Tuesday, April 29, 2008

How Long Did it Take You to Paint That?

Last week I was able to get lots of quality painting time in the studio. There are some larger canvases in the works and a few small ones. I took a break from blogging so I could concentrate on the paintings and do some family stuff this weekend.

"Another Dusty Road", 30" x 40" Oil on Canvas
Frank Gardner © 2008
Private Collection

I have been working on this painting off and on for about a year and a half. That is about as long as I have ever worked on one piece. I had done a 14" x 18" painting of this scene two years ago and thought that it would make a great larger painting. This one started out strong and then I ran into some trouble. I moved some things around a bit, struggled with the light, etc. etc...It just wasn't looking how I could see it in my mind.
I decided to set it aside for a while and just live with it in different spots around our house. It has been back up in the studio several times over the past 18 months. Sometimes it came back downstairs looking worse than when it went up. Other times it came down looking better, but still needing a little work. After the talk about finish in my last few posts, I decided it was time to wrap this one up.
The first painting sold right away, so I did not have it around while painting the large one.

"Dusty Road", 14" x 18" Oil on Board, Frank Gardner © 2006
Private Collection

It is hard to keep a painting looking fresh when you need to keep making adjustments to get things looking how you want. I think that just walking away from this one once in a while kept me from overworking it. It is in a frame now and looks good. I may need to tweak just a few things now that I see it down at the gallery and posted here.
I like certain things about the small version better and some things about the larger one better.
The jury is still out on this one.


David Lobenberg said...

Ya know Frank, sometimes I berate myself for not being able to lay down a painting efficiently. It's good to see that an artist of your caliber reworks and lets time go by. Sometimes things just need to simmer.

David Lobenberg said...

Oops. Forgot to add that the painting looks fab!

Frank Gardner said...

If you only knew.
Thanks for the vote of confidence David.
Some seem to get laid down quicker and more efficiently than others.
Some need time, some need the trash can.

Barbara Pask said...

Frank, This is really wonderful, I love the colors and the subject. You always amaze me. This one won't be around long either I predict. Barb

Frank Gardner said...

Thanks Barb.

indiaartist said...


Frank Gardner said...

Hi indiaartist, thanks.

Stacey Peterson said...

I don't think the jury's still out - this is a beautiful painting!! I like how you handled the atmosphere in the bigger piece - it's more moody than the smaller one, so it makes more impact on me.

Frank Gardner said...

Thanks Stacey. I appreciate your opinion on this one. You are right about the atmosphere in the large one.
I have been looking at it too long. Now that I see it in a new setting, and framed, I am pretty happy with how it came out.

Takeyce said...

WoW! Very nice, Frank.

Anonymous said...

I really like this painting Frank. Do you think our walls are big enough??? You have captured the terrain well - such a lovely place. Very pleased - and very proud.

mike rooney studios said...

sweeeet painting and 30x4o? OMG How do you keep the dreamy effect, working that big? everytime i do a big one in the studio from a study it looks tight and overworked....
the onsite stuff works OK for me, i think because i'm so rushed and on auto-pilot
nice piece compadre

Frank Gardner said...

Thanks Takeyce.

Thanks Gail, It might fit if you shuffle some things around. Maybe you could brick over a few windows.

Hi Mike, Thanks.
It is hard not to get em too tight looking. I just try to remember not to paint anything with more detail- tightness- than my center of interest.

Anonymous said...

Frank- I love the dusty, sunlit mood of this painting. You really captured the light and hazy feeling so beautifully.
Coming back after time away is either very beneficial ( fresh eyes, new approaches ), or as you say, into the trash.
Glad that didn't happen with this one- it's wonderful.

Frank Gardner said...

Hi Bonnie, I was really trying to catch that bright afternoon sun and white dusty feel that is so common in this area in the winter time.

Like you said, coming back after time can either make or break it, or just prolong the agony :)

Thanks for stopping by.

Deborah Paris said...

Hi Frank. I have to agree with Stacey- I think the atmosphere and use of warms and cools in the larger piece is exceptional. You've put in more information (temperature, value shifts, etc) but not more detail, so it just looks complete, not over worked. Bravo!

Unknown said...

Really beautiful! It reminds me of something from the late 19th century British landscape tradition. It's so subtle and rich. There's something to be said for working on a piece for a long time, I think. I tried to send an email to you but couldn't get it to send. It kept getting returned to me. I'll post it here, hope it doesn't take up too much space...

Thank you so much Frank,
I'm pretty happy with this book, more so than wit other books so far.It's funny, in a way the final piece of artwork is the book itself. I'd love to see my work in an auction catalogue...
I tried FedExing a book to Alicia in Venezuela and it came to nearly 200 dollars! They wanted to give it it's own plane seat! I'd be happy to send them wherever you'd like though.
Something I think I'll do is set up a paypal service direct from my blog, if I can. That'll make payment easier.
Sorry I haven't been to your site recently! I hope things are well with you and the family. What's new down there? The weather must be amazing at this point. Erin must be finishing up the year right now. Julie's starting to show, which makes it more real. We went to an ultrasound and it looks like a tiny person. Very strange.
Hope things are very well with you and your family.

Dean H. said...

Both pieces are great, Frank. You have achieved a spontaneous feel in the large painting...and considering it was done over a period of time, that's a major accomplishment. I like the two figures way down the road. Nice.

Christine Mercer-Vernon said...

hi frank, like several people have already said, i like the temperature differences between the two paintings. i'm attracted to both, but really fancy the larger painting. i think it's because it has more detail, and it's warmer overall, makes me feel more a part of the scene versus being more of an observer in the smaller one. 18 months...that's a nice long simmer, but you finished it, and it was worth it, great painting!

Frank Gardner said...

Thank you Deborah. I appreciate your thoughts on this one.

Frank Gardner said...

Hi Eric, thanks. I don't always like to take so long, but there were some subtle things I wanted to acheive in this piece to take it to the next level.
I don't know what was up with my email. All my spam seems to be coming through just fine :0

200 bucks to Venezuela!!! I wonder if it was on her end or coming from Canada? I know that it costs me a lot more to ship to Toronto than Detroit and they are pretty close.
No, Erin has school until July 4th argh!!!
I'll send you another email later.

Oh, and everyone else should go to Eric's site and buy his new book, "The Terrible Horrible Smelly Pirate".

Frank Gardner said...

Thanks Dean. I'm glad it has a spontaneous feel. After 18 months it's hard to tell. LOL
I'm glad you picked up on the two figures down the road. They are to lead you down that way and by putting them close to the others, show a sense of scale. That was one of the things I was unsure of. If they needed to be a bit darker to make them read. I think that since I am trying to show the "contra jour" light affect of looking toward the sun, that they are about right as is.

There is one other detail about this piece that I think is special, I hope some of you have picked up on it. The building is a brick kiln. There are a lot of those in the area where this scene is. In the distance to the left I added two plumes of smoke that are burning kilns, so they relate to that thing that is specific to the area. They also show the direction and strength of the wind, and lead the eye back to the right.
I tried to be subtle about that in a way that it just seems natural and does not draw a whole lot of attention, but adds to the flavor of the piece.

Frank Gardner said...

Thanks Christine. You are right, the larger one is a little warmer. I worked harder on catching the light.

Nice long simmer of 18 months, or 18 months of fear of messing it up. LOL
However you want to look at it.

Jack Riddle said...

Frank--to me these are two very different paintings of the same scene--especially different in temperature, but also different times of the day. Both of course are great. It's as if over the passage of time you wanted to "reset" the image. I also agree that the figures in the distance add to the scale of both pieces--that thing you are so especially good at...

Frank Gardner said...

Hi Jack. I did try and distance myself from the first version, strengthen the light and put some heat into it. It was a case where my memory of the place had to take over from the reference shot a bit. I go down that road a lot to paint and the cumulative effect of those memories came into play a bit.
Thanks for your input.

Ambera said...

I'm a fan of the top one. I think the brushwork makes it a more interesting painting, and the light works: it's warm and thorough, the scene looks complete because the light washes everything in the scene accordingly. I love it, such a simple and beautiful painting. Be nice to see it in person.

Frank Gardner said...

Hi Ambera, Thanks . I appreciate your view on this one.
You can see it in person. It is still at my gallery. Looking for nice hot sun?

A wildlife gardener said...

It's amazing how colour changes the mood and atmosphere of a picture. Great paintings, Frank :)

I have part of a large painting I did of Chinese dragons on silk on my painting blog at...


Or you might want to chill out by the Barleycorn ponds...


Terry said...

What can I add to all the comments? If we are allowed to be the Jury, I think the large painting wins - the light in it is spectacular, and there is just enough more detail without it being tight. The warmth makes it a painting you want to go for a walk in. Really wonderful.

Frank Gardner said...

Thanks wildlifegardener.

Terry, Thank you very much.

Anonymous said...

I love this painting -- the subject and the colors.


rob ijbema said...

that is quite something 30x40!
seeing them on the same scale
on the blog i prefer the first one,but i'm sure in person the big one must be very impresive.
good on you for sticking with it,
it doesn't look like a struggle what so ever Frank

Frank Gardner said...

Thanks Paz!

Hi Rob, thanks for sticking up for the smaller version. I think the size in person does make a difference when it is a 30x40. Hard to show that on the blog though.
I guess that is the trick for us painters. Make it look like it was not a struggle. Sargent was so good at that.

Alicia Padrón said...

I love your paintings Frank! Your work is truly amazing. And what I'm about to say, I really mean.. your work reminds me a of of Degas.

If you look at his outdoor paintings (not the pastels ballerinas of course ;o), like Horses in the Meadow for example, you'll see what I mean.

You have a such a beautiful way of painting landscapes in front of you but with just the enough brushstrokes necessary. The colors are so subtle and soft and the lighting is always beautiful. Animals or people are merely suggestions with colors, and the outcome is amazing.

I think that the first painting has more detail and more definition. But the second one is as beautiful as that one but with a more graphic feeling to it. I don't know if I'm explaining myself here.. hope so.

The point is that your are very talented my friend and that I love seeing your art as much as I love seeing the impressionists and post impressionist my favorite art periods of all. :o)

Frank Gardner said...

Alicia, I can't say enough about your kind words. I am not sure I am worthy, but I appreciate your thoughts.
You have made my day.
Week for that matter.

Un abrazo muy fuerte amiga. Me quieres hacer llorar o que?

Elizabeth said...

I agree with the comment about the British landscape tradition. May be it's the composition - a hint of Constable ot Cotman?
Very lovely.

Alicia Padrón said...

Hi Frank :o)

Of course you don't think you are worthy, no artist ever does!

If we could of asked Degas, or Monet or any of the masters a question like this one, compared their art to someone they admired they all would of answered the same thing I'm sure.. that their art wasn't worthy. Why is that? Why is it that us artists are the toughest judges of our own work?

Who knows.. but you have to trust me on this one then ;o)

(Un abrazo tambien y je, je...no llores amigo.. this is a good thing ;o) )

Jennifer Bellinger said...

Hi Frank, I love your second, larger painting! Fabulous! It's is so much stronger, the color rich and glowing. The shadows you added along the left side of the figures and the larger cast shadows from the tree on the right push in on the figure creating more contrast for the center of interest. But, I don't need to tell you this, I'm sure that's one of the problems you solved by letting it sit around for a time. I have one of those "problem" paintings on my easel at the moment. I found my solution when I was flipping through my scrap book of paintings from art magazines to see how other artists might have treated similar compositions. Trouble is now that I have solved the issue in one part of the painting, it brings up problems in another...painting is all about relationships. But, then isn't life, too? I need to remind myself, not to take painting or myself too seriously.

Frank Gardner said...

Hi Elizabeth. Thanks for comparing this painting to such a great tradition. I think there are influences of that.
I was thinking along the lines of some of the Orientalists, the contra jour lighting that some of them achieved, especially Leon Belly (French).
You may know some of the Orientalist work seeing as you live over there.

Also a painting by Constant Troyon (French).
Maybe I'll find the time to gather up some of this into a post.

Frank Gardner said...

Hi Alicia. Good question. I think part of it may be that we all know that we could do better.
Or wish we could have done better.

Frank Gardner said...

Jennifer, Thanks.
Yes, I was thinking of that. You are right about solving a problem in one part and having it bring up a problem in another.
I do find that letting it sit sometimes helps to see the big picture better. Other times I just end up losing interest. I really wanted to see this one to completion. I brought together several things that I have been working toward into one painting. Could not just let this one go.
Right you are about not taking life or painting too seriously. However, I wonder if I had taken it more "seriously" I would have finished it faster.

Thanks for your thoughts on this one.

Mirella said...

I love^^

Frank Gardner said...

Grazie Mirella.

Ed Terpening said...

Good advice, Frank. I need more room to store paintings in work, so I can put them away for a bit and come back to them. Gives you the fresh eye you need to finish.

The painting is great, by the way.

Frank Gardner said...

Ed, I don't have much storage space either. I have a constantly changing display of unfinished paintings on the walls of my house. I like to be able to look at them out of the studio. Kind of sneak up on them and see what they need.
One of the hardest things on these bigger ones is knowing when to accept the fact that one is just not working, never will, and needs to be abandoned. I always feel that I have sunken a lot of time into them and they need to be brought to a finish, but a bad design is going to be a bad design no matter how much I pick at it.

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

I might have enough courage now to drag out some 'good starts' and maybe finish them.
Good work Frank and on with the artistic struggle.

Frank Gardner said...

Thanks Mary.
I guess you are back up in New England now.

Stephen Magsig said...

Frank, So much atomsphere in these, the blogging does take a toll. I am painting for my show that opens Sat. I have never been so stressed with painting, and still trying to blog. Beautiful work!

Frank Gardner said...

Thanks Stephen.
I know what you mean. I am trying to get some larger things done too. It sure is easier to get small stuff up on a regular basis.
Best of luck with the show. Wow, painting right down to the last minute. Sounds like me:)

Anonymous said...

(There's that original Degas reference!!!)

In both of these paintings, I so love the way you create distance, and the way you have diffused glowing atmospheric light and direct light (like, off the backs of the animals - sheep?) that make the temperature radiate off the canvas! The distance hills, the midway trees/shrubs, the sky..........the skilled brushstrokes that draw the eye down the road and far off into the horizon. I love these paintings, both! Glad I don't have to choose.

Marc Hanson has a new post, yesterday, on his blog - very atmospheric. He lives in the same area where I live, and there are some things that draw me to be supportive of his work - he's very, very kind to this student of his who gives him absolutely no credit ever in any arena - not even a random mention until very recently, and it irritates me; but yet it warms my heart how kind and generous he is, regardless of the ungrateful stab of silence he receives in return. It's something I happened upon, and it's not my business, really, but still, it inspires me to be a fan, even if anonymously, and to pay close attention to the detail of his work. (delete this if you want to.....I figured this would be buried way down and no one else would read it, here. and there's no need to comment back. it is just an explanation...)

But, I love these sheep - they look like sheep to me, at least. I can hear the sound of them ambling down the path. It's very soothing to me.
Thank you, as always!!!

Frank Gardner said...

Yes, they are sheep Solveg. Winter sheep with long wool. Is it called wool before it is cut off? I don't know.
Lots of people could not tell what they were. One of the down sides of having my gallery. I get to hear a lot of those interesting comments.

Marc is very generous. I hope to meet him some day. I think we would get along.