Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Joyce McEwen Crawford


What do you do?
I’m a visual Artist. I create figurative drawings and paintings. My style is either representational or expressive and sometimes a little of both that I call narrative. I also do mono and linoleum relief prints. I’m also a contract Teacher with the Art of Yoga, a nonprofit that provides art and yoga to girls in juvenile detention. I’m a retired social worker and an advocate for the use of art for healing.

Where can we find your work?
I have an exhibit, Metamorphosis, opening at the Triton Museum of Art, Santa Clara, 1505 Warburton Ave, Santa Clara, Ca. The reception is February 20th and the exhibit will continue until March 29th. Also on my website, and on Zazzle at

What inspires you to create and how do you keep motivated when things get tough?I view art as a form of communication that allows us to express thoughts and feelings that are buried in our subconscious, therefore my inspiration comes from within. When things get tough I motivate myself by reading, writing, dancing, visiting with friends, having a good conversation and scribbling. Yep, I said scribbling. lol

What do you think is more important content/finished product or technique/process?Of all those listed, I think process is most important. The creative process is the part that makes the art unique and becomes a signature for an artist. Technique will change according to the media the artist decides to use and content will change according to what we choose to express, but the process, how we express ourselves through the media, will only change as we grow and mature in our craft. In fact we grow and mature through the process of creating. Of course the finished product is important, it’s the culmination of all the effort. If I were to put it in an equation it would be, process + technique+ content = finished product.

Who are some people who influence and/or inspire you?
When I arrived in San Jose in 1984, I was one of three African Americans in the graduate program at San Jose State University. At that time the director of the San Jose Museum of Art School was Ruth Tunstall Grant. Ruth became a mentor, advocate and friend, as she remains to this day. Another influence is my spiritual teacher, Luisah Teish, writer, artist, social advocate, educator and Ifa priestess. My early inspiration is my mom, who bought me my first set of drawing supplies when I was 8 years old, supported and encouraged me during times I didn’t believe in myself. My children were/are a huge influence and inspiration, I have a lot of drawings and prints of them. I have a lot of drawings and prints of my children. I’m also influenced by many female artists, Bettye Saar, Elizabeth Catlett, Faith Ringgold to name some, who paved the way for artists as myself.

What is the most incredible art moment for you so far?Each first is incredible, getting into art school, getting into graduate school, getting accepted into art shows and competitions. Learning that the piece I submitted won a prize or took a place in a competition is always incredible. The most current moment, being offered the opportunity to have a solo exhibit at the Triton and doing it after taking so many years off, is beyond incredible. I’m extremely excited, and nervous, about it.

When do you get your best ideas?
During the night, usually from 12am to 3am. Other times are during meditation and sleep. When my mind is at rest.

What materials/tools do you use most to create your work?
For drawing I use a variety of graphite pencils, and color pencils, on Stonehenge paper. Painting, I prefer oils on pre stretched canvas. Printmaking, Mono prints on plexi glass with oil based printers ink. Relief Printing I prefer unblocked linoleum, some good sharp tools and oil based ink. I have a small block printing roll press and I also use banana hand rolls. I enjoy working on rice paper.

Are you self-taught or formally educated? How do you think that has influenced or affected your work?
Since I began drawing so young, I began as a self-taught. My art education began when in elementary school through high school on to commercial art school, followed by earning my BA in studio art at Indiana University, Northwest and two out of three years of the MFA program at San Jose State. I also have a Masters in Social Work from San Jose State. How did all this education influence my work? I developed fantastic skills, worked under great teachers and was able to use some of the best printing equipment. I also learned that I wanted to be an instructor and that art was going to be my second language. Through my social work education and practice as a social worker I learned the importance of being observant and learning from the process which I incorporated into my art making.

Who would you most like to meet living or dead and why?
When I was 18 years old, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. As a result there were a few times when I decided that I was no longer able to live in this world. Art continued to save me. Out of that pain I was attracted to artists who lived and created through their pain. Therefore I would like to meet and talk to Frida Kahlo and Vincent Van Gogh, we could paint together and share war stories. And Carl Jung, I’d like to do some therapy sessions with him.

When you are not creating what do you like to do?
When I’m not making art, I like to spend time talking and sharing time with family and friends. Dancing to Reggae or African beats. I started practicing Yoga after breast cancer and continue to practice yoga. I have a consistent spiritual practice, study, meditation and contemplation. I also enjoy writing and journaling.

How did you learn to access your creative talents and gain the confidence to put it out there for everyone to experience?
I struggle with self-confidence, but I do have confidence in what I do, so I have no problem getting my art out to be seen. I learned to access my creative talents by finding out who I really am, finding my own voice, being able to discard the techniques and skills, all that I learned and allow the process to possess me and just create.

What advice would you give others just beginning their creative adventures?
I would tell beginning artists to take the time to learn their craft and work it. Not be concerned about the outcome, the good or the bad of it but enjoy and take note of your process and learn from it. Also have someone you talk to, share your ideas and art with, and get feedback. Entering art competitions are great for getting feedback from judges rather you get in or not, keep putting your art out there. Something I did that helped me a lot was to take a Business of Art course. We have a lot of resources for social marketing available to us in the Silicon Valley as well as galleries that offer critiques and support artists with studio and gallery spaces, seek out and utilize the resources around that are available to you.

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