Dexter man delves into multiple art mediums

Sunday, May 10, 2009
Brian Crawford works in a variety of mediums, preferring watercolor. His works include several pieces depicting stained glass windows of area churches, including the one shown here from First Baptist Church in Dexter. Another specialty is a Swiss art form called scherenschnitte, which involves the intricate cutting of paper to form a design, often a floral pattern like the sample shown. (Photo by Noreen Hyslop)

It's an unlikely place to find an accomplished artist -- out in the flatlands that lie northeast of the small community known as Vinson, Mo. It is so small that no population signs exist anymore. If you don't happen to make the right turn that takes you past the only church, whose sign read, "Vinson General Baptist," you would have no proof of its name.

Even more discreet than the community itself is a tall yellow metal building that at first glance serves only as an office for local farmer, James Hampton. Enter the doors, though, and a world of opportunity exists.

Brian Crawford is a native of Arkansas but moved to the area recently following the death of his mother. Having always had a flair for decor and an appreciation for design and art, Crawford went to work in transforming the generic metal building into a showplace. In that showplace, past the functional kitchen and office space downstairs, there exists a comfortable sitting room and bedroom accommodations. A visitor quickly takes note of the unique art that is evident throughout the home, but especially in the upper loft area of the building the artist now calls "home."

Everywhere, there is art in various forms and fashions. Although watercolor is his favorite medium, there are oils, pen and ink drawings, pencil portraits, and unique mediums not often seen, including an intricate form of paper cutting called scherenschnitte. The tedious and meticulous art form involves the use of simple water color paper. The artist forms a symmetrical pattern, usually consisting of a floral pattern, that somewhat resembles the old paper-doll cutouts that were accomplished by folding a sheet of paper and cutting a pattern to reveal identical sides once unfolded.

The difference in Crawford's work is that there is no folding involved. He duplicates a pattern identically or even changes some of the detail work without ever folding and while using a fine point knife. When placed on a pastel or black background, the end product is somewhat like a fine tatting or embroidery work in a frame.

photo by Noreen Hyslop

"I've done many of these for gifts since I've been here," he said. "I've met some wonderful ladies at church who really appreciate them, and I love doing them."

Crawford is a Jonesboro, Ark. native. He attended the University of Mississippi for a time and later graduated from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro with a minor in commercial art and journalism and a masters in business administration/marketing. He is indeed, a diverse man, possessing many talents. After a 15-year stint working for Lowes as a designer, and following the recent death of his mother, he decided to make the move to Southeast Missouri and went back to work doing what he loves.

"I used to work more with charcoal and pen and ink," he said, "but I developed headaches and vision problems and was advised by my doctors to try another medium. That's when I got into watercolor, which demands a little less detail, and I loved it from the start."

Crawford sometimes walks the streets of local communities, taking in some of the more unique characteristic of the towns, photographs them for a point of reference, and returns home to put the image on paper or canvas. Many of his works include watercolors of stained-glass windows found in local churches, including one from Dexter's First Baptist and First Christian Church.

The paintings have become much in demand and offer a lasting memory for many of a place church members hold dear to their hearts.

"I have sold some of my work, but I've given away much of it as well," the artist said.

Crawford also delves into genealogy and often works restoring antique furniture. Crystal collections are a fondness as well, and his loft living room holds a sizable collection of rare crystal. Crawford aspires to someday share his gift and his love of art with the community.

"I'd love to open a small gallery to give local artists an outlet for their work," he said. "I think it would be great fun, and artists could present their pieces for sale or just to display."

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