an early background in printmaking. The body, luminosity and enhanced drying time afforded by the wax steered me firmly away from more traditional brush painting into new territory.

While visiting several galleries in Atlanta this week, I recalled an earlier visit about 9 years ago--the first time I had seen encaustic (hot wax) paintings displayed in large numbers, and I’m sure I was a bit behind the times in noticing this…the popularity of encaustic paintings, with their luminosity and brilliant textural and layering effects, continues among artists, art lovers and collectors Now I often hear people who love cold wax medium suggest that cold wax is the next wave.. The appearance and techniques employed in the two approaches are quite different, but the common denominator of wax does lend similar abilities (such as being able to build paintings in luminous layers.) Cold wax has its own special attractions, such as ease of studio set-up, less toxicity, and the intuitive aspect of being able to paint with the mixture...no need for fusing with heat. In any case, the excitement over cold wax painting is palpable among artists who contact me for information or who take my classes.
Monday, April 04, 2011
  off to the Carolinas

The painting above is a small, 12"x9" piece called (Relic #2) that has been packed up along with others for the road trip to the Carolinas. Below is another small painting, Chant, 8"x6." I like to take along some of my actual work to show students when I teach, and this time, I'll have a gallery wall to hang them on at River's Edge Studio, in Asheville, NC where I am teaching an advanced level Oil and Wax Workshop on the weekend.

The following weekend I will be teaching my basic class at ART Works in Beaufort, SC. (There are still 1-2 spaces left in that class.) In between, my husband and I will have a few days in Atlanta, where I hope to check out some galleries, and the High Museum. I'm looking forward to the trip very much, and besides all the usual reasons for enjoying travel and teaching, this trip means finally getting to experience some real spring (Wisconsin is still chilly with snowy patches...)

Today is busy with packing, organizing, and getting things set up for our house-sitter, so this post is a short one. I'll depart with one more painting photo, below: Timanfaya #5, 12"x12".



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       Rebecca Crowell