Thursday, May 22, 2008

"Church View"

You may have figured out where this wall that I have been painting the figures is, if you looked at one of the first posts on My Paint Box. It is at the end of this side street in Atotonilco.

In this painting, and this one, I wanted the figures to stand out against the simple design of the street and walls, so the church is left out. In "Church View", the church is the subject, not just the figure. There is a little more detail in this painting than in the sketch. I wanted to emphasize the beautiful design of the church, however a lot of the detail is still suggested.
This painting is based on a plein air piece that I did during my last workshop.

"Church View ", 11" x 14" oil on linen, Frank Gardner © 2008
Private Collection

Plein air sketch, 8" x 10" oil on linen, Frank Gardner © 2008

I was happy with most of the painting done on location, but the design was rushed, and ended up being too cramped at the top. I had to squash down the main dome of the church to make it fit. Otherwise it would have run off the top of the panel just a bit, and that would not have worked design wise either. I thought about trying to fix this plein air, but it just could not be adjusted. It was easier to re visit the idea in a new painting. The sketch will not be for sale. It is one of those that are just a learning experience, good for use in the studio. Some of the proportions I corrected with the help of a photo. The values were off in the photo, so I followed the sketch on that.


Barbara Pask said...

Hi Frank, Your finished painting is really lovely, I really like all the detail I see in the church. You sure seem to live in an interesting place especially if you happen to be an artist such as yourself. Take care, Barb

Kelley Carey MacDonald said...

This is gorgeous. And I love the story that goes along with it. I've been painting in SM three times now, and it takes my breath away each time. The figure really makes the painting, too (see Robert Genn's Twice Weekly Letters from today). To me, he isn't walking 'away', he's 'leading' me into the heart of the painting. Beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Love the effect of the sun and the shadows in this one.
The dome didn't appear cramped to me. Reading your own critique of what your eyes see, is indication that we are all able to see what we perceive as flaws in our own work that others may not ever notice.
Ultimately, it only matters if the artist feels right about it.

I also just read Robert Genns' newsletter with the same subject which is also the current subject on Gurney Journey.
To my eye, figures add a sense of scale that puts' much into place.

Another beauty Frank.

Frank Gardner said...

Thanks Barb. This is a great place for a painter. The light is great and there is enough subject matter to keep me going for three lifetimes.

Frank Gardner said...

Hi Kelley. I am so glad you stopped by. I did see that Robert Genn newsletter this morning. Funny how the timing on that worked out. I talked about that leading you into the painting in my previous post "Thorns", you might have read that one too.
You should stop in and see me next time you are in town.
Thanks for the comments. I'll check out your paintings next time I have a few minutes to surf the blogs.

Frank Gardner said...

Thanks Bonnie. Well, the height of the dome needed to be reduced to cram it in there and it is so close to the top of the panel now that my frames crop it further.
You are right, sometimes others don't notice those things. That is why I take care of the culling out of the weak ones myself. Only want my best stuff out there.
Figures do add a sense of scale etc.... these posts do all seem to be on the same wavelength today. Those guys are just copying me.. LOL just kidding

Christine Mercer-Vernon said...

oh i love this and i recognize that tree, you painted a more vertical format of this church, a lot warmer, still my favorite (not that i don't like this know what i mean)! it's really nice to see a wider view of the church and it's surroundings, you really do get a different feel in this one. the other paintings which use this wall are so personal, i feel more a part of the scene, whereas this one i feel more like an observer. That one lone figure makes this composition stand out.

Ambera said...

That turned out so well, Frank. The darker values in the figure sits the church really nicely in the background, and you've also somehow managed to make it look really hot there, it has a summery haze.

Frank Gardner said...

Thanks Christine. I remember you saying that you really liked that other one. It's one of my favorite trees ever.
always appreciate your visits!

Frank Gardner said...

Ambera, it IS hot.
Actually, it has not been as hot as it was a few weeks ago.
The plein air was in March, it was pretty warm. Strong sun.

I'm glad you picked up on the usefulness of the figure being a darker value.

Alicia Padrón said...

Ohhh Frank this is fantastic! I love the church and now that you pushed us back (the viewrs) we get to see the big picture.. is very cool.

I love how colorwise, the man with the thorns is a little sample of the whole church and big background of the painting. The trees are represented by his branches, the beautiful sky by his shirt and the church and buildings by the rest of his clothes. In fact to me, having them one in front of the other like that feels like a comparison is being made, you know? a single, humble man vs the greatness, majesty and history of the church.

And the the complimentary of the orange wall with the light blue sky adds to the painting making it fun and bright at the same time.

Frank Gardner said...

Alicia, thanks for the compliments on this one.
You are very observant.
What more can I say?
gracias amiga!

David Lobenberg said...

I love the feeling of light in this painting. Now I'm going to go out on a limb (pun intended) with a question... would the painting be improved by deleting the leaning tree or bringing down its height significantly? A. I'm trying to be constructive. B. Maybe my critique is full of horse sh*t!

Anonymous said...

I enjoy learning about everything that goes into your painting. Marvelous. And I love the painting of this church.


Anonymous said...


"Church View" - I love this painting - and the entire series!

I went a bit over the top writing about "Thorns" so I will just say that "Church View" moved me similarly - Ms. Padron's comments resonated. And, I humbly admit I love that tree.

I have been drawn back to look at your painting dozens of times, already, since you posted it yesterday.

Thank you!

Jack Riddle said...

Frank--the amazing thing about this series is that you got the "scale" thing with both the earlier close up and this view. I also respond to this painting's ability to draw me in. Even that tilted tree helps. Plus the detail on the left of the wall. And the value range in the church. My eyes dance all around but never leave. I hope I can get to Atotonilco when I'm down there this fall--it looks like it has lots of goodies to paint.

Frank Gardner said...

Hi David. I appreciate your question. Here is what I think.
The tree is important for the darker value that it adds. Compare it to the tree behind to show distance.
The height works for me. Just a bit higher than the tree behind. It is closer and my vantage point is low. Compare its height in the plain air compared to the dome and the finished compared to the dome. I feel that difference makes the second piece stronger.
The leaning part I like because that's the way it really is AND it contrasts to all of the straight architectural lines in the church etc.. balances the angled lines of the church.
Thanks for the question...It reinforced my opinion on that one. Yes, I need the tree.

Frank Gardner said...

Thanks Paz. Glad you enjoy the posts.

Frank Gardner said...

Hello anonymous, Thanks.
Ha ha, I don't mind multiple comments at all.
I said it in another comment, I love the tree too.

Have you seen this one?

That is great that you have come back several times to look at this one, thanks.
Are you the one who linked to thorns?

Frank Gardner said...

Thanks Jack.
About the value range. It was real important to me to block that whole silhouette of the church and surrounding ruins into one main value shape and then break it up with subtle differences and color shifts. That is what took me so long to get this one right.
We''ll have to go out there to paint.

Anonymous said...

Well, then, here's a second "comment"!!!
(smilingly written!)

If, by "link", you mean an actual blog/site link, no. I wouldn't do that without asking.

Yes, I had seen "Atotonilco Evening" - I love the way the gate leads to the tree....and I love the light and shadows - tree and crosses...

For some reason, since yesterday, I have been reminded so much of The Bellelli Family (Degas portrait) - the composition...I'll have to think about how to say why your paintings bring him to mind - you both have wise and loving eyes, and you both have great technical skill and understanding...I'll think about it some more...

Frank Gardner said...

Hi anonymous.
There was a blog that linked to "Thorns", and I have no idea who it is or why they would have linked to thorns aside from the word. Thought I would ask.

The Degas/ Bellelli Family reference is interesting. I am sitting here looking at them together. The more I look at them, the more I see similarities.
The sky color and the wall color.
Faces, especially the man, and the color of the orange wall.
The girls dresses and the shape of the dome.
The gold frames and the carpet with the colors of the golden touches in my painting.
Even what seems to be a clock on the mantel reflects the design of the church.
Maybe I am stretching here, but the candle stick and the highlight on the inside of the yellow tower.

The design is the same principle I used, but in reverse. If you hold either of the two upside down the triangular design is very similar.

Very cool, The angle of the girls leg is the same as my favorite tree as well.

I am impressed that you put these two together. I would never have seen that. Thanks for the fun visual exercise.
Have a great weekend!

Frank Gardner said...

In case anyone wonders what we were talking about, check out this painting by Degas.
Does anyone else see similarities?

Alicia Padrón said...

Did I just hear someone comparing your work to Degas?? Hmmmm... How interesting.. ;o)

Frank Gardner said...

I know Alicia, Didn't you just make the same comparison a while back? I love Degas, but never really compare my work to his. May need to rethink that.
If you get a chance, compare the Bellelli Family painting with this one, I'd love to hear your thoughts on that. Since you are a fan of his work.

Anonymous said...

I hope you don't mind my saying:

Your comparison/analysis is wondrous - invigorating! I know too little to see those things in detail, but when you write them, I understand.

When that painting appeared from nowhere in my mind's eye, I was fascinated - I haven't thought about Degas (or any painters) in years; therefore, the association had to be from your painting. I had a very busy day, and not even time to look it up - just going on memory. What I recall is the way he painted the family dynamic into his composition - the mindful positioning of absolutely everything in the painting - the girl standing on one leg and looking out of the picture, the directional orientation of the other figures, and the placement of the furniture - couch?.....gosh, I should look it up before I write these things. Am I remembering correctly? (I want to keep the association clean, since it came up from somewhere deep down...I'll look it up after I post this). And, there's something about the freeness of his representational style.....simple but not simplistic - complex but not overwrought or overcogitated........those are my associations without any revisiting of the painting....perhaps that's very risky. But, hey! I'm anonymous, right? (smiles!)

And, I had no idea that Ms. Padron had also associated your work and Degas'. I would love to know more about that, if you feel like sharing.

I have thought a lot about Degas, today.....I am also remembering a painting called something like "Horses in a Landscape".....that comes to mind, too. He was always always always one of my most favorite painters - love his sketches and drawings, too.

I will look this up now.

Yes - very invigorating!!!

Big smiles!

Bill Sharp said...

This is a beauty Frank. I wish I could see it in person. You captured the gesture of the figure very well. I feel his burden as he leads me down the road to ... where? There's a story here and I can't help but wonder and think about what it is. There's plenty of information here for the viewer to occupy a lot of time constructing the story. Beautifully painted as well.

Anonymous said...

Ohmigosh! I had some things remembered, but other things not - what a glorious thing to revisit!!!

The main point of the association, I think, is the way the viewer's eye is drawn into and around and out of the painting and frame and into the family, both in timeless general and in time specific - your paintings do that...the way you paint-breathe so much direction, motion, and life into a two-dimensional's palpable...someone wrote that she could feel the heat...temperature, atmosphere, sense of pace, attitude, and, there's aroma also...That's what my association was about, I think.

But, revisiting the Degas: the blue - I had forgotten that blue, so like the sky in yours! - and the gold! - and the carpet and all the vertical lines, the bit of blue upholstery on the girl's chair (NOT couch...!!!....) - and, except for the father's face, not really having any relationship to your painting in particular: the faces - yipes, the faces - and all the eyes - YIPES, the eyes!!! But, yes, I see the candlestick, the dresses, the clock. And, the angles/triangle.

I am grateful, again, for your analysis/comparison - your view into the paintings, leading me in a way I wouldn't know to look.

Thank you so much! What a huge gift, all of it! Your painting, most of all.

Alicia Padrón said...


Well I had to look for that one and put both side to side. To be honest, at first I thought to myself, compare them? But the subject matter is so different? And one is outdoors and the other indoors? And.. but then similarities started to appear the same way as we look for differences in those children's activities books.

For me, color scheme is the first. Although the blue is not the same hue, the scheme is there... blue and bright orange as principals and then neutrals. With very important white spaces.

The other common thing is the top point in relation to each other on all the people in the family painting are the same as the top points on the church dome and the other 3 towers. They descend in the exact same way but are a mirror image form one another.

The white folds on the girl's dresses resemble the white walls on your painting.

And the last similarity I find is with the small negative space in the bottom left corner of the the family painting's mirror. The shape that is formed within that space is exactly the same as the window of the main tower dome on yours.

I never would of thought to compare this 2 painting, although you know I think your style reminds me of Degas. Specially with the outdoor paintings. The way you handle light and the strokes for me are beautifully related :o)

Frank Gardner said...

Anonymous, it is interesting that you came u with that piece. There are a lot of similarities.
It is interesting how you associated certain things apart from what I thought when I looked at them together.
"Horses in the Meadow" is a piece that Alicia had mentioned in a previous comment.
Thanks for your comments.

Frank Gardner said...

Thanks Bill. It is good to hear your feelings about this one. It does have a bit more of a narrative with the figure than without.

Frank Gardner said...

Thanks for visiting Bonnie M. and for taking the time to leave a comment.
I hope that you will visit again.

Frank Gardner said...

Hi Alicia. I thought the same thing at first. That maybe I looked up the wrong painting. The palette was the first thing that struck me as being oddly similar. Then other things.
It is neat how I start to find things. Like you said, it is like a find it book.
Thanks for taking the time to look this over.

Anonymous said...

Degas...such loving, gentle paintings of horses...most especially, "Horses in the Meadow".
I also admire these compositions: "Racehorses in a Landscape," and "Race Horses in Front of the Grandstand".
Thanks for all of this - for YOUR paintings, especially!!!
And, thanks, Ms. Padron, for writing your comments, too. I was grateful to read them!

Unknown said...

I hope this doesn't bother you- but this is my new favorite! I love this composition, it looks like another, magical world. The scale here is great too. It feels like a special place with boundless potential.

Frank Gardner said...

Doesn't bother me at all Eric. Better than saying that it was your new least favorite.
The place has a good energy to it and maybe that is why I love to be there and paint there.
Can't wait to get my, I mean Erin's, "Horrible, Terrible, Smelly Pirate" book.