Looking Back... Adrienne Crombie...
The Artist Behind the Cover (from the 32nd
|I arrived at the appointed hour, planned so Adrienne
Crombie would have a break between her art class and our meeting. Her two
students were still at work, absorbed in their exercise long after the
class was to have ended, which gave me an opportunity to look around. Two
tall windows overlooking Frenchtown, New Jersey, give the small studio
good light and the street scene offers diversion when it is needed.
My eyes fixed on the painting hanging between
the windows. Portrait of Bob and Putput, shown on the following
page, raises intense curiosity: What are the man and the cat looking at?
When I asked later who had influenced her work she answered, Vermeer and
Caravaggio. Vermeer, of course! In Bob and Putput, as in so many of
Vermeer's paintings, the emotionally charged eyes beg the viewer to see
what they see. We can surmise, but can never see beyond the canvas.
Water-based oil on canvas, H. 48 x W. 32 inches.
|Sitting down after the students left we
talked about the area and her childhood. Adrienne calls Hunterdon County
home and has always loved Frenchtown. She began drawing as a child and
says there was never any question about becoming an artist, that it was
art that always won her approval. She describes her training as empirical
but quickly adds that she is not self-taught. A teacher herself, and
judging from the enthusiasm of the students I met, a good one, she admits
with some irony to having always had a prejudice about art teachers, the
"those who can do..." syndrome.
oil on linen, H. 30 x W. 34 inches.
|In high school she took classes in Flemington from Leo
Russell, who she remembers as teaching figure drawing in an extraordinary
way and instilling in her his dictum that mastering the human form is the
foundation for good draftsmanship. Later studies at New York's School of
Visual Arts and the San Francisco Art Institute brought her to the
juncture, of art and commerce. She had worked hard, learned to apply old
master techniques to her painting, and honed her draftsmanship. She was
living in New York and it was time to use her skills to make money. When
attempts to break into illustration failed she turned to animal portraits
and succeeded. She was finally making money but continued to broaden her
bases learning to execute faux finishes and trompe l'oeil in acrylic. When
she began to get commissions for murals Adrienne knew she had found her
|Suddenly, just as her career was taking off,
Adrienne found herself in Columbia Presbyterian Hospital totally paralyzed
by Guilliame Barre Syndrome. Miraculously, she walked out of the hospital
in two months and returned to Hunterdon to be nursed to full recovery by
Today Adrienne is a successful self-employed muralist,
faux finish designer, trompe l'oeil decorative painter, and portrait
artist, and still finds time for her own personal vision, small canvases
she calls "erotic still lifes."
Two recent murals are close to her heart. The
Secret Garden, painted in July 1998, fulfilled a desire to do
something public for Frenchtown, a place she had always loved and which
became her home when, in her words, "she had her life back." In
2000, Milford Mural, below, gave Adrienne an opportunity to
interact with a whole community. Working with the Milford Guild, she
raised the funds for the mural from the entire community and from the sale
of prints of the artwork. In the end, there was enough to pay for both the
mural and its lighting. The success of the Milford print prompted Adrienne
to do others. The cover painting, Sidesaddle Portrait, will be
available this summer.
Portrait of Bob and
Putput, oil and silver leaf on panel, H. 30 x W. 22 inches.
You can see her work on the web at www.muralsbyadrienne.com,
at Riverbank Arts in Stockton, New Jersey, and the murals by visiting
Milford and Frenchtown, New Jersey.
acrylic on cement, H. 10 x W. 20 feet.