Swamp Circle, Maryland. Plus One

Swamp Circle

Something of the feel . . .  south county, Anne Arundel, Maryland in May. Driving with the pups on a rainy day. Getting somewhere going nowhere.

Coming to grips with all of these yellow-greens and rain. Not a New Mexico scene.

. . . Adding a companion painting today. Emptying out at ground level. More roiling above. Less sunlight. This is a fairly specific scene, from memory. Different times on a favorite drive. accompanied by wagging tails.

These are relatively small – 20 X 20.” Usually tend to fill to capacity plus of late. This serves for now. Something different next time. I’ve held a Mighty Storm painting in mind for months. Seven out of nine days of (mostly) gentle rain here. This is what results.

2017-03-13 15.55.45


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Here Abouts

Version 2

I have been reworking and revisiting this one for weeks. Don’t know . . . not ready for the “Gallery” yet, but have a look.  Unruly – winter into spring during eventful days. 4/23/17


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A Maryland Painting


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February 24, 2017 · 4:01 am

A Line in Winter


Carey Crane, January 14/15/21, 2017. 24 X 36″

I may have finished the piece above this winter morning. Continuing along the lines of the last post, Hommage in Collage, I am including some images of my Father’s 1960’s work and relating it to what I am up to now. At the conclusion is an example of my work done in Las Cruces, New Mexico, also in winter that I’ll compare to this 1/21 piece.

Dad’s strongest artworks posess a kind of a monolithic inevitablity. They hold up as a single, integrated, object or event:


Jim Crane, ~1967. 48 X 48″

My 1/21 piece obviously appropriates the radiating (arms, rays, petals?) from this Jim Crane. The radiating form appears to be related to the “Agave” and leaf forms of some of my other work, including this decidedly Fraught-with-New Mexico-Summer FiestaAgave:


Fiestagave ’12 , 48 X 36″

Separating the Carey from the Jim, my work tends to divide the picture plane – at minimum delineating a bifurcation of the plane, in some cases working from a grid. Some suggest “story boards” filled with a series of discreet incidents. At times, the goal is to have one area of the picture utterly unrelated in form to an adjacent area, yet working together as a whole. The results may run-riot.

So, when am I best able to exercise some restraint in collage/painting?


Shady Side, Maryland, January 21, 2017

In Winter.

Winter commands restraint. My collage/paintings drift towards opening up and “emptying out.” For me. The palette trends neutral.

Cold Winter days I work inside, in Shady Side moving to the small, old canning shed. The collage/painting balance tips towards collage. Some spontaneous tearing and cut-paper findings aside, collage is a more considered and methodical a process than the potential for spontaneity and free flow of paints. For me. In spring and outside, I’ll be slinging paint again.

Here is a piece made, also in Winter, in Las Cruces New Mexico, two years ago:

Blanco Verde

Blanco Verde ’15 LoLo Collection

Note the grid.

Here is another Jim Crane that works as a “single, integrated, object or event:”


Jim Crane, ~1967? 48 X 48

Deceptively simple to achieve. For me.


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To the Manner Born: Homage in Collage


Carey Crane,  After Jim, December, 2016  36 X 24″

How to begin? Having taken a long break from Art-Making, where to start in again? I asked Jim Crane (Dad) this question some time ago. He would work intensely and prolifically for stretches before he was once again caught up in the life of a dedicated professor and art department administrator at Florida Presbyterian, later Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida.

“I came to Florida with a raise in salary. But mainly, I thought it was a terribly exciting school with all sorts of possibilities, and I felt also I would have more time to paint, that part of it was not true.”

Teaching, and the Florida Presbyterian/Eckerd community became his passion. But still, he made a lot of wonderful art.

Dad talked about periods of making art as “emptying out” and the interim periods as “filling up.”


Jim Crane,  circa 1967

Painting/Collage: Defining a Period

How to begin? I propose to draw from a period of time in my father’s artwork defined by childhood memory – work created in St. Petersburg, Florida between 1963 and 1968. consider this the height of his Painting/Collage period, initiated a few years earlier by a dropped jar of Cadmium Red paint.


*A Jim Crane painting before the “Cadmium Red Scare”

Jim Crane: Oh yeah. That is a story I like to tell. I was painting in the graduate students studio [Michigan State] and I dropped a jar of cadmium red paint…which is fantastically expensive, cause I didn’t have a lot of money. I probably said a few cuss words under my breath and started tearing out papers from the big can of newsprint I had and wiping the stuff up. When I unfolded the paper, I found it was more interesting to me than what I was working on. So I borrowed some automobile lacquer from Ken Wynsma – that is what he was using, and  glued the paper to the painting. I really found it pretty interesting. It so happens that I was studying with Murray Jones at the time and Murray Jones had just come back from Japan and he was doing absolutely lovely paintings…or not paintings–collages with Japanese paper. So I bought some Japanese paper, and I started doing collages too, although with paint in them.  Murray was worried about me because he was afraid that he had over-influenced me and he called me in and talked to me. He looked at what I had done. And he said, “No, actually you’re combining collage and painting, and what I am doing is purely collage.”


Murray Jones, Nara I, 1960. web sourced

Circles, Squares, Veils, and Drips – A Vocabulary

Carey:  You talked . . . about the circle and the square. I think, the circle being eternal…

Jim:  The circle being a kind of symbol of nature and the eternal, like the moon is circular and all sorts of things are circular.  But the square is measured on each side. That’s kind of interesting because if you compare the collages, they are all on a square. And they contain squares except they contain circles too, but there is some kind of tension between the circle and the square. Back to the collages, I had talked earlier about. [Josef] Albers and . . . other people have used squares, and they were very “pure” squares. My squares break… they had torn edges, messed up surfaces sort of like the rationale was having a really hard time surviving in the world where there were things happening to it all the time. My squares did not live in the . . .  world of the Albers square because my squares, some of them, they were tortured, painful . . . .

Note that the circle (sun) and square are often used in Jim Crane’s earlier work. * above.

You will also note “veils” in a lot of my father’s work from this time. Veils are full sheets of paper made translucent by thinned acrylic medium adhesive, folded back upon themselves to create textures and linear rays of variegated opacity. To know a veil: The use of veils is clearly influenced by Murray Jones (photo above).

Retro-Beginnings and Endings

Jim Crane, 48 x 48″


Though Dad was supremely articulate about art, creating his artwork was not primarily an intellectual pursuit. He was of-his-time in taking a “process-oriented” approach to creating collage/paintings. His aim was not to realize a methodically conceived and carefully planned outcome. The process of creation was a “conversation” with the piece; one thing leads to another. In musical terms, he didn’t play from a score, but started with a familiar melody (vocabulary, materials, color palette) , then improvised his way towards a resolution.

He would usually work the collage elements with the panel “flat” – face up on the floor or low saw horses. That is often the best way to collage when using thinned medium, or to capture “flooding” – pooling washes of paint. There are many incidents of Expressionist style dripping in his work. My guess if that these drips were a stylistic device as often as incidental to the process. Naturally the panels would be tipped up to achieve this effect. I don’t recall him making use of his easel. Working in Florida allowed painting outside on the studio deck throughout much of the year.


Masonite panels. Masonite, or heat and pressure formed wood pulp composite panels, were and are readily available in 48 x 96″ sheets. Dad’s larger works employed this dimension ready-made. More typically, he would have the panels cut in half to 48 x 48″ squares, or those halves quartered into 24 x 24″ squares. I know that he had gallon jars of acrylic gesso around for priming panels, but suspect that he worked directly on the panels, using thinned acrylic mediums and paints to seal the masonite. His discovery of acrylic polymer mediums as collage adhesives was very fortunate:

Jim:  Incidentally, Murray had taught Ken and other people how to use automobile lacquer as a clear lacquer surface that they could use to glue stuff down. The lacquer thinner is absolutely toxic. It will get into your skin and in your lungs, and so that is what happened. Murray got a better job and moved to Ohio State University, but died from his use of the lacquer thinner. [?] 

Dad used acrylic paints nearly exclusively after the late 1950s. As for collage materials, he used newspaper and magazines early on, but mostly employed Japanese rice paper and shear fabrics – materials as materials without reference to a previous history or use. He would include small “found objects” on occasion, such as flattened bottle caps and pop-tops.


Jim Crane, 24 x 24″

I believe that he picked up the paper and had the masonite panels cradled (backed with 1 x 2″ wood supports) and framed in a little shop over the bay in Tampa. That meant that I could occasionally accompany him with the promise of a Cubano and Garbanzo soup at the Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City.

In the Manner of Jim Crane: Similarity and Divergence

As I work “in the manner of” Jim Crane, no one is likely to confuse our efforts; once started, I take an improvisational approach as he did. For each painting/collage in this new “Jim” series, I have looked at one of his pieces and held it in my mind as a starting point, I did not continue to view that image as I worked. My own “conversation” with the piece in progress took over, followed to resolution. How do I know when a painting/collage is “done?” Much as one senses when a conversation with a friend is concluded, or a prized collection is agreeably displayed.

I have many thoughts on the convergence and divergence of Dad’s work and mine, but I’ve kept you long enough.  In conclusion, I will simply post one on my new collage/paintings and the Jim Crane that initially inspired it.

Retro Chrysius

Jim Crane, “Chrysalis” 24 x 24″


Carey Crane, after Jim, December, 2016. 24 x 36″

For more images of  Jim Cranes 1960s work, look here:  https://wordpress.com/page/jimcraneart.com/73


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James Gordon Crane 1927 – 2015


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Carey Paints a Picture

Catherine B. suggested “Some kind of demonstration” for Saturday’s gallery talk. It’s best for me to document a work as it progresses. My process varies work to work, but I generally start holding a “drawing” or schematic in my mind. I jotted this one down based  loosely on a previous piece:


The Void. I usually stretch my own and play off of the raw canvas and uneven brushy gesso. This commercial stretched-and-gessoed canvas was very reasonably priced at a new store on Main Street. Thus, I supported the locals, and it helps to get on with it. First lesson of painting — “Don’t fear the canvas.” This piece was entirely created in “Studio One” (the back yard) as seen in the background:

Bare Canvas

Sometimes I’ll draw in with charcoal as did the inestimable painter/professor Hiram Williams. I used a charcoal stick as round as my thumb. Already deviating from that simple sketch:


Then, painting in the form with a “cracked peppercorn” grey. Might have left more of the drawing texture. . . It is hard to see, but I toned the ground for a little warmth. Note that it is still a little early in the day:


Here comes the sun. Watch those shadows as the work progresses. There is enough variation in surfaces in this one that I was able to work almost continuously while adjacent areas dried.  Note the “Martha Living” Textured Metallic ® medium. Not used as Martha intended, but great stuff exclusive to The Home Depot ®.


Martha Living smeared out unevenly with a pallet knife. Note same line of product in the lower Tentacle/Ray in black w/sparkles:


Pressing textures:


Color added (or for Aussie friends “Colour.”) Pretty straight up, so jumping ahead. I did add white to the pigments.

You will see the texture/pressing further down:


Flooding the textured center area with a wash of color. Love verdigris – an influence from the “real world.” You can see first-stage collage creeping in. The natural mango paper on the left is transparent when applied with the right viscosity of acrylic medium. There is a little vestigial charcoal peeking through. The paper also tones back the white of the gesso:


Below is a stage shot with the flooding dry:


Stamping. Many years ago, I found some wood printing press letters in a little shop in Micanopy, Florida. I’ve started using them to make an impression on Martha. Proprietary secret: allow the metallic medium to skin over. Dip the letter or other impressive device into water so that it wont stick.




Using a combed pallet knife to scribe textured lines:


Skipping ahead to masking out the ground with kraft paper and blue masking tape. Note that in the interim I’ve done some spot flooding with metallic acrylic and added a red “seal” to the center area.


Let us spray:


Preparing to add more collage paper. I felt at this stage that I needed to “ground” the form onto the color field. This is a bamboo paper. It is nicely neutral against that bright-colored field and will also be translucent. Present but not dominant. Words to live by:


More collage in place. Green Mango paper added to the bottom ground area. More flooding. Spiral paper up top to “hold” the blue:


I’ve added “copper” metal leaf to the center. I dropped the leaf onto thinned clear medium. I let one corner square hold and “disintegrated” the rest with a brush. More flooding with Ultra Marine. I’ve placed a rusty bottle cap on the red “seal” area for placement consideration:


Setting the cap:


Preparing some spiral textured paper for collaging. You can see some yellow misting off from the right. This color will help ground the collage element, which is a very strong pattern:


There are so many wonderfully patterned papers out there, but they can be overly assertive in a collage context and don’t always play well with others. I tend to use neutrals or lace papers for that reason. Neutrals with inclusions (like mango leaves) and textures will also not fade away over time. If I want color in my paper, I tend to use relatively light-fast paints.

Placing the collage element. This is a strongly assertive texture pattern, but the bold central form can stand up to it, settling into dynamic harmony, don’t you agree?:


Using a little colour to integrate the collage:


Pause and reflect:






I have wet the yellow and blue corner areas with thinned clear medium and misted them with enamel spray. Misted water will break up the surface giving me a mottled, fairly subtle surface:


Here she is finished or nearly so. It is a high-resolution image, so click and zoom folks:


Thanks to Heather for taking many of the pix, making lunch, keeping me hydrated, and being an all ’round good sport.  Thank you to Studio One assistant Carley and studio assistant-in-training Cody (Little Dude) for their steadfast canine companionship. CC


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