Wednesday, November 28, 2007

"Woman and Doves"

Here is a painting that I did today. I took a few photos of the process so you can get an idea of how I worked this one up.
One of the choices an artist has when they begin a painting is to limit the value range that they will work in. This can greatly affect the mood of the finished piece.
My goal was to make this painting in a high value key. That means that the values are mostly light as opposed to darker. Tomorrow I hope to get a painting in a lower (darker) key that I will post here.

"Woman and Doves" Step 1

Another decision that I made before starting this one is that I wanted there to be lots of juicy and loose brushwork. So, I decided to work on this one upside down. That way I am thinking of shapes and colors and not "things". I have decided to show these first two stages upside down, just how I was seeing it when I was painting.

In step 1, I mixed up five or six shadow colors and laid those in rather quickly. I was not interested at all in details here, just getting my design blocked in with some nice variety of color. Notice that none of these colors are very dark in value. They actually look a little darker here than they really are because of all that white linen that they are being compared to. I love painting reflected light, and this scene had some nice light bouncing around on those buttresses.

"Woman and Doves" Step 2

In Step 2, I started to add the light family of colors. Again, I mixed up a handful of subtle color variations on my palette first so I could compare them to each other before committing them to the painting. Since I wanted this painting to have a loose look, these strokes needed to be put on and left alone.
Here is where I began to really work my edges leaving some hard and softening others. I am still working on the painting upside down. I did not start painting the color of the woman's clothes yet. I wanted to get most of my subtle colors down first so I could compare my color choices to the colors that are going to be around her in the finished painting.

"Woman and Doves" , 14" x 18" oil on linen, 2007
Private Collection

Here is the finished painting. I wanted the woman to be the center of interest, so that is where I put the brightest colors and some of the hard edges. I also added the doves here at the end so I could just lay them in loosely and not disturb them by trying to paint around them. I was careful where I placed them. I think that they add to the movement from left to right in the painting.

Detail "Woman and Doves"

I don't know why, but with blogger, it seems that the colors are always better when you click on the paintings and see the larger version. They are closer to the actual colors of the paintings.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

"Hunter Gatherer of Light and Color" Part 1: Values

When I am out plein air painting I consider myself a "hunter gatherer". I am looking for bits of information, value relationships, light, color etc.. I "hunt" these things and I "gather" them.
In this post I will talk about gathering of values.

These images are from a painting trip to Maine that I took with some friends. I actually got a lot of painting done which is good, because I don't like to leave my family and travel thousands of miles to come home empty handed. It was my first time painting in Maine and it really took me out of my comfort zone of painting blue sky and things that, for the most part, don't move. Some days I got up to six paintings done. Other days did not yield as many, but I feel that even on the frustrating days I came away with something useful.

I will try not to ramble on here, I hope that these sketches speak for themselves, but I will try and give brief descriptions of why I am choosing these particular sketches to share with you.

"Misty Maine Sketch", 11" x 14" oil on linen, 2006

The weather was changing constantly it seemed. In this painting all I had time to get down were the basic value relationships of the main shapes. Then the sun came out and completely changed everything. By going for the important stuff first and not getting caught up in the details right off I got some solid relationships down and even though it is an "unfinished" painting I think that it stands on its own and is actually a nice piece. It gives a little insight into how I start a painting.
Since the light changed drastically, I set this one aside and started on another painting. To keep working on a painting when the light has changed so much would be a mistake.

Two of the most frustrating things about this trip turned out to be two of the best learning experiences of the trip. Here is what I mean.
#1 Boats move. Even when they are moored the turn and shift, especially on windy days.
#2 Maine lobster boats have a unique shape, their lines are not the same as other boats, and I needed to learn this.

Pencil Sketch #1

I don't do that many pencil sketches before I start a plein air painting. I am usually too caught up in the moment and want to get right to it. However, these boats were giving me trouble. Boats turning on their moorings and the changing light of partly cloudy days was getting me frustrated. At times I just had to take a step back and do some pencil sketches. I was trying to capture the lines of these boats in simple sketches of three or four values. On the left are three views of the same boat turning. On the right are also three views of one work skiff. I drew what I could and when the profile changed I moved on to the next sketch. These were just a few seconds each. I tried to get the basic shape down and added some values when I had time.

Pencil Sketch #2

Here are some more drawings done very quickly. In a few of them you can see how I adjusted my original lines. There was a man who rowed a boat out to the work skiff to turn on the water pump. In the drawing in the middle you can see the boat alongside the skiff. In the drawing on the right he is talking on his cell phone. These are just quick gestures, but valuable nuggets of information for future paintings.

Pencil Sketch #3

Here are some more examples of working quickly and hunting and gathering of values. It is not the details that were important to me but the relationship of a value compared to the values around it. Most of these have just been three or four values. The white of the paper being one, then a light gray, a medium and a dark. Look at the sketch at the top left. There is not a lot of "drawing" of the boat. It is really just a collection of shapes of different values. When these spots are put together in the right place it reads as the little boat against the dock.

I hope that some of you found this interesting. I'll talk about other things that I hunt and gather when I am out plein air painting in a future post.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

American Artist Workshop Article

The Winter issue of American Artist Workshop magazine, on sale Dec. 11th, will feature an article by Molly Siple about a recent plein air workshop of mine here in Mexico. The article, titled "Frank Gardner: Using a Premixed Palette", will focus on a three day class that I taught in February of 2007.
I teach the benefits of using a limited palette of colors to keep color mixing simple. One of the methods that I use is to have the students start a small 6" x 8" painting by premixing on their palette 7 to 9 colors that will represent the main masses of light and shadow in the painting.
I will be posting more about the article as well as some additional workshop information on my blog soon.

Friday, November 23, 2007

From Plein Air Sketch to Studio Painting

Many times I will use a plein air painting as the starting point for a larger studio piece.

"San Miguel Viejo Sketch", 6" x 8" oil on board, 2006
$500. Framed, Available at Galeria Gardner

That is the case with this series of a man plowing a corn field by an old church here in San Miguel. I go to this location to paint a lot. It is close to my house and there is always something interesting to paint there whether it be the church, workers in a field or a few animals grazing nearby.
On this occasion I was painting a small sketch of the chapel while this gentleman plowed his field. He would pass into my view and I kept thinking what a great painting that image would make. I snapped a few photos as he plowed and later worked up some ideas for a larger studio painting.
In the 6" x 8" study I was just trying to get the simple value pattern down with some fairly accurate color.

"Man Plowing", 11" x 14" oil on board, 2006
$950. Framed. Available at Galeria Gardner

Later, in the studio, I used my plein air sketch and some photos to come up with an interesting composition for a larger piece. I'll often work out my idea on a small scale before committing the idea to a large canvas. Once I worked out the placement of the man and his team of horses I was ready to move on to the larger painting.

"Man Plowing Field", 30" x 40" oil on canvas, 2007
$4,700. Framed, Available at Galeria Gardner

Once I have worked out my plan, I can attack the larger piece with more confidence. The focus of the large painting is the team of horses. That is where most of my attention is focused. The chapel is softened so it will take it's place in the background. I liked the way that the tree branches worked in the middle painting so I used that in the large painting as well. It kind of lets you know where I am standing. It clarifies the shadow in the foreground and balances all of the action in the lower half of the painting.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I've Been Tagged

This is sort of a blog chain letter, but better. I would normally throw out a chain letter and a chain letter is anonymous. This is actually pretty interesting. In fact, I have traced this back pretty far by just following the links and have found some interesting blogs and facts about the bloggers that make my five random or weird things look pretty boring. You can trace this backwards from Alicia PadrĂ³n because Eric Orchard did not post the full rules on his blog. He is pretty busy right now so he can be forgiven. Best of luck with your book launch Eric.

Here are the rules:
1. Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.
2. Share 5 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
3. Tag 5 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well
as links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Anyway, I've been "Tagged" by a blogger friend of mine Ambera Wellman. Ambera ia an emerging artist in Halifax.
Not only does she have a neat blog and a cool name but she is someone who's name pops up all over the place if you read the comments that people make on blogs. She is a good example that blogging is not only about showing posts and receiving comments, but actually making comments on other blogs.
She and Eric have been great about making comments on my blog and I am thankful for their input and friendship.

So here are my five random things. Reading these now I could have come up with much stranger stuff, like being kidnapped, but I'll stick to what I sent Ambera last night.

1. I DO have a license, drove to Mexico from New York 18 years ago and I'm still here. ( What's up with you and Eric that you don't have a license?)
2. I hate dirty brushes.
3. I have kid's songs in my head all day long.
4. I like to eat candy, a lot.
5. One of my favorite movies is "Being There" with Peter Sellers. This is a great movie to watch at this time of year by the way as we head into winter. If you have not seen it go out and rent it.

Which brings me to my picks for who I will "Tag".
I have just started out in the blog world and this being Thanksgiving and all, I would like to start with some bloggers who I am thankful for in one way or another.

#1. I will have to pick James Gurney. His blog Gurney Journey is the first blog that I check out every morning. He posts regularly and covers so many topics that I think there must be two or three of him somewhere. I am a big fan, a Gurney Groupie so to speak. If you don't already, you should check out his blog. If you know his blog and have not visited his other web sites here they are Dinotopia and James Gurney's web site. Thanks James, I am a fan from before your blog, but Gurney Journey is one of the reasons that I decided to blog myself and share what little knowledge that I have with others. I am really curious to see what James comes up with as his five random things.

#2. Will have to be Ed Terpening. I know that you have been tagged before Ed, but you are another blogger that has made a difference, and I'll have to "Tag" you again. Back when I was thinking of blogging, but not sure if I could do it, I was reading through Ed's Blog and came across this post. Why Artists Should Blog. I read some great reasons to blog which clarified my ideas and learned some new words like Lurker. I decided to not be a lurker any more and posted a comment on Ed's blog. I opened my blogger account and here I am. Thanks Ed.

#3. Is Mike Bailey. Mike was the first person to post a comment on my blog. Thanks Mike. You made me realize that there are actually people out there reading all of this and it got me to get some content on here fast. Mike has a great blog that you should check out. Thanks again Mike for posting on my blog. I know you must have some interesting or weird things about you.

#4. Is going to be Carol Marine. she is a great artist and one of the best "Daily Painters" blogging. You should all have a look at her work and bid on one through ebay if you like them. They are awesome little paintings and very affordable. I wanted to get some more painters in on this so here you go Carol. "Tag". I think that you must have some interesting things about yourself to share.

#5. Is Jerry Lebo. He has a blog, Sixty Minute Artist, that is just packed with interesting info on painting. It is hard to believe that he is not a full time painter with all of the content he has on there. If you want tips on painting I recommend that you check out his blog. Keep up the good work Jerry. I know that you will have interesting things, I wonder if you can limit it to five.

Thanks to all of you. I know that you are all busy, but I was not going to be the one to let this stop at my blog.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2007

"Last in Line"

"Last in Line", 14" x 18" oil on linen, 2007
Private Collection

This is a new painting that I just took down to the gallery. I call it "Last in Line" because of the little lamb. It seems like the little guys are always last in line when the animals are out.
I have decided to start adding my prices to the artwork that I post if it is still available. I think that I will change my web site to show prices as well. Any thoughts on this?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

"Two Roosters"

"Two Roosters", 8" x 6" oil on board, 2007
Private Collection

I painted this small piece yesterday. This subject was perfect for playing around with some subtle color and loose brushwork. I have been working on some larger paintings lately and it is nice to take a break from those and do a few small ones.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"El Mexicano"

"El Mexicano", 18" x 24" oil on canvas, 2006
Private Collection

This is another painting that I like very much, for some of the same reasons that I discussed in my last post "Burro Bonito".
It has a lot of loose painterly brushwork. The few hard edges are reserved for the center of interest, the man and horse. The the rest of the painting is mostly soft and lost edges, which play a supporting role to the center of interest.
In this painting I wanted to convey the sense of heat from the hot sun, so I used a burnt sienna under painting, and let a lot of that color show through.
I paint a thin wash of burnt sienna mixed with lots of paint thinner all over the canvas. When it has set for about five or ten minutes I rub it down with a rag to even it out and leave a transparent wash which I let dry before painting over it. Always do this in a well ventilated area.

Detail "El Mexicano"

For this painting I used a reference photo that I took up the street from my house. There were a lot of trees and nopal cactus in the photo, but I chose to just hint at those so I would not distract from the man on the horse. The background is really just color notes. There is not much value contrast within all of that brush and cactus. That would draw too much attention away from my focus.

Detail "El Mexicano"

The sharpest edges are saved for the center of interest and so are my brightest colors. The red blanket, the yellow rope and the blue shadows on his white clothes are the three primary colors. Grouped together, they help draw attention to that area.
The lightest value in the painting is the white of the man's clothes. The next lightest value is the sky and a few of the cactus paddles behind the man's face that are getting direct sun. Since the man's face is in shadow, I just painted one main tone for his face. After laying in the shadow colors of his face and hat, I worked the negative space around his head and hat with the sky color. Notice how I continued with the same light value, but a different color (the cactus) on the back side of his head. Then, going down the man's shoulder and arm, I used one of the darkest values in the painting against the lightest. It was not like that in the photo, but I changed it to make it fit my needs. You have to be careful when you use photos to not just copy them blindly. I rearrange, edit or combine elements from other photos as needed.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

"Burro Bonito"

"Burro Bonito", 14" x 18" oil on board, 2007 Private Collection

I like the loose painterly feel of this piece. My idea in this one was to use subtle color, hard and soft edges and lots of variety in my brushstrokes.

Detail "Burro Bonito"

You can see here that up close it is just an abstract pattern of colors and shapes. I reserved one of the hardest edges for along the top of the saddle.

Detail "Burro Bonito"

Here I used the greatest contrast of light and dark to accentuate the burro's face.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

"Second Wind"

It was one of those frustrating days that plein air painters sometimes have. We had staked out our location the evening before and returned the next morning ready to go. McLoon's Wharf in Spruce Head, is classic Maine, a few little red shacks where lobster boats unload their catch and lots of colorful fishing boats moored in the little harbor. I had visions all these great paintings that I was going to do in my mind. In fact, it was hard to decide which one of these masterpieces I was going to paint first. I settled my sights on one of the red shacks, pier, boat, some water, sprig of land in the background. I was going to get it all.
Well that didn't work, and that is how I got that nice toned canvas on "Second Wind".

"Second Wind", 8"x 10" oil on linen, 2006. Private Collection

I realized that my first try of the day was a failed painting after about ten minutes. Maybe five, but I kept hoping for the best for the other five. The positive side here is that I recognized that it was bad from the start and that no amount of picking at it was going to change that. So, I wiped it down and regrouped.
I went for a simpler composition. Instead of trying to get all of Maine into my 8"x 10" painting, I went for one lobster boat that had just pulled in to unload some traps, and just a slice of the pier. It was an old wooden boat, a classic, the kind with the sail in the back. I went at it with gusto after having loosened up with the first try. I blocked in all of the important stuff, got the lines of the boat down, added some pilings of the pier and the little boat that was tied up behind it. Then I worked the reflection of the sky in the water down along the right side.
O.K., now it was time for all the details. Or not, the owner of the boat walked over to have a look. "That's real nice" he said, "you got the shape down just right with so little. Looks just like her. Sorry to tell you this, but I gotta move the boat." I had about three minutes before he got back down into his boat and pulled out. I double checked a few shapes and made sure I had that bow line right and off he went.
I ended up being real happy with the result. I had captured just the important stuff, a good color harmony, and not a lot of fluff that may or may not have added to the piece. I hadn't had time to fuss over it and mess up all the good painting I had done in about fifteen or maybe twenty minutes. The name of the boat was "Second Wind" and I had gotten mine.

That High didn't last long. The rest of the morning continued to frustrate me. I walked around a lot. Checked out my buddies' paintings, snapped some photos. I Really could not decide what to paint next. Have you ever had that feeling? So I decided to do some pencil sketching. Some of them came out pretty nicely. Here are a few pages from my little sketch book. They are loose, just little value studies. I tried to get the gesture of the working men down and the lines of the lobster boats. I don't get to see many of those in Mexico. It really was a pretty good morning after all.

"Cold Camden"

"Cold Camden", 6" x 8" oil on board, 2007
Private Collection

This is a new studio painting from a photo that I took last October in Camden, Maine. It is starting to get a little cold here. At night. Well, alright, not as cold as what some of you have had, but cold enough to remind me of my painting trip to Maine last October with some painting buddies. We stayed and painted in Port Clyde, but took a day and went up to Camden to visit some galleries and paint the harbor. So, inspired by this "cold", I have been doing some paintings in my little back patio here at the gallery using photos from that trip. This is the first one, I'll post some others later.

Detail, "Cold Camden"

I used a burnt sienna under painting on this piece because of all the "cool" colors ( blues, greens and the white) I wanted it to look cold, but not be too "cool" in color temperature. I left little bits of the sienna showing through here and there. Your eye mixes those in and gives the painting the feeling of the sunny day. Notice how that lobster boat in the back is just a few little strokes and how the green is "bluer" to the left and "yellower" to the right. That emphasizes where the light source is, to the right.

Detail, "Cold Camden"

In this detail I wanted to show how simply the background is painted. I don't want anything back there that will take away from the center of interest, the worker in the boat. Just a few quick strokes to show what's back there, a schooner and a building. Like Hawthorne said, "Only the owner of the house will count the windows".
The edges back there are softer too making the worker in the boat draw your attention. On this scale I could not put in too many details, but I wanted to play around with a lot of subtle grays in the shadows, like in the worker's sweater and pants.

Monday, November 5, 2007

"Little Treasures"

These two little paintings are going to be part of the "Little Treasures" exhibition at the Tubac Center of the Arts, in Tubac, Arizona.
Friday, November 16, 2007 through Monday, December 24, 2007.
This Holiday show consists of 5" x 7" paintings by some of the nation's finest artists.
Tubac Center of the Arts
Tubac, Az.
tel. 520-398-2371

"Feast of Flowers" 7" x 5" oil on linen, 2007

"Pollitos" 7" x 5" oil on linen, 2007

Saturday, November 3, 2007

"Done for the Day"

"Done for the Day", 30" x 40" oil on canvas, 2007
Private Collection

I have been working on this painting off and on for a while and just finished it and took it down to my gallery. I had done a small one in the spring and thought that it would make a great large painting. The light on the front of the church in Atotonilco and the shadow in the foreground make for a dramatic composition. It took me a while to finish it up because I would bring it down from my studio and hang it in different parts of my house to see how it would look. Then take it back up into my studio and make small corrections. I'll often hang on to a painting like that for a while so I can look at it in different light at different times of day. It's easy to make a painting look good with a light on it down at the gallery, but I want them to look good when some one walks into the room and the lights are out. Then when a light goes on it it just looks even better. It's real important to get your values right for a painting to work well in a darkened room. That is Alfredo walking in front of the church on his way home with the stuff from his wife's food stand down the street. I've known him since I moved to Mexico about 18 years ago. He is a real nice guy. You can see the smaller version of this painting and another painting of Alfredo on my web site.

"Taking out the Goats"

"Taking out the Goats" , 14" x 18" oil on linen, 2007
$950. Framed, Available at Galeria Gardner

This is a new painting that I just took down to the gallery. I am working on a 24" x 30" version of this scene. I'll often do a smaller version to work out my idea before committing it to a larger scale. I like the loose brushwork in this one, especially in the man with the goats. I tried to use the road as a way to get the viewer to travel around in the painting.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)

Today is El Dia de los Muertos in Mexico. I thought I would ad a few images of this celebration of death, for those of you who have never been to Mexico. We went down to one of the local cemeteries to visit some friends. A friend of mine really did a nice job of decorating the grave of his brother.

This is a close up of some of the offerings at the same grave.

This is an altar to Cri CRi. He was the most famous singer/ author of children's music in Mexico.

One last photo of an older cemetery in town. Many of the graves here are hundred's of years old.

"Morning Vista"

"Morning Vista", 48" x 60" oil on canvas, 2007 Private Collection.

This is the latest in a series of paintings that I have done based on a smaller painting of San Miguel that I did on location. This one is a studio painting. I loved the way the town was back lit, fusing the hillside and buildings into a few simple masses. This one is a commission that I will deliver next week.

"Morning Vista, San Miguel", 11" x 14" , oil on board, 2006 Private Collection

This is the first in the series, done on location.

"Morning Vista, San Miguel", 30" x 40" , oil on canvas, 2006 Private Collection

The second painting in the series. Painted in the studio. I wanted to explore this idea on a larger scale. There is more detail added to the silhouette of the town. I also adjusted the road in the foreground to give a sense of where I was standing.

"Summer Morning", 30" x 24" , oil on canvas, 2007
Private Collection

This is the thrid painting of the series. This is also a studio piece. I wanted to try this in a vertical composition to see how it would change the feel of the painting.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

"Side Street"

"Side Street", 14"x18", oil on linen, 2007
Private Collection

This is a painting of Atotonilco. This is a small town about ten minutes from San Miguel where I first lived when I moved to Mexico. I painted a vertical composition of this scene on location. This is a studio painting that I did soon after. I'll often do several paintings of a scene to experiment with different compositions.