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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, August 27, 2012
  cold wax medium community

What is a community of artists? At one time it would have meant a physical location with a high concentration of artists who could meet and discuss their work and other art topics with frequency. Big cities like New York and Paris, and smaller places like New Hope, PA and Taos, NM have been known at various times for offering artists these opportunities for close interaction. I'm sure I'm not alone in sometimes wishing that I'd lived in such a place. As artists many of us feel an urge to seek others for feedback, conversation, support, and sharing the excitement of new work.

How lucky we are then to live at a time when other forms of community are available to artists. In my own experience, I've seen a community (both in person and online) grow among artists who work with cold wax medium. In the three and a half years that I've been teaching workshops on this topic, artists have come together around the classes themselves (with quite a few artists returning more than once, and many keeping in touch with each other when class ends) as well as on the interactive Ning site, Oil and Wax, which now has over 1400 members from around the world. Artists who have taken my workshops now teach their own classes, and some of their students are now teaching also. People in the cold wax community are starting to know each other (or of each other) and to talk about who is doing what, teaching what, exhibiting where. Soon, I'll be launching a new website bring together artists, instructors, resources and information on this topic, which I hope will continue to nurture the growth of the cold wax medium community.

The strong urge to connect that exists among artists working with this medium has to some extent taken me by surprise. When I started the Oil and Wax Ning discussion site, it was with the simple premise of enabling those who have taken my classes to talk to each other. I could see the value in that, and the need for it, but I did not foresee the huge response from people around the country and the world who have applied for membership. Obviously the interest in cold wax medium has a life and momentum of its own...its time has come.

Considering how popular it suddenly seems, it is interesting to note that cold wax medium has been around for centuries. It was probably in use back around the first century along with encaustic (hot wax) when it was discovered that beeswax could beneficially be mixed with paint. The contemporary interest in cold wax medium seems likely to be related to the similar dramatic rise of interest in encaustic painting that has occurred over the past twenty years or so (though so far, cold wax is far less well known.) Many artists with a background in encaustic have taken my classes, evidence of a crossover interest. As one such artist told me when I commented on this, "hey, it's all wax!" Though hot wax and cold wax are related due to their use of beeswax (I think of them as sister processes) there are also significant differences (click here for a previous blog post on this topic)--a fact that which seem to intrigue many artists.

Other artists come to cold wax medium out of frustration with traditional oil painting approaches (the wax allows much more freedom than many other techniques) or because of they would like to achieve the layering effects possible in acrylic with a new medium.

Overall, the current level of interest also seems spurred on by how well this medium works with intuitive abstract painting. Certainly cold wax medium can be used--and has been used for many years--in more traditional approaches. But what seems to ignite artist's imaginations now are techniques of layering, adding texture and mixed media. For many reasons (which become evident the more one works with it) cold wax medium lends itself extremely well to process-oriented abstraction, with its potential for rich surface textures and complex color interactions. The opportunities for experimentation are wide open. Certainly this is what has driven my own enthusiasm for the medium and has led me to develop the range of techniques that I share in my workshops.

The photo above is of the advanced level Oil and Wax Workshop that I taught in Telluride, CO earlier this month--a group of artists who for the most part have been working with cold wax medium for several years, and who all delved into their work in class with wonderful focus and enthusiasm.
Sunday, August 19, 2012
  summer travels

Almost three weeks ago I left on a road trip to Texas, New Mexico and Colorado. Thousands of miles later, in the early hours of this morning, I pulled my trusty Subaru wagon back into my own driveway, grateful to be home. On this trip, I've been teaching, doing some gallery business, visiting friends and family and seeing some of the great scenery of the Southwest. I was joined by my friend Liz about half way through--she is a perfect traveling companion, easy going, friendly with everyone, with lots of stamina for driving and always up for an interesting stop along the highway. In the photo above, we are at Mesa Verde National Park near Durango, CO.

As I unloaded crates of teaching supplies from the car into my studio this afternoon, I thought back over the past few months. This last trip was my fourth one of the summer--all taken for either teaching or gallery business (or both.) There were many enjoyable aspects to this last trip, and the others too, including of course working with all the people who come to my workshops. But our Wisconsin summer is almost gone, and I have only been home for a few weeks of it. It feels like luxury now to have two months before my next scheduled travel.

Do I travel "too much?" Many people have said this to me, or some variation--that I need to slow down, take it easy, not work so hard, stay home more. I receive this advice with mixed feelings--while it holds appeal, I weigh every trip in terms of the need for teaching income and staying on top of my gallery connections. It's not easy to make a living doing what I do, and for now, travel seems a part of this job that I accept (and for the most part, enjoy.) Building in some side trips, visits, and a little time to enjoy my surroundings helps make travel for workshops and painting delivery fun as well as necessary. (Below, cliffs at Tsankawi, a section of Bandalier National Monument in NM.)

Speaking of painting delivery, I would like to announce my new gallery affiliation in Santa Fe--McLarry Modern Gallery. I delivered about a dozen paintings there during my trip. It's a beautiful space with some excellent artists and a very friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Please stop in when you are in Santa Fe (225 Canyon Road.)

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

I have a long standing interest in texture in my work, and for years this has been mainly visual texture--intricate shifts and nuances in the compressed layers of oil mixed with cold wax medium, with a fairly smooth outer surface. About a year and a half ago I first added a bit of sand to my work, which interested me in a peripheral way. But I didn't sustain that focus for long--it was just one of a number of experimental techniques I was trying.

Lately though I have brought more focus to the idea of actual texture, and I've been experimenting with adding sand, powdered marble and powdered pigments to the paint and cold wax. I am enjoying the depth this brings to the work and the way these surfaces evoke rich textures such as rock and lichen that I'm attracted to in nature.

Beyond the sheer visual delight that I take in texture, I also find emotional appeal in rough and gritty surfaces. The opposite of slick, shiny, and fabricated, they feel "real" to me, full of life, with all of its pits, nooks and crannies.

The two paintings above are Lichen #1 and #2, 12" x 12" oil, cold wax and mixed media on panel. Copper, below, is 10"x8" done with the same materials on paper.



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       Rebecca Crowell