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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, December 29, 2012
  drawing lines

I've been working with memories of the Irish landscape, and the painting above, Iveraugh, 12"x 12" (mixed media on panel) is one of the small pieces I've finished in the past few days. Along with the memory and emotion in the painting, I also have a formal interest in the tension between the color fields and the line drawing, done here in a gestural and energetic way. Lines have been growing more important in my work in the past few years, since 2008 after a residency in the Catalonia region Spain, when I did a lot of sketching in the mountainous landscape. Those sketches translated into a type of sketchy line drawing in the abstract paintings that followed once I was back home, such as the one below, Old Wall Barcelona (oil and mixed media on panel, 2008, collection of Max and Emely McConkey.)

With their direct and simple presence, lines give the viewer a sense of the artist's hand. I like the contrast between this effect and the way that the color fields in my work are perceived. Color fields have an essentially mysterious presence--it is never clear how the complex surface came about, how these particular effects were achieved, oftentimes even to me. The process I use involves building up and tearing down layers of oil paint mixed with cold wax medium along with a few other materials such as powdered pigment, sand and pastel. There are complex interactions between the layers, and in the end there is as much buried as revealed. To then draw freely into the surface with a skewer or palette knife tip is a very different process. I like to think the result evokes different aspects of experience--the deeper, hidden layers and the more spontaneous and overt.

I've also used lines in my work many times in a more structured way, as grids, horizontals and verticals. In my multiple panel paintings the lines formed by adjacent and contrasting panels are strong and geometric, while those I draw into the work are looser and more subtle. The recent (untitled, 30"x30) painting below is criss-crossed by barely perceptible lines drawn with graphite transfer paper and scratches.

My interest in crossing the picture plane with horizontal and vertical lines has been fed by looking at archaeological site maps, in preparing for my upcoming exhibit at the Pratt Museum in Homer, Alaska (opening August 2, 2013) as well as by observing the beautiful stone fences that cross the farm fields in County Kerry, Ireland, where I recently spend several weeks. It intrigues me how the same imagery can come from many sources, originating in a basic attraction to a simple form or visual idea.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012
  new website: cold wax painting

A new website that I created, www.coldwaxpainting.com , went live last night, almost two years since the idea was first conceived, and a year since actual work began. I've been enjoying all the positive responses on facebook today, and a sense of satisfaction that I can finally share the fruits of this long process.

The origins of this new site go back to a conversation I had in the fall of 2010 with my agent, who suggested that, in order to attract galleries and collectors, I should redesign my artist website to more strongly emphasize my paintings, and remove most of my workshop information and general links. Since my primary focus is indeed my own studio work, this made sense. My revamped artist website was published in January 2011, and I was very pleased with the way it showcased my work .

At the time of these changes, I tossed around some ideas with my webmaster for what I thought of as my second, teaching site, where some of the extraneous information would land. For over a year this remained a “back burner” project, but I did create an online (Ning sponsored) interactive/discussion site for artists interested in cold wax medium. Excitement about painting with cold wax medium began to grow and spread quickly, for various reasons I can only speculate about, and I received many requests and inquiries from people looking for information—an instruction book, tutorials, teaching videos, a website--none of which were available, at least to my knowledge. Workshops taught by myself and other artists began to answer this need to some extent, but obviously, only for those able to attend.

The Ning discussion site seems to have been a good idea (to date there are over 1600 members from around the world) but along with its positive features (artists can post their work, ask questions and engage in commentary with each other) there are limitations (discussion threads get buried, beginners may find it hard to jump and figure out how to navigate and learn, no organized categories of information. ) To serve the ever-expanding community of artists interested in cold wax painting, a central source of well-organized information was needed.

My busy life seems to have kept me from focusing on writing a book or producing tutorials to meet this need--and the truth is that my interest in conveying purely technical information is limited. But the idea of a website focused on painting with cold wax medium gradually began to make sense to me, and one that would include more than just technical explanations. A clear vision for the site though, took about a year to emerge, which surprises me in retrospect. But the truth is that I started with an unorganized collection of material that had come from my original art website, prior to its revamping, a scattering of ideas with no strong, unifying concept. Not exactly a recipe for a great website, but a beginning at least (a bit like the beginning stages of a process-oriented painting, when I think of it!) It took feedback from my friend Janice Mason Steeves last spring to make me realize that the site should be focused clearly on cold wax medium.

Several intermediate phases came after those initial efforts, until the site arrived at its present, published format—it was a work in progress and it took some time to form my vision for what I wanted it to be. Like a painting, I guess it had to evolve in its own time. My intentions finally became clear due to some insights I had shortly after returning from Ireland (gaining that distance was helpful.) Once I came to that point --see my last paragraph for details--I had a strong guiding idea. The final changes that were needed became obvious. So I emailed my ever-patient web designer with ideas for the changes, and the last stage of work on the site began, with weeks of re-organizing, editing and proofreading, and soliciting material from other artists. I had a final meeting a few weeks ago with my web guy, and more tweaking ensued. So many hours have been devoted to this project that I can hardly believe it’s done!

One last step remained, which also went live last night—a facebook page that I created in conjunction with the website. This is a place for ongoing commentary, discussion, notifications of workshops, and anything related that anyone wants to post. It will function in a similar way to the Ning site, but because facebook is now so popular and familiar, and people engage with it so spontaneously, this may prove to be an easier and more popular format. (The Ning site will continue as well, since so many people have connected there—plus it archives discussions, notes and blogs and provides a live chat function.)

And what is my vision for the site? I want it to be exciting, active, evolving, to feel like it has an open door. Although I have an obvious presence on the site as its creator, I want it to be for and about everyone who is interested in learning about cold wax medium , and I am actively soliciting contributions of information and experience—links, information, instructor contacts, articles, websites, tips. Because I believe it will serve everyone involved, I also hope that those who find it useful will make a small donation to help pay for the cost of creating the site and the updates that will appear over time (there is a donate button linked to the Contact page, along with instructions for submitting articles and other additions to the site. ) Thanks in advance for everyone who visits and engages with the site!
Tuesday, December 04, 2012
  water-based mixed media

Since coming back from Ireland several people have asked me to write about the techniques I used in the paintings I did there, because the surfaces of these paintings are similar to those I normally get using cold wax medium and oils. But what I used almost exclusively during my artist residency at Cill Rialaig were water-based materials, not oils-- acrylic paints, acrylic mediums, watercolor--along with other compatible materials like powdered pigments and pastels.

I've worked with these materials during other trips overseas--beginning with my residency in Catalonia in 2008--because they are easier to transport, and I've enjoyed the exploration each time. But in the past, I struggled to get the surfaces as rich as I like them. Although I did some successful paintings on these earlier residencies, I also felt that most of what I did was somehow less serious or developed than my "real" work.

At Cill Rialaig, though, a shift took place. It's not that everything I did there was wonderful or well developed by any means, but from the first day of painting on this residency I felt a flow, an identification with the work that was very satisfying. I was speaking in my own voice, and felt in tune with the materials in a new way. I suppose it just took a certain amount of practice and experience, and things finally clicked.

My approach with the water based mixed media is a simple translation of the way I work in oils--instead of oil paints, I use acrylics and watercolor, and instead of wax I use acrylic mediums of various kinds. My techniques, involving brayers, squeegees, and palette knives, are pretty much identical to the way I work in oil and wax. Also very much the same are the other materials I use to develop rich texture--powdered pigments, pastels, charcoal, transfer paper and drawing materials. The paintings done in Ireland were built up in layers with a certain amount of scratching, dissolving or scraping back through, again just as in my oil and wax painting. They were all done on paper, generally taped to a board, to provide the rigid surface I like for these techniques.

What makes these paintings unique, then--different from my oil paintings? I find they have a fresh, energetic, spontaneous quality that comes form the quicker-drying materials. They are a bit less refined, a little more in the moment than what I usually do. I worked on them quickly...they did not seem precious to me, and in fact more than one went into the wood stove. Typically I finished 1-2 each day during the residency--although there were a few days when I didn't paint, in 21 days at Cill Rialaig, I came away with about 30 paintings. I didn't set out to do a certain number or even push myself very hard. It was all about the flow and the energy of that amazing location.
  8:55 PM 3 comments


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       Rebecca Crowell