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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, May 23, 2011
  teaching in my studio

A week and a half ago I held the second and last of my scheduled Oil and Wax Studio Workshops for 2011. Six artists (pictured above) came here from Vancouver, BC, California, Minnesota and Wisconsin. We all painted, talked and shared information for three days, and had some good laughs too. It was exhausting, exhilarating, and very satisfying. There were some very nice paintings underway at the wrap-up sesion at the end of the third day, when the photo was taken, but just as significant was that everyone stretched and pushed beyond their initial ideas and efforts. And as always, there were ideas generated during the class that were new to me--including the "stomp on it in the driveway" technique (interesting gouged textures...)

I have decided that due to the success of these classes held in my studio, I'm going to shift my emphasis to this format starting in 2012. I do love to travel for teaching, and certainly don't plan to cut that out entirely--I've had a great time visiting various parts of the country since I began teaching in 2009. It's fascinating to interact with artists on their home turf, and to see what the art life is like in various locales. Though there are almost always some people who travel to attend, the majority of artists in my "away" classes live near the workshop venue, and this makes the class affordable and convenient for them, which is a huge plus.

But I am starting to appreciate some unique aspects to my studio classes that go beyond my own convenience (which I admit prompted the initial idea to hold classes here.) Obviously, there is no place like my own studio for feeling entirely at home and at ease...my studio is just steps from the back door, we eat lunch at my kitchen table or at the picnic table in the yard, everybody meets my husband, dog, cat, and obnoxious parrot, and in many ways it is a pleasure to share my environment with the artists who travel here. But there are other bonuses, both social and educational, to holding class in my studio.

Probably in part because they do travel, I've noticed that the folks who come here tend to bond and form friendships quite easily. Although there are some who come from areas of Wisconsin and Minnesota, many students fly in from a distance (and a few have come from quite far away, including Sweden and Brazil.) At my other workshops around the country, many of the artists who attend live nearby--and while there is, without fail, a wonderful camaraderie in class, people understandably tend to head home at the end of the day. Here, most everyone stays at the local hotel, and the small town near me offers very little for entertainment or distraction. So, the workshop artists often choose to eat and socialize together after class. At least one recent group bonded strongly enough to continue email correspondence after they went back home, and are talking of plans to re-unite next year for a Level 2 workshop.

Another reason I love teaching here is the wealth of resources at hand--everything I need is available. I can easily pull out a painting in progress to illustrate a point, or grab a book, sketchbook or some seldom-used supply that adds something to the moment.

Finally, based on feedback from the artists who have come to my studio workshops, there is added value to the experience of demos and watching me work. In every class I teach, I work on my own paintings throughout the three days--a sort of ongoing demo. Many students have told me it's valuable to observe a painting develop through various stages. In my "away" classes, I use small 12"x12" flat panels, which are supplied as samples by the Ampersand company and are easy to transport, and they work out very well. But in my own studio, this ongoing demo comes closer to my actual working process--I can use larger panels, hung on the wall, and can also pull various panels together in the multiple-panel arrangements that are typical of my work. I also have lots of panels stacked around in various stages of development, and students are free to look through these and ask questions about whatever they wish. These incomplete panels are also handy when I discuss various techniques and approaches in the layering process, since some techniques work better on drier panels.

For 2011, my scheduled studio classes are over--I have a very busy summer and fall ahead. But if you are interested in coming to my studio sometime in 2012, please email me (crowellart@yahoo.com) with a request to join my mailing list, and I will send out my schedule in December or January. I can take six students at a time and hope to hold 5 or 6 classes throughout the year.
 
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
  authority


Authority is a word on a list of guidelines and intentions for my work that I made a few years ago, to help me when I critique my paintings. These purposefully open-ended concepts and ideas are springboards for thought while I contemplate whether a painting is finished, if it's working or not working, and why. (There are other words like presence, connection, and complexity on the list, each focusing on a different aspect of any particular painting.) For me, a painting that conveys authority is decisively made, expresses an inner logic, exudes creative power, and engages the respect and interest of the viewer. To me these are worthy goals, and a challenge that I enjoy.

Authority is on my mind at this moment after reading a recent blog post by Nancy Natale, about meaning in art--with specific mention of artists working with encaustic who fail to move beyond experimentation with technique into work that has consistency and a conceptual basis. Like encaustic (hot wax), the medium I work in (cold wax) can also be very seductive in the range of techniques available and effects possible. It is easy indeed to relax into "play" mode with cold wax and put aside more formal concerns or rigorous self-evaluation. I certainly know that beginners in any medium need to fool around and experiment, and I also value spontaneity and experimentation as integral to the overall process. Yet I agree with Nancy that there is also a time to move past the completely experimentation phase, to find something to say, and to say it well. When I teach my workshops in cold wax medium techniques, I make a point to talk about intention, sources of ideas, developing personal style, self-critique and so on, in an effort to motivate this kind of higher level work as a goal once the basic methods are learned. Whether ideas and meaning are brought into the work or whether they grow from within the art-making process, discovering and developing them are crucial for growth as an artist and the ability to involve an audience.

In this context, it's interesting to contemplate the word author, the root contained in "authority." What does an author do but hone in on an topic, convey a clear idea or story line, edit and make choices for the best possible combination of words--and in many other ways, say something of meaning and importance (or at least tell a good story) while employing a distinct "voice" or style? Though an artist's language is visual, this is not a bad model at all.

The word authority conveys the idea of being in charge, of taking responsibility. In the artist's case, this is taking charge of what one creates, not simply allowing it to happen without direction. It means bringing in order, structure and meaning, to balance spontaneity and intuitive mark-making. And in the work of experienced artists, even spontaneous marks often convey decisiveness and intention, for the underlying structure and meaning have been well established.

Authority also implies power--in this case the creative power of the artist. I think of this power as being earned by the artist through years of focused, diligent practice, and by persistence in seeking a unique voice. Power is also conferred on the artist by others who appreciate the work--who acknowledge the artist's power to move and engage them. All of this takes time, patience, hard work and trust in the processes of creativity.

Finally, authority also means being an expert on something...and I love the idea that each of us is the world's leading authority on our own work! Given that, I believe that we artists should be able to discuss our own art with intelligence and insight, and that the paintings we exhibit should display technical mastery, even as we are continually learning and experimenting with new ideas.

The painting above, Trails, 10"x10", has, I like to think, a degree of authority despite its small size (10"x10".)
 
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
  news about dublin exhibit

It's been in the works for awhile, and is now official..I'm going to be included in a three person exhibit in Ireland, opening September 30 at Gormley's Gallery in Dublin. I hold the artists I will be showing with in high regard--Jane Swanston and Elizabeth Cope -- and look forward to meeting them in Dublin. It will be an exciting mix of stylistic approaches and mood, and I'm really excited that Gormley's is offering me this introduction into the Irish art scene. It is a large gallery, established in 1989--currently over 100 artists are represented in three locations--emerging and established, Irish and international.

I am quite drawn to the work of several abstract painters Sean Cotter, John Kingerlee and Ger Sweeney who are represented by Gormley's, and look forward to seeing some of their paintings while I'm there--as well as whatever other art and galleries I can take in during my several days in Dublin (and later, Belfast.)

Thanks for this opportunity goes to Alan Evans, my agent in Ireland and the UK. He represents me and 3 other artists (all of them Irish) and he owns IrishArt.com , which is the biggest art site in Ireland--helpful in promoting the exhibit. (You can sneak on as a free artist member if you like - you don't have to be Irish.) Alan's appreciation for my work and the vision he has for its potential are very inspiring. And he certainly knows how to get things moving...I'm impressed! He and his wife Hazel have become friends with my husband and me, as well. He's a generous man with a great sense of humor and very impressive knowledge of the Irish art world.

For this show, I'm planning to exhibit 12 or more works on paper (such as the one above, Lost Wall #2, 14"x11") and several larger paintings on panel. Included too will be some of the work I do while an artist-in-residence at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in County Monaghan, (September 12-October 3.)

I'll be in Ireland for over a month all together, enough time to soak up lots of Irish culture, history, landscapes, and Guinness. Happily, my painter friend from Toronto, Janice Mason Steeves was awarded a residency at Tyrone Guthrie during the same time period...we'll have a great time!
 
Wednesday, May 04, 2011
  new small paintings
I've done a lot of small paintings lately, ranging from 10" x10" to 20"x16" (all untitled, so far.) Lots of bigger work too, including a 5 ft.x 8ft. commission, but the smaller ones always continue. Here are a few, without further comment...





 

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