On our Radar: Angie Crabtree

Hey Instagram: Thanks for pointing us in Angie Crabtree's direction. (We take our social media very seriously. It's work, people!) You know how you just fall into a hole, and you're kind of lost, and then boom! you find something awesome? That happened here. The 28-year-old Berkeley, CA-based artist caught our eye with her large-scale paintings of diamonds, and you're about to see why. These epic canvases are a study in time and patience and manage to be kaleidoscopic, literal and figurative all at the same time. A serious art scholar (she graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2009, and attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam), Angie also gives her time volunteering as a teacher for at-risk youth in San Francisco with 1 Brush Initiative. Although you can buy prints and can currently see some of her work at Roseark in Los Angeles, we are of course insanely intrigued with the idea of a one-of-a-kind commission. Because, you know, fancy. Read on to see Angie's work and get the inside scoop from the artist herself. 

They are so mesmerizing, both physically and mentally, because the media has attached glamour, status and romance to them. Diamonds are very powerful.
— Angie

Hi Angie! Your work touches on the concepts of the American Dream and materialism. Tell us more – we want to know why!

Hi Randi and Meaghan! Yes, I’m really interested in how diamonds became embedded into American life, and how they reflect our relationships with material culture. Before focusing solely on diamonds, I created work that juxtaposed “bling” and nature, but the gems were always the most interesting to me because they come directly from nature. It’s so hard not to be attracted to their amazing beauty: the faceted designs, the way they reflect colors, and the sparkles they emit. When I paint them, I have to study them so closely, and I get lost in their kaleidoscopic symmetry. They are so mesmerizing, both physically and mentally, because the media has attached glamour, status and romance to them. Diamonds are very powerful.

We love little diamonds, so of course we love HUGE diamonds. Tell us about painting your first gemstone and what the process was like. 

Believe it or not, I cried the first time I painted a diamond, out of exhaustion and frustration. It was about three years ago, and it was a 5 foot tall princess cut. I was working against the clock to finish in time for a show at 17th St. & Mission St. in San Francisco. I finally finished that morning, but I’d been painting for about 24 hours straight because I underestimated how long it would take. All the straight lines and symmetry were making my head spin. And the insane amount of colors I had to mix were driving me crazy! I remember asking myself “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING TRYING TO PAINT A DIAMOND?!” By the time I finished, I didn’t really like how it looked because I was so sick of it. Then, that night when I saw it hanging in the gallery, I LOVED IT. And that’s when my true fascination with diamonds started. 

The Bay Area has so much good food and drink. SO MUCH. What are some of your favorite haunts? 

Yes, yum! In San Francisco, my favorites are Domo Sushi and Limón Rotisserie. Now that I recently moved to Berkeley, some of my new favorite neighborhood spots are Gregoire, Cheeseboard, and Masse’s (their macaroons… WOW). 

As we’re half-based in LA, we’re excited for your paintings to be on display at Roseark. How did that come about and did you find any jewelry there you fell in love with? 

Kathy Rose contacted me after seeing my work on Instagram, and a few weeks later I drove down to LA to check it out. The space is absolutely beautiful, and all the jewelry she shows has such an artistic, sculptural feel to it so I felt like my work would fit in perfectly. I currently have 3 paintings there: an emerald cut, round cut, and pear cut. I'm planning some new pieces for a bigger show there in the Spring. A far as jewelry goes, I'm really drawn to Jill Hoffmeister's work, especially her baguette collection because I'm so drawn to geometry and repetition. 

Prints are great but we are obsessed with the idea of a gemstone commission. How does it work and what are some of your favorites that you’ve done?

One of the first custom gem paintings I did was of a client's engagement ring stone, which she later showcased at her wedding and then hung in their new home. The process begins with a professional macro photo of the gem. Sometimes my clients who are jewelers can provide this, but I prefer to collaborate directly with the photographer so that it fits my vision. It's really difficult to capture the essence of a gem in a photo, and even harder in a painting. Because I have no background in gemology, I've had to learn about the structure of gems through a lot of googling, in-person examination, and feedback from experts, so I like to be part of the process from start to finish. I have a feeling that my favorite commission is going to be one that I'm starting this month: three antique diamonds from Jewels By Grace. I can't wait!