Thursday, December 31, 2009

Three more paintings of Atotonilco

Before 2009 gets chased out the door I thought that I would sneak in one last post for the year.
These are three recent paintings of Atotonilco, Mexico. It's one of the places in Mexico that has been very inspiring to me over the past 20 years.

The first painting is a side view of the Sanctuary in Atotonilco. I've painted a few on this quiet street before. It always has a calming effect on me so I titled this one "Serenity".

"Serenity", 8x6" oil, Frank Gardner © 2009
$550. Framed. Available at Galeria Gardner

This next one is part of the "Creative Convergence" show starting next month on Cape Cod.
The menacing sky really made the church stand out.

"El Santuario de Atotonilco", 14x18" oil, Frank Gardner © 2009
$1,430. Framed. Available at Addison Art Gallery

The bottom piece is from a few months ago, but I never posted an image of it. It shows a group of women pausing in front of the church before they go inside.

"A Pause in Front of the Church", 8x6" oil, Frank Gardner © 2009
Private Collection

Friday, December 18, 2009

"In for the Night"

This is the type of local subject matter here in Mexico that I love so much. People and their animals in the landscape. In this painting Felix and Francisco are bringing their cows back to the coral for the night. This painting is a composite of several photos and the small studies. It took me quite a while to get just the way I wanted it, but I'm happy with the results.

A few months ago I posted a small plein air piece titled "The Open Gate" and another small painting "Open Gate II" both of which I used as reference for this piece. I reposted both of those paintings below.

"In for the Night", 18x24" oil, Frank Gardner © 2009
$2,500. Framed. Available at M Gallery of Fine Art
Sarasota, FL

"Open Gate", 6x8" oil, Frank Gardner © 2009
$550. Framed. Available at Windrush Gallery, Sedona, AZ

"Open Gate II", 6x8" oil, Frank Gardner © 2009
Private Collection

Friday, December 11, 2009

Plein Air landscape Workshop, San Miguel de Allende. March 8-12, 2010

Dates are set for my 2010 plein air landscape painting workshop in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
March 8-12 from 9:30-5:00 PM
The cost of the 5 day class is $550.USD and includes Painting Instruction, full gourmet lunches each day and transportation to and from the painting locations. A deposit of $200.USD is needed to hold your spot. Email me to see if there are available spots and I'll give you the mailing address to send the deposit.

In the workshop my emphasis is on helping everyone advance to their next level.

This year we will be spending our painting time at Rancho del Sol Dorado, a beautiful horse ranch 15 minutes from San Miguel. Holly and Mario Ortiz are great hosts and each day they will treat us to delicious meals in a friendly and relaxing atmosphere.

Some of the topics we will concentrate on are:

Values: A strong and simple value pattern is key to a successful painting, we will work on getting values correct from the start and keeping them clear throughout the painting process.

Color: We will work on seeing color and value then mixing color using a limited palette.
Premixing colors on your palette, and choosing the best design for your composition are a few of the things that we will focus on in this workshop.

Strong Starts/ Block In: An emphasis will be on getting a strong start to your painting so you don't need to waste time reworking the design later. Accurate color mixing is key to capturing the mood of a location. I feel that a strong start is the key a successful plein air painting and we will focus a lot on "starts" as well as how to bring a good start to the desired finish.

Finish: I will have you chose your strongest block in and use that as a start for a larger, more finished painting done on location.

Demos: I will do several demos, but the majority of the time will be for painting and individual guidance. There will be some quick painting exercises as well as time for longer painting sessions.

The painting day generally works out like this:
Meet for pick up around 9:30 A.M. for transportation to Rancho del Sol Dorado.
There is either a quick demonstration or talk about the days goals and then everyone gets painting while I give one on one attention.
Break for lunch is usually around 1:30 or 2:00 P.M. depending on our painting progress.
The break for lunch lasts about 1 hour.
Then everyone gets back to painting for the rest of the afternoon until around 5:00 P.M. when we will be transported back to town.

This workshop focuses on landscape painting. However there are lots of painting opportunities in town as well, and you might want to consider spending a few extra days in San Miguel to explore what the town has to offer.
San Miguel has many lodging possibilities. There are many fine hotels, B&B's, apartments or houses to rent. Everyone will be responsible for their own lodging and transportation to and from San Miguel de Allende. The closest airport is in Leon, (airport code BJX), about and hour and a half ride from town. I can recommend a transportation service to shuttle you to and from the airport. Mexico City is about four hours from San Miguel by bus.

This workshop is for oil painters only. All levels are welcome, but you SHOULD HAVE SOME EXPERIENCE PAINTING ON LOCATION.
If you are interested, email me at with any questions or to receive the materials list.

For info on San Miguel and lodging visit

If you would like other lodging options or have any questions, email me at

Please do not finalize any travel plans or lodging until you have confirmed with me that there is space available in the class.
The deposit is fully refundable up to one month before the start of the workshop.

Monday, December 7, 2009


This is another painting that I will be including in the group show of Mexico paintings at the Addison Art Gallery On Cape Cod starting Jan. 7th. 2010.

Rosario is a quite a character. He is always smiling or laughing and loves to pose for a picture. Especially if he can show off his ranch or animals. He tied this burro up under a tree for Paul, Colin and me to paint. My painting from the day with Paul and Colin was not that successful and is still in that limbo stage of me wondering wether I can pull something out of it or if I will throw it in the stack of clunkers. I don't think that any of us liked our paintings of that donkey that day. It started to rain off and on and the light was real flat. Besides, I've told you how much burros like to move around while you paint them right? We did not have an apple or anything this time to keep him in line. Below this painting are two pictures from that session. Paul and Colin painting, and one of Colin painting. Check out his version of an umbrella. Paul and I both had EasyL umbrellas to keep us dry (ish) but Colin made due with what he had.

This painting is from a different day.

"Rosario", 14x18" oil, Frank Gardner © 2009
$1,430. Framed, Available at Addison Art Gallery

Paul and Colin

Colin and his ingenious umbrella system.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

New Paintings and painting with friends.

It's been quite a while since I last posted something. Sorry about that.
Last month I had 14 friends down visiting and painting in San Miguel. We had a blast, and I can't even begin to write about how much fun I had with them here. I took them all horseback riding one day and I think they all really enjoyed themselves. Here is a lineup of 13 of us about to race across a dry lake bed.

left to right: Felix (his ranch), Ignat Ignatov, Ernesto Nemesio, Peter Kalill, Scott Burdick, Frank Gardner, Logan Hagege, Jerome Greene, Jeremy Lipking, Kevin McNamara, Paul Schulenburg, Jeff Bonasia, Marc Hanson, Colin Page, and a few more guys from the ranch.
Not in this photo are Dan Corey and Alexey Steele.

Below are three of the pieces that I painted around town with my buddies. They will be part of the group shows that we are doing in Jan and Feb, 2010.
I'll post a few more paintings and some info about our upcoming shows. There will also be an article in American Art Collector. I'll let you know when that comes out.

"Looking Over San Miguel", 14x11" Oil, Frank Gardner © 2009
$1,050. Framed, Available at Addison Art Gallery

"San Miguel Morning", 14x11" Oil, Frank Gardner © 2009
$1,050. Framed, Available at Addison Art Gallery

"Resting by the Church", 11x14" Oil, Frank Gardner © 2009
$1,050. Framed, Available at Addison Art Gallery

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Painting on location over several sessions

Larger works painted on location often require multiple trips to the same spot, over a period of days, to achieve an adequate level of completion. I've always thought that was not my style. Because, surely, my mood would be different on the following session and mess everything up. Stifling my true art spirit.

Well, I decided to give it a try. Last week I spent the day starting two 18x24" paintings. Put in about three or three and a half hours on this first one and about two on the second, which is not posted here yet. I went back another morning about two days later when the weather was similar. Same start time, eleven a.m.
There was a bad little head cold that beat my butt for a few days. Then yesterday I worked for two hours on this one in the studio. Today I took it back out to the same spot where I had left rocks to mark the positions of my easel legs and had another three hours painting session with it.

The above photo is how things looked this morning at eleven when I had things set up and was ready to go.
I really love these pink-red-white-light yellow grasses this time of year that catch the light just right and have different colors depending how you look at them. They can really light up a hillside or field at the right time of day.

This picture is how it looked this afternoon when I got it back home. I can see a few things that I still want to tweak, but I won't need the actual scene in front of me to work it out.

Hey, what do you know. I like taking the same painting back for several sessions. I feel like Sam I am after finally eating some Green Eggs and Ham.

It won't work for certain fleeting light effects or other similar situations where "capturing the unique moment, raw feeling, light affect thing" is what I'm after. There is some sort of freshness that I love about alla prima paintings done all in one go. But, I'll be exploring working larger outdoors for sure. 30x40 here I come.

This is a picture I snapped while painting this morning. It is the same two trees that are in the left side of the painting. Shows how tall those grasses are. That has been one of the toughest parts in this and I'm not sure it's quite there just yet. They would be a great device for letting you know just how tall that grass really is. Glad they did not pass by while I was blocking this one in or I would have tried to paint them in. Too late now because it would change everything. Maybe in another painting.

Marc Hanson has been doing some great large paintings over several sessions lately. If you have not seen them you should check out his blog. There is a link in my blogroll to the side if you're not familiar with his blog.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Two Landscapes

These two landscapes are from earlier in the summer. Both were done mostly on location and then fine tuned back in my studio after I had a chance to live with them for a while. They are framed up now and at my gallery.

The first one captures the beauty of a gray morning after a night of rain. There was a break in the clouds that kept appearing as I painted this one.

"Break in the Clouds", 11x14" Oil, Frank Gardner © 2009
$950. Framed. Available at Galeria Gardner

The second painting is a morning view looking toward the sun. Everything is bursting to life with fresh green at this time of year. The grasses and flowers are still low to the ground.

"Summer Morning", 11x14" Oil, Frank Gardner © 2009
$950. Framed. Available at Galeria Gardner

Monday, September 7, 2009

"Don Goyo and Canelo"

Well, you met Canelo in a recent plein air piece that I did.
Goyo is the man who owns him and was nice enough to let us paint in his back yard. He is adjusting the ropes on the wooden rack that is used for tying on loads to the burro.
The day was overcast. Cool light is something I don't have a chance to paint much so it was a fun piece.

"Don Goyo and Canelo", 14x18" oil, Frank Gardner © 2009

"Casa de Don Rosario"

This is one of the paintings that I started when Scott was here. I worked on it for about two hours on location. It's a complex scene, so that was only enough time to get the drawing and a rough block in of the color and value relationships. I added Don Rosario later from a photo I shot while we were painting. Rosario has been riding a horse most of his life and you can tell from his walk. I tried to catch that little detail about him in the painting. Back in the studio I had time to make little adjustments to refine the composition and color.

"Casa de Don Rosario", 14x18" oil, Frank Gardner © 2009
$1,300. Framed. Available at Windrush Gallery, Sedona, AZ

Write up on "One Ambition" Blog

John Kelley gave me a nice little write up on his One Ambition Blog this weekend. He said some very nice things and what made it even better is that he chose a painting that I am very happy with.
Thanks for the kind words John.
There are many other good posts on One Ambition, and it's worth visiting often to see what's new.


This is a little studio painting that I just finished up. I wanted to keep this one loose and let it be more about the color and design than the details.

"Curious", 8x10" oil, Frank Gardner © 2009
$720. Framed. Available at Galeria Gardner

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Open Gate II

I painted this little 6x8 today to work out some ideas for a large painting. This one is based on the plein air piece "Open Gate" from my previous post. Sometimes I like to do a few little paintings like this to play with the design and work out how I want to translate my idea in paint before committing to a large canvas. I am using a few different photo references plus the painting done on location, and this helps get me one step away from the photos.

"Open Gate II", 6x8" oil, Frank Gardner © 2009

Monday, August 31, 2009

A few from last week.

These are three of my paintings from when Scott was here. There are a few others that I am making some adjustments on.
We had a lot of fun painting together. We also did some horseback riding and camped out one night too.

"Open Gate", 6x8" oil, Frank Gardner © 2009
$500. Framed. Available at Windrush Gallery, Sedona, AZ

The open gate leads to a cattle corral. I'm going to use this one as reference for a larger painting.

"Canelo", 8x10" oil, Frank Gardner © 2009

Canelo means cinnamon in Spanish. He was tied up, but moved around constantly. We used bits of apple to lure him back into place every so often so we could paint him. The rest of the time we painted the background.

"Nopal and Tree", 8x10" oil, Frank Gardner © 2009
$720. Framed. Available at Windrush Gallery, Sedona, AZ

The light hitting the cactus spines really attracted me to paint "Nopal and Tree".

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"Girl on Burro"

I've been a little slow about getting paintings posted here. Thanks for sticking with me. It will probably be a week or so before I get another blog post up.

I'm going to be doing some painting with Scott Tallman Powers. We'll be painting in some very small villages around San Miguel for the next week. I'm sure it will be a lot of fun.

Here is another painting from about a week ago.I used a two different photos of this girl on her burro for reference and changed things around a bit to get the design I wanted.
I'm real happy with the way it came out.

"Girl on Burro", 8x10" oil, Frank Gardner © 2009
Private Collection

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

"Market Color"

Here is a recent painting. I like the look of this one with all the reds, oranges and yellows.
There are a few detail shots below so you can see the paint marks better. I hate putting up a large file of the whole painting, sorry. You'll need to come by the gallery to see it in person.

"Market Color" 18x14" oil, Frank Gardner © 2009
$1,300. Framed. Available at Windrush Gallery, Sedona, AZ

"Market Color" detail 1, Frank Gardner © 2009
I'm real happy with how the light pants and shoes came out.

"Market Color" detail 2, Frank Gardner © 2009
Frank Gardner © 2009

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"Peregrinos", a color and composition study.

There was a fiesta in Atotonilco this past weekend that we spent some time at. The combination of smells, sounds, colors and action was just amazing. The splash of colorful tarps and umbrellas. Vendors selling. Smells of mesquite smoke, roasting corn and carnitas. Banda music and the drums of traditional danzantes and the rattling metal on their costumes. Small bells ringing and women singing as their procession of pilgrims arrives at the church. Men on horseback. Costumed locos dancing. And all of this going on at once. What a sensory rush.
I am going to work on some smaller paintings as studies for larger pieces of the fiesta. This one is a color and composition study. I will probably try at least one other variation on this scene before I work up a larger painting.
These ladies are heading to the church upon arrival in Atotonilco. They were singing and one of the women was ringing a small bell. They traveled by bus from their home state and will spend a week on a religious retreat in this town before returning back home.

"Peregrinos", 6x8" oil, Frank Gardner © 2009
the enlarged image is about actual size.

Detail of "Peregrinos". Frank Gardner © 2009
The enlarged image is larger than actual size.

Monday, July 20, 2009


I spent the morning painting at Rancho del Sol Dorado the other day. I worked on two paintings. A landscape that I am doing some adjustment on in the studio and this painting of a horse that was tied up down at the stables. His name is Ben. Even though he was tied up I knew that he would be moving around on me and the background would stay the same. So as soon as I had my composition drawn in lightly I sketched in Ben while he was in the position that I wanted. He backed out into the sun and never went back to the original spot. Glad I sketched him in first. I had taken a photo that I later used to check my drawing of the horse. I only had to adjust the spacing between his front and back legs just a bit.

"Ben", 6x8" oil, Frank Gardner © 2009
$500. Framed. Available at Windrush Gallery, Sedona, AZ

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"Out and About"

Thought that I would lower my vantage point on this one. I really like how the hen's head breaks the horizon line in this one instead of looking down on her.

"Out and About", 14x18" oil on linen, Frank Gardner © 2009
Private Collection

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

"Little Burro"

I changed my palette a bit on this painting and used mostly French Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Sienna and White. Just a touch of Cad. Red and Cad. Yellow to push the mixes here and there but not very much.

"Little Burro", 11 x 14" oil, Frank Gardner © 2009
Private Collection

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"Coconut Stand"

Another painting of a roadside stand near the beach here in Mexico. This woman was selling cold coconuts that she keeps in a refrigerator. When you ask for one she gets it out and cuts it open with her machete like she is doing here. Then she sticks a straw in it and you drink the cold coconut milk. It is really refreshing. We bought a couple from her.
The sunlight coming through the palm frond wall and all of the colors really attracted me to paint this scene.

"Coconut Stand", 18 x 24" oil, Frank Gardner © 2009
Private Collection

I wanted to layer small brushstrokes of color to build up the light effect around my center of interest, like in detail 1.
Compared to the looser approach in the other areas of the painting such as detail 2.

Detail 1 "Coconut Stand". Frank Gardner © 2009

Detail 2 "Coconut Stand", Frank Gardner © 2009

Friday, June 12, 2009

It's been a while

Have not finished any new paintings since my last post. I am doing a little renovation at Galeria Gardner, so I have been down there most mornings plus some afternoons. My painting space at the gallery is occupied by a big pile of sand and gravel and some bags of cement.
Here is a painting I did in March during one of the workshops. Some of the painters were having trouble with their paintings and asked about how to tackle such a complex scene in a short period of time.
My feeling is that you need to remain focused on what attracted you to paint the scene. Simplify, and avoid trying to paint every single detail that is not important to your reason for painting that particular piece. In a different painting of the same scene you may find that a different set of details are needed.

"The Corral", 11 x 14" oil, Frank Gardner © 2009
$950. Framed. Available at Galeria Gardner

I was drawn to the groupings of tall straight cactus and their relationship to the more organic shapes of the tree, the yellow bundle of rope hanging from the tree, and the hose. The upper branches of the tree and the stable were not my focus of this piece, so I painted those with a looser approach.
You can really get into trouble if you lose track of what your focal point is when painting a scene where there is so much going on and so many little pieces of light and shadow. I worked the whole painting at once, but I kept coming back to the area roughly between the hose and the yellow rope. I wanted to make sure I got those relationships accurate. Little details here and there in other areas of the painting keep the eye moving around and add secondary interest.
There were too many cactus for me to try and paint each one exactly as it was on a painting this size, so I tried to simplify the design into a pleasing pattern of light and shadow. I moved things around slightly to get the design to work on my canvas.
This painting required a session of about 2 hours on location and then I cleaned it up a bit later in the studio.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Studio Paintings from Plein Air Sketches

I took two of my beach paintings from this post and used them as inspiration for these larger studio pieces.

In "Evening Mist" I changed the spacing between the palms a bit and lowered everything just a little so I could include more mountain in the distance. The larger painting size gave me more room to play around with color and include a few more elements to add to the sense of depth. I really enjoyed painting the effect of the ocean moisture in these pieces.

"Evening Mist", 14 x 18" oil, Frank Gardner © 2009
$1,300. Framed. Available at Galeria Gardner

"Evening Mist", 6 x 8" oil, Frank Gardner © 2009
$720. Framed. Available at Galeria Gardner

The obvious compositional change in the "Hammock, Playa Buena Vista" painting is the removal of the stick coming out of the sand. On site, I decided to use what I saw at the beach in order to have a darker element up close. Something that would help show how the mist off the ocean was affecting the values of everything and setting it all back in space. In the studio painting I wanted to see how the design, and sense of depth, would work without it. Instead, I put some dark brushstrokes and some grasses in the foreground to get some darker notes up front. I am still toying with the idea of maybe laying a small stick on the ground in the lower right foreground. Similar to the one in the plein air piece, but not sticking up in the air.
I had a heck of a time trying to getting accurate subtle color in the photos of the studio pieces. They look better in person and are visually pleasing hanging together.

"Hammock, Playa Buena Vista", 14 x 18" oil, Frank Gardner © 2009
$1,300. Framed. Available at Galeria Gardner

"Hammock, Playa Buena Vista", 8 x 10" oil, Frank Gardner © 2009
$500. Framed. Available at Galeria Gardner