Thursday, November 5, 2015

Louisiana Life

A while ago John Kemp wrote an article about me for Louisiana Life. It was published in the November/December issue. Thank you, John.You did such a wonderful job and I send my many thanks.

Daily Life in Ruston

An artist's view

Pablo Picasso once proclaimed that art “washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Ruston artist Julie Crews knows exactly what that means. Her art is in the “dust of everyday life.” In her warm, painterly roadside images of North Louisiana, she captures the beauty and peace she finds in the ordinary day-to-day tasks as a mother and homemaker. Painting is a natural extension of that life.

“My work concentrates on the very scenes of domestic life that take me away from the studio,” says Crews, reflecting upon how those routine and mundane chores that lay before her each day find their way into her paintings. “When I am in the studio I escape certain domestic tethers momentarily. Yet, on canvas, scenes of my life lay before me – unmade beds, dishes stacked by the sink, and waiting in the elementary school car line. How areas of the home are treated, the traffic and landscapes encountered while running errands, and the moods of people engaged in banal tasks influence my life, and therefore, art. Recreating these scenes give permanence to the undervalued. I give the viewer an intimate glimpse into my personal life, exposing the delicacy of monotony and repetition regarding domestic life.”

In those “intimate glimpses,” we see food cooking on the stove, clothes hanging in a closet, cars waiting at a Ruston stoplight or clapboard houses in a neighborhood in a nearby town. Others glimpses reveal a cotton field off to the side of a north Louisiana road or two weathered trailer homes in a weedy trailer park just outside town. In another, we see the dark form of an interstate highway overpass silhouetted against a warm setting sun.

Many of these “glimpses” are snapshots captured on her cell phone camera as she goes about her day, running errands, driving the kids to school or going to the grocery. They later reappear in her studio as visual memories of a moment or place. Sometimes the mood created by the image is more important than the scene itself. “I generally work from snap shots taken during the course of my week,” Crews explains. “I take a lot of photos of seemingly boring landscapes or interiors or people in my life doing mundane things. An image that becomes a painting is never an orchestrated still life or the product of a requested portrait sitting. Rather, the idea for a painting finds me later in the stacks of slapdash photos I have taken.” As Crews says, her paintings give “permanence to the undervalued.”

Knowing something of Crews’ early life, one can better understand her appreciation of the ordinary and mundane. It has been a remarkable journey, one that has taken her from the hills of North Carolina to Northern California, South Carolina, Idaho, Utah and now Louisiana. Born in 1977, Crews spent the first decade or so of her young life in North Carolina. Although her father and mother were unable to be with them at the time, Crews describes a happy and bucolic childhood, living in the mountains with her brother and sisters and a great aunt. She recalls dreamlike, carefree days picking cherries and playing in the creek below the old family homestead. When she was 8, her father remarried, and six years later he moved the family to California in search of work. Not long after, they returned to North Carolina.

After high school, Crews bought an old Datsun for $300 and hit the road. For several years she traveled across the country, working odd jobs as a maid, a professional roller skater, delivering newspapers, and held a stint as a paper counter and measurer in a dusty paper factory. She took a train trip across the United States and deep-sea fished in the Gulf of Mexico. Then in 1999 she met Niel while white-water rafting back in North Carolina. They later married and eventually had four children. In 2008, they moved to Ruston when Niel took a teaching job at Louisiana Tech University. “None of my adventures or travels is more precious or beautiful to me than what I have now,” she says, recalling those years on the road and the routine life she now lives.

Crews’ interest in art began at an early age. “When I was in the third or fourth grade,” she recalls, “I said I wanted to write and illustrate children’s books.” By the late 1990s, her interest in art turned from illustration work to studio art while studying art at Brigham Young University in Idaho. Since moving to Ruston, she has continued from time to time to take art courses at Louisiana Tech University. During these years, she has developed her style of painting, which she describes as “quick and direct.” It is an impressionistic technique many artists use to capture an immediate and spontaneous response to a particular scene or subject.

For Crews, art has been a counterbalance in her personal life. “Painting about my life teaches me about my place in this world as an artist, wife and mother,” she explains. “When I work, my personality develops more fully. I cannot think of anything that promotes and facilitates my personal, artistic and professional growth more than that of simply painting.”  In a 2011 interview with Louisiana Public Broadcasting (LPB), Crews she said painting landscapes, still lifes and portraits “permeates my entire life being able to explain what is beautiful, what is interesting, what isn’t beautiful but can be portrayed as beautiful.” It is often a way, she says in a later interview, “to express the inexpressible things in life.”

Crews describes painting as a personal and singular experience. “There are few instances in life that are truly intimate,” she said during the LPB interview. “One of those is the space between an artist and the canvas. No one else shares that space. It’s such a solitary thing and yet you do it, I do it, to share. So it is an extremely personal endeavor that has a lot of social implications. People will come to you and say, ‘What is your art all about and how does your art define you as a person?’ It’s often times unexplainable because there’s such a thick space between an artist, the canvas and the what’s going on.”
Reflecting upon her paintings and life in Ruston with her family, Crews sums them up with a sigh of satisfaction – “I guess I’m living the dream.” Picasso was right.

Julie Crews’ paintings can be seen at the FW Gallery in Baton Rouge and the Agora Borealis in Shreveport. For more information about Crews and her work, visit

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

fancying up

This is me these days, getting in the studio. Pregnancy for me always brings a greater internal pull to "fancy-up". It never lasts too long though.

Monday, August 31, 2015

so much

So much has happened this summer, blogging became almost the very last thing on my list of things to do. Reorganizing my filing cabinet might have been lower on the list. But I am back.

First, we are expecting a baby in February 2016!! We are all so excited.

Not a lot of painting happened over the summer, as I was in bed for most of it. I actually went to the gym this morning. It was the first time I'd been there since the beginning of June when I started feeling so sick. We will find out the gender in a few weeks.

I had a great show at the Frameworks Gallery in Baton Rouge in May. Everyone that attended was so warm and interesting. Thank you to everyone at Frameworks for such a wonderful introduction to the great city of Baton Rouge.
Me and Steve Schmidt on opening night

Around the same time as this show I became the recipient of a WORKS IN PROGRESS GRANT. I am so grateful for this opportunity. The grant is going to help me produce a new series of work that I hope to show nationally.

SO, with energy and strength and health returning to me, I will be posting more from the studio in the coming weeks and days.


I finished this painting at the beginning of the year and thought I wouls share the progression from sketch to finish.

Unfortunately this painting was damaged in transit to California over the summer and is going to take a bit of work to repair. Not to happy with the carrier company, as they did not honor my insurance claim.
I guess all there is to do is keep my head down and keep working.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

McGyver skills

Yesterday I spent most of the day putting the final touches on a few paintings and started wrapping and labeling them for delivery. I am feeling happy and confident that WAM is going to turn out nicely.

A while back, I had a problem that I. COULD. NOT. SOLVE.
I am no life hack guru, but I do consider myself somewhat of a McGyver. I can fix a broken bra fastener with super glue and a little baking soda, repair the messed up radio knob in the car with a scrap of paper and keep all the hair out of my daughter's face with a small branch.
This one had me stumpped though.
I was painting on these little mounted boards (I talk a little about them HERE) and couldn't figure out how to get them to hang flush against the wall. 

Using traditional hanging wire like this, whether it was set far back in the recess of the painting or not, would not work. I feel like I tried everything. Things got wacky when I was criss-crossing the wires but no matter what I did, the painting kept falling away from the wall:

I am not one to give up easily. Maybe it was the weather, or maybe the laundry in the back of my mind was piled WAY too high, but what ever the reason, my frustration got the best of me and I set it aside. For MONTHS. 

Eventually, the situation really needed solving and I turned to my engineer husband. He is an especially useful resource in situations like this, and I still can't figure out whay I didn't turn to him sooner. I explained the problem and how I wanted it to hang flush. He asked, "Do you have to use hanging wire?" I said, "No" and within fifteen minutes he had this:

So. So. Simple.
And when you use these OOK hooks, it not only sits flush against the wall, it actually SNAPS TO THE WALL. Thanks to your superior McGyver skills, Niel, these little guys aren't going anywhere. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

tents and swirly chairs

I have been asked many times: "How do you do it with four children?"
Many responses ensue.
"It gets pretty busy around here."
"The same as other people, I guess."
"Hang on to your hats, boys and girls! It's going to be a crazy ride!!"
And the nuclear answer:
"Oh? I have FOUR!?!"

Two weeks ago we sat down as a family and looked at the calendar. Those upcoming weeks were so jammed full of trips and deadlines and appointments and social studies projects.... we all had to get on the same page.
So during this meeting, we marked off what is now this last Saturday as a "mom-lock-herself-in-her studio-day". It was going to be the last real day I could paint for the work I wanted included in the upcoming show at 1800 Prime.
--then Niel was called away--
Important business.
I had already called a "no media day", so you can only imagine my pleasure when the children got to playing-- with each other--

(He is happier than he looks...promise.)

When at one point they all ended up IN the studio with me (I don't really lock the door when I am the only parental unit available), and all it took to get them back to the task of entertaining themselves was to move the twisty chair our from behind my desk and out into the living room.

So the real answer: How I "do it" is that I have pretty wonderful children.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

waiting for me

I took Nan to the Masur Museum for an artist talk tonight. The exhibit was Birney Imes' series Whispering Pines- "documenting the life and times of Blume Triplett, the late proprietor of Whispering Pines, a roadside bar and restaurant in Crawford, Mississippi." It was well worth the drive and I thought the show was both compelling and interesting. Nan enjoyed it too.

When I came home, I found this text from my husband waiting for me on my phone:

I guess he really likes the piece I am working on.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

business cards

The last couple of days the children have been out of school and will be out tomorrow too. Reminds me of summertime- not a lot of painting gets done, but we have a lot of fun. Although today's "fun" included my oldest falling off the monkey bars at the park and busting up her face. (No need for too much alarm...she's ok.)

On a brighter note, the business cards I ordered last week arrived today. 

In the last six years I have gone through several different designs. The evolution has brought me to this (you can see the back side of the card in the background):

I really could not be more pleased with the way these turned out. I have used different printing companies in the past and returned to one I'd once used previously: My decision was based mostly on price. That and the fact they had come out with a thicker card. 
The 24pt TriFecta card has a fabulous silky feel to it and I found that it equaled the quality of the Luxe cards that Moo introduced to the marketing world several years ago. 

So thank you GotPrint, for delivering some amazing (and reasonably priced!) business cards to my doorstep today. I love them.

Friday, January 16, 2015

running out of room

I finished this one today. As I sit here and type, I realize once again how hard it is to go from painting to writing. Some days when the children come home from school, I have a hard time talking. It always takes me a little while to gain access to the other side of my brain.

waiting for dinner is going to Critical Mass 3, a group show at Art Space -downtown Shreveport, LA. February 5- April 4.
waiting for dinner
oil on panel
48" x 48"
It's going to hang in my living room to dry until then because I am running out of room in the studio.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

a break and two up to bat

waiting for dinner
**work in progress**
48"x 48"

I took a little break from waiting for dinner yesterday and got these two finished.

mother and daughter
24" x 24"

neighborhood in the next town over
14" x 17"

Today I sketched out some work for after everything goes to  W.A.M.
I am pretty excited for these two. I have never done a nightscape before and the second one pictured here is another hanging clothes. Get ready for some orange.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Dee and Tyler

I am so pleased to announce my congratulations to the Guymon family! And thank you to all who have turned a tiny portion of your attention to my work and life. I hope you will enjoy checking in with me throughout the upcoming year and that what you read and view here will enrich your lives. I am always full of hope at the turn of a year, and 2015 is no exception.


Thursday, January 8, 2015

tomorrow is the day

Tomorrow a little painting will find it's new home. If you would like to be considered for this giveaway in the random drawing, sign up to follow by email, and type your name in the comments below by 6pm central time tomorrow. I will post the winner on the blog shortly thereafter.

I was able to get some relief today with the medication for my neck, and consequently made some good progress on a piece for the WAM show in Shreveport on February 5th: WAITING FOR DINNER. 

Here is the little painting getting packaged for shipment to one of my fabulous readers.

pain, pain, go away

So this is what my day looks like. 
I hate you, pain. 
Please go away. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

back to school

I adore Christmas break. I love having the children home and how they make the house so busy. But today the holiday break ended as sleepy children grabbed their backpacks and headed to the little Camry where my husband was waiting in the dark to take them all to school.
The sun has since come up and I am settling in for some longer, more productive work days in the studio. My neck is no better than my last post, but I am going to work anyway.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

pushing through

Today is a day of pushing through. 
I have occasional flare-ups with degenerative disk disease, and this morning it interrupted several wonderful months of life without pain. 
Thousands suffer worse than this, so I'll try to get something good done in the studio while keeping my family safe from my pain-induced bad mood.