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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, February 04, 2017
  New Mexico reflections

I’ve been in New Mexico for five weeks now, as work progresses on the old adobe building that will be our winter home.  We’re fortunate to have some very skilled and dedicated workers, all local guys, who not only roof, patch up adobe and plaster, pour concrete, and build bancos, but also offer helpful suggestions about how to approach some of the unique aspects of adobe remodeling. Watching their work makes me truly appreciate the connection between adobe buildings and the land, and the long traditions involved in making these earth homes beautiful and practical.

While that goes on around me, my days are mostly centered around painting, walking, staring at rocks and sunsets, meeting new people, and generally enjoying this unique environment. It’s all still so new and amazing to me that I have a lot of moments that strike me as unreal. Driving up the spectacular Rio Grande gorge on my way to buy groceries in Taos, it’s hard to believe  that I’m on a routine errand. Picking my way up the rocky terrain behind our house, with its vast views on all sides, I try to take in that this is home for at least part of the year.

I am incredibly grateful to be here and for me, the best way to express this is through my work. I’ve been painting some fairly large panels (36”x48”) as well as smaller works on panel and paper. I continue to see the effects of this arid, angular and textural environment in my work. In some ways, this feels fresh and new, and in other ways there is a continuation of ideas that began back in Ireland in the fall--such as including more distinctive shapes and higher contrast. That seems right to me, that form can shift to accommodate new input yet retain the threads of ideas that are worth exploring.

Azure, 36x48" oil/coldwax/pigments on panel

My adobe studio, one of two outbuildings on the property, is tiny and closed-in compared to the one in Wisconsin—I have about 12 feet each way of usable floor space, and just one small, unglazed window, which I need to keep covered on chillier days. I have several strong, LED  lights and spotlights, so the lighting is OK—it’s more that the lack of windows gives it the feeling of being in a cave! When my window is covered, the day can go from light to dark without me ever realizing it. But on sunny, warm winter days though (such a treat to a Wisconsinite) I can open my front door to let in light and air.

Working in such a small space is something of a challenge. But I am adapting.  I brought only minimal supplies from Wisconsin, so there’s not much clutter, and the bancos (built-in low shelves or seats that reinforce the structure) provide a flat surface against three walls for storage and work space. Shortly after I got here, I answered an ad in the local newsletter from someone selling studio supplies, and acquired a wonderful adjustable drawing table, two floor lights, and a few other  useful items.

I have to smile a bit when I think of the chapter about setting up a studio in our upcoming book (Cold Wax Medium: Techniques, Concepts & Conversations, with Jerry McLaughlin.) A lot of our advice about working surfaces and storage would not apply at all in my current space!  But we also make the point that a dedicated artist can work anywhere, and I seem to be testing that theory at the moment. In the future, I hope that something larger and airier can be built on our property here. But in the meantime, what I have here is more than fine.

As I write this, I am in the midst of packing and organizing to leave tomorrow for three weeks. It  seems odd to be uprooting myself from this place in which I’m settling in and enjoying so thoroughly. But I’m also very excited about the next phase—New Zealand!  I’ll be teaching two workshop sessions at Takapuna Art Supply in Auckland, assisted by my friend and co-author Jerry McLaughlin. I’ll also be enjoying the company of another dear friend, Norma Hendrix, who is the director of the Cullowhee Mountain Arts program.  We’ll all have some time for travel and relaxing together, as well as teaching. I look forward very much to this time of exploring the area, working with students both new and from the past, and experiencing a new culture.

To end on a reflective note, I have debated with myself about whether to post these good things in my life, at a time when many of us are coping with daily news of drastic changes in our country.  I know that the blessings in my own life make it relatively easy for me to hold on to joy, optimism and gratitude. Yet I also believe that Goodness is a universal and unifying principle. As many others have said recently, holding onto the beauty and positive aspects of life is what keeps us moving forward.  I hope that we can all continue to share and appreciate what is happy, abundant and joyful in our lives. 
I enjoyed this post, Rebecca. You seem so at home here in NM. I loved the photos and description of your studio -- the history in that room must be so inspiring! Safe travels to NZ and I'll see you when you return.
Rebecca - This is a great post! I sympathize with the smaller studio space...I am just finishing moving in to one about the same size as yours in NM. difficult to downsize a studio, but it's a great move. There's always a give and take...and a deep appreciation for being able to wake up every day and create.

Yes - happy, abundant joyfulness will overcome a lot of obstacles! Safe travels to New Zealand -

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       Rebecca Crowell