Drawn to Drawing

May 1, 2009

Longtime SVA faculty member Gregory Crane has been painting rural and urban landscapes for more than three decades, transforming the world he sees around him into bold colors and brushwork. Cheryl Pelavin Fine Arts recently opened a look at the fundamental roots of Crane’s body of work with “Thirty Years of Drawings: 1979 – 2009,” which collects a wide array of the artist’s drawings, ranging from detailed works to preparatory sketches.

The exhibition is on view at Cheryl Pelavin Fine Arts, 13 Jay Street, through Saturday, June 6. Crane spoke to the Briefs about the role of drawing in his painting practice and his approach to teaching in the BFA Illustration and Cartooning Department and the MFA Illustration as Visual Essay Department.

What does drawing, as a distinct form, mean to you?
I refer to it as the bare bones of what could become a painting. It’s the anatomy of painting and it underlies everything that a painting becomes. In the grand tradition of painting, it does begin with your practice of drawing.

What has changed about your style, subjects or overall approach over three decades?
I’m much more intuitive and can summon the image quicker and not rely so much on what I’m looking at as what I’m feeling about it. It’s a more abstract approach and my work has gotten better with practice. It’s still very much the same as when I was training as a student—I learned to rely in the drawing for information for what will become a painting. About 3/4 of the drawings in the show have worked themselves into a painting. The others didn’t make it into a painting, but still I rely on them for visual stimulus.

When you’re teaching SVA students, what do you hope they will take away from your courses?
I want to give them a real grounded concept of the grand tradition of painting. My hope is that when we finish the year they know how to approach a painting, how to deconstruct it and put a painting together. I want them to understand is how to look at a painting and at their own work. One of the biggest hurdles for an artist is being able to really see what you are doing.

You’ve been on the faculty for many years. What keeps you coming back?
I enjoy it. I really do, particularly having a rapport with the students. They understand I’m trying to help them as best I can, and they become better artists and/or people, understanding the integrity of the visual process. It’s what keeps me going.

Images: Gregory Crane, (top) Red Hook Ruins (b), 2009; (bottom) Ripe Apple with View of Underground, 1990.

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