Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Rebecca Crowell: Artist Interview

oil/wax on board

Lynette (LH): Rebecca, can you share with my readers a little about yourself? Where did you grow up were there any early influences on your work?

Rebecca: I've lived in a rural area of Wisconsin for over thirty years. My husband and I have 40 acres of land, and my studio, a large, well-insulated utility building, is behind the house. It's clearly a workspace, not at all pristine or neat! I love it because it's large enough for me to work on many panels at the same time, which is part of my process. I grew up in many areas of the country, because my father's job was to manage large construction projects like tunnels and dams—things that take only a year or two to complete. I identified myself as an artist from an early age, always making things and drawing.

oil/wax on board

LH: Did you receive any formal art training? At what point in your life did you become interested in making art?

Rebecca:  Although neither of my parents were artistic or knowledgeable about art, they supported my interest, and supplied me with materials and occasional Saturday art classes. It's probably a bit unusual that they continued to be in favor of my art ambitions past childhood and on through college and graduate school, and for all of that I'm very grateful. Once they took me to visit the elderly sculptor Genevieve Hamlin, who was a friend of my grandmother's. I was about 12, and was awed by my glimpse of her life. Here was a professional artist, serious, focused. She looked at some drawings of mine and gave me an honest critique, then let me ride her horse. It was a magical day.


oil/wax on board

A couple of art teachers also inspired me early on. One, who taught me in 8th grade, was the first to engage my imagination through abstraction. We're still in touch and I saw her just a few weeks ago. Another teacher in high school was a role model for professionalism, with her serious demeanor when discussing student work, and high expectations. Later in college, I was inspired by a number of instructors, including a woman with a small child, who demonstrated to me that family life as an artist was possible (I thought of her often when my 2 sons were little.) I had excellent painting and art history instructors in both college (University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, BFA in 1982) and in graduate school (Arizona State University, MFA, 1985.)

What is your workspace like? Describe how you work in your studio. How do you get "in a groove" and what inspires you?

Rebecca: I go to my studio almost every day, and once I'm there I just dive in and work—no special rituals or things that get me in the groove. I'd say the sheer number of works in progress sitting around are enough to motivate me. Sometimes I like to have music on, and that is a very eclectic mix, including Talking Heads, techno, world music, classical, and a variety of singer-songwriters, or I play the local oldies radio station. But often I like the quiet. I usually don't take my phone to the studio and enjoy the sense of isolation and focus of my situation. Because I work in a rather physical way, lots of moving back and forth, I usually hang my panels on nails or large push-pins on the wall, and work upright. I move the panels around a lot, especially when making my multiple panel work.

My paintings are made with oil paint mixed with cold wax medium, and applied to panels with a variety of tools and techniques. They evolve over time through intuitive decisions about color, texture and format; I follow an inner sense of what is right for the work, while maintaining formal integrity. Sources of my imagery include nature and the landscape, old walls and other eroded, complex surfaces, and elements of pure abstraction.

Recently I have started giving workshops in the use of cold wax medium, and have enjoyed teaching, traveling, and meeting artists around the country. I'm also teaming up with the encaustic painter Shawna Moore to teach two Hot Wax/Cold Wax workshops this fall. I have a full schedule through the rest of the year, plus two exhibits in October, one at Darnell Fine Art in Santa Fe, and one at Telluride Gallery of Fine Art in Telluride, CO.

I currently support both myself and my semi-retired husband through art sales and teaching workshops, and I've been fortunate in being able to work steadily in the studio for years. When I look to the future, I hope to expand my gallery exposure, and I am very interested in travel that combines art with experiencing other cultures, either through teaching workshops or as an artist in residence (In 2001 and 2008 I was an artist in residence in Catalonia, Spain—both were very influential stays.) The potential to connect with artists around the world via the internet never ceases to amaze me. I am really pleased and gratified at the nationwide and international contacts I've made through my workshops, facebook, my website ( my blog ( and the discussion site that I started for people interested in using cold wax with oils (

Rebecca Crowell
Contemporary Abstractions

Big thanks to Rebecca for this interview.

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