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Add Structure to Organic Imagery


 
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Artist Rebecca Crowell shares her insights into the process of using multiple paintings on Ampersand Deep Panels

Installation at Circa Gallery
Minneapolis, MN, 2004
All work on display by Rebecca Crowell

In the past few years I have been using multiple Ampersand 2" Deep Cradled Gessobord panels fastened together to achieve visual contrast in my work. I love the way the geometric shape of the panels adds structure to what is otherwise very flowing organic imagery.

Various configurations of panels have also suggested new formats for my work beyond traditional squares and rectangles. Some of my multiple panel paintings are strongly vertical or horizontal, or have an irregular shape overall.

Crowell Installation, Circa Gallery, MN, 06
I generally start a painting by moving individually painted panels into various con gurations on my studio wall. I always have more than one painting in progress, so there are many possibilities in play. At this stage, I rely heavily on intuition, moving the panels around until something strikes me as evocative and provides guidance for finish-ing the piece. I gravitate toward imagery that suggests places or situations in the landscape, as well as emotions, memories or states of mind.

Crowell 06

I generally start a painting by moving individually painted panels into various con gurations on my studio wall. I always have more than one painting in progress, so there are many possibilities in play. At this stage, I rely heavily on intuition, moving the panels around until something strikes me as evocative and provides guidance for finish-ing the piece. I gravitate toward imagery that suggests places or situations in the landscape, as well as emotions, memories or states of mind.

Before painting the lemon yellow on each lemon, I placed a blob of clear water for the highlight. I rewet the solid blue cloth in sections and dropped on the first wash of blue paint. Occasionally, I lifted out paint with a damp sable brush. I left the lemon by the knife unpainted in the illustration to show the sequence.

Mounting

At other times I begin my compositions with a particular format in mind. For example, I am very attracted to the strong vertical format and have used it in an extended series, but beyond these basic starting points I let the process of discovery take over. I approach every panel as if it is an individual painting, in terms of its composition and its level of development -- and indeed, some panels do remain single, not part of a larger arrangement. My painting process involves building up layers of color and texture with oil paint, oil sticks, wax medium and a variety of tools.

When I have decided on a final arrangement, I have the panels mounted together by a woodworker with bolts through the cradles or with boards screwed on the back. The quality and durability of the wood materials used in the Ampersand Gessobord lends itself to this level of carpentry without affecting the stability of the panels.

My Tools

I generally begin with one main color over most of the surface. Then as I layer the paint, I alternate between contrasting colors, dark and light, transparent and opaque. Texture results from a range of techniques, many carried over from my college days as a printmaker. These include the use of brayers, linoleum blocks, drawing tools, and natural objects that are pressed into the paint. Scratching, gouging and judicious use of solvents reveal bits of the underlying layers. I am aiming for a surface that appears organic, with complexity and a sense of depth.

I have found that Ampersand Gessobord is tough enough to take this rather strenuous application of paint. Because it is sturdy and rigid, I can apply plenty of pressure, and the surface of the panel remains intact no matter how much it is worked. Gessobord's smooth, even surface is important to me because it never interferes with the appearance of the textures I create.

I have a fairly minimalist aesthetic, and appreciate subtlety. I analyze and edit as much as I actually paint, deciding what is needed and what has to go. How do I know when a painting is finished? For me there is a sense the painting is mysteriously itself, individual, as if it could be no other way.

Rebecca Crowell received her MFA in 1985 from Arizona State University and since that time has been living and working in rural Wisconsin, surrounded by forty acres of woods and fields. This location inspires her nature-based imagery, while allowing for a great deal of focused studio time.
Rebecca was a resident at the Centre D'Art I Natura in Catalonia, Spain - a remote medieval stone village in the Pyrenees, which marked a turning point towards the abstraction of her current body of work. Painting on small sized pieces of paper that she could easily transport home eventually led to the idea of multiple panel paintings.
Spending time in the homeland of Gaudi, Miro and Tapies also worked a subtle influence on her approach to abstraction. Subsequent trips to England, Costa Rica and New Mexico have all provided new insights and ideas.
Her work is exhibited regularly both regionally and nationally, and is included in many public, private and corporate collections. Rebecca has taught college level courses and has been both visiting artist and lecturer. She is represented by Circa Gallery, Minneapolis; Wilde Meyer Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ; Steven Boody Fine Arts, St. Louis, MO; Midtown West Art Associates, New York, NY; Whytespace Gallery, Plain, WI and Woodwalk Gallery, Juddville, Door Co., WI.
For more information, please visit www.rebeccacrowell.com.

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