About Rebecca Crowell

Copyright© 2005
A non-artist would probably imagine that a painter’s studio time is spent almost entirely in applying paint to surface. But someone spying on that painter at work would probably find a great deal of sitting, staring, squinting, coffee-drinking, jotting notes, leafing through art books and doodling going on. There is a surprising lot of mental work that goes into painting, into making “something out of nothing.”

An artist’s mind is full of questions about every aspect of the work--the direction in which it is heading, the success of the technique, the composition, the colors and every other visual element. Then there are the bigger questions—is the painting communicating anything of importance? What will the viewers see? Does this painting advance new ideas, or just repeat a formula? These questions and many more buzz around internally not only during actual studio time but also while the artist is making lunch, driving the car or having a conversation that has nothing at all to do with art.

Sometimes, the mental gears seem to slip around frustratingly with little of substance to chew on. The questions may come but specific answers are very elusive. For these times I have devised a list of criteria that I want my finished work to have—goals that I can then work toward. Every painting is unique, but I find that what I strive for in a complete work remains fairly consistent.

I offer my own list below; every artist will have something a bit different, and the list will sometimes change and evolve. I have found this tool to be very useful. It has often led me in a clear way out of a muddle, or at least has set me off with new energy. I admit that the standards I set are high, but there is nothing wrong with having lofty goals--if not immediately achieved, they can still set a standard to be reached gradually over time.

The things I list are purposefully open ended for the most part, meant to function as points of departure or stimulation for my thoughts. For example, the first item, complexity, may refer to either the actual surface, colors and texture of the painting, or to the ideas behind the painting, or to both. I also list some ideas that are dichotomies—seemingly opposites, because I often want both ideas to be present and in balance.

Criteria for my work:

  • Complexity
  • Connection
  • Wholeness
  • Tension
  • Contrast
  • Energy
  • Mystery
  • Containment
  • Presence
  • Authority
  • Authenticity
  • Breaks new ground or deepens understanding of previous work
  • Has both cognitive and intuitive meaning
  • Visually impact close-up as well as at a distance
  • Sources in both personal and more universal experience
  • A sense of both microcosm and macrocosm
  • Balance of form and content

– Rebecca Crowell

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