I have chosen this painting in progress because we are in the progress of making great strides with our project and have renamed it the Earth Chronicles Project. I am now writing on a new blog with that title so go to http://www.earthchroniclesproject.blogspot.com
Keep following us as I resume my blogging and tell you about what we have been so busy with on our project and why we are so excited. We are working on linking this blog with the new one. In the meantime any techies that have advice as we begin the transitioning process please give us info, feedback, advice. But please keep following us as we have many new and exciting things coming up with our project.
"Flash", 52" x 71", oil over egg tempera with 22kt gold leaf, 22kt moon gold, 22kt white gold on panel
by Fran Hardy copyright
I chose the painting "Flash" above for this post because it captures to me those incredibly wild moments in the tropics when nature is showing us a 'million of her faces' at once. This painting was shown at the gallery I used to show with in NYC on Madison Ave (now closed with the recession) at my solo show there. I had a collector come in and say she had come to the show because of how disturbing this piece was and that all these things could not possible be taking place at one time. Someone else said 'You have not spent time in Florida then'. I think it captures an essential wildness that despite our technology and early warning systems for storms we still are totally unable to tame. Thank goodness man still has to cope with the untamed. http://ttbook.org/book/david-gessner-my-green-manifesto
I haven't had a moment to blog lately as I am so busy with our Creative-Native Project, grant writing etc.
I will write about what it means to try to juggle all these balls and survive as a creative individual in our society in my next blogpost, "Herding Cats and Changing Hats".
But in the meantime go to the link above and listen to a very inspiring interview with David Gessner who talks about his recent book "My Green Manifesto, Down the Charles River in Pursuit of a New Environmentalism". He talks about how connecting with nature is not always about the pristine, the simple but an interior wildness and an acceptance of the 'messiness' of life, nature and in ourselves. The most moving moment in the interview for me was when he talked about holding his father's hand as he died and feeling an intense feeling of the wild as his father passed. He didn't feel that again until he held his new-borne daughter, covered in blood and fluid after she was born via C-Section. This wildness, I think is what we are afraid to touch into and yet attracted to with an unknown and unknowing fascination. Maybe that is what I want to find through my work as an artist? Please feel free to comment on how you feel about wildness and what it means in your life, artist or otherwise.....
"Night Bloom", 28" x 20", oil over egg tempera on panel with 22kt gold leaf
by Fran Hardy copyright
I spent quite a few years doing the luminous technique of oil over egg tempera, an early renaissance technique developed by Van Eyck. The first documentary that Bob and I collaborated on was about my work with this technique and my fantasy paintings inspired by the tropical flora I saw in Florida. I talk about the technique and important experiences from my childhood in Florida with my grandparents who were both great lovers of beauty and nature. The documentary aired at museums in conjunction with a traveling show of my work as well as on PBS stations and FEC-TV, a national educational channel.
Bob has just installed it on you tube so that those of you who did not have the opportunity to see it or would like to view it again can. It is in two parts. Enjoy!
Tempera is traditionally created by hand-grinding dry powdered pigments into a binding agent or medium, such as egg, glue, honey, water, milk (in the form of casein) and a variety of plant gums.
Tempera painting starts with placing a small amount of the pigment paste onto a palette, dish or bowl and adding about an equal volume of the binder and mixing. Some pigments require slightly more binder, some require less. Distilled water is added.
The most common form of classical tempera painting is "egg tempera". For this form most often only the contents of the egg yolk is used. The white of the egg and the membrane of the yolk are discarded (the membrane of the yolk is dangled over a receptacle and punctured to drain off the liquid inside).
The paint mixture has to be constantly adjusted to maintain a balance between a "greasy" and "watery" consistency by adjusting the amount of water and yolk. As tempera dries, the artist will add more water to preserve the consistency and to balance the thickening of the yolk on contact with air. Once prepared, the paint cannot be stored. Egg tempera is water resistant, but not water proof.
Different preparations use the egg white or the whole egg for different effect. Other additives such as oil and wax emulsions can modify the medium.
THE FLEMISH TECHNIQUE The earliest oil painting method evolved from the earlier discipline of egg tempera painting, as an attempt to overcome the difficulties and limitations inherent in that medium. As this took place initially in Flanders, the method is referred to as the Flemish Technique. Essential to this method of painting are a rigid surface primed pure white, and a very precise line drawing. The Flemish painted on wood panels primed with a glue chalk ground, which caused the transparent passages to glow with warmth from beneath the surface of the paint. As this method did not easily accommodate corrections once the painting was under way, it was necessary to work out the idea for the picture with studies done on separate surfaces.
The completed drawing was then transferred to the white panel by perforating the "cartoon", or a tracing of it, along its lines, then positioning it over the panel and slapping it with a pounce bag, or sock filled with charcoal dust. The stencil was then removed, and the drawing finished freehand. Another method for the transfer was to cover one side of a piece of tracing paper with charcoal, or with a thin layer of pigment and varnish or oil, which was then allowed to become tacky, and use it as one might use carbon paper. Once the drawing was transferred to the primed panel and completed, its lines were gone over with ink or very thin paint, either egg tempera, distemper (glue tempera), watercolor or oil, applied with a pen or small, pointed, sable brush, and allowed to dry. The drawing was then isolated, and the absorbency of the gesso sealed, by a layer of varnish. Sometimes a transparent toner was added to this layer of varnish, which was then called an imprimatura. The tone of the imprimatura set the key for the painting, making the harmonization of the colors easier, and allowing for more accurate judgment of values. A field of white primer tends to make everything applied to it appear darker than it is, until the white is completely covered, at which time the darks are sometimes seen to be too light. And when the darks are too light, generally the rest of the tones are too light as well. By toning the isolating varnish (a warm tone was most commonly used), to a tone somewhat darker than white, this problem could be avoided or minimized.
Once the isolating varnish or imprimatura was dry, painting commenced with the application of transparent glazes for the shadows. The paints used by the early Flemish practitioners were powdered pigments ground in walnut or linseed oil. There is widespread speculation regarding whether other ingredients, such as resins, balsams, and/or various polymerized oils were added, and the issue is not yet resolved as of this writing. All opinions on this subject must be understood to be guesswork until scientific analyses have been completed on enough paintings from this era to settle the issue. It is likely, though not definitely established, that the brushing characteristics of the paints might have been altered to a long molecular configuration by the addition of boiled or sun-thickened oils, and possibly balsams such as Strasbourg Turpentine or Venice Turpentine, and/or resins. Strasbourg Turpentine, sap from the firs growing in and around what is today Alsace Lorraine and elsewhere in Europe, is similar to Venice Turpentine but clearer and faster drying. Balsams and polymerized oils add an enamel like consistency to oil paint, changing its structure to a long molecular configuration. Long paint is easier to control than short paint, especially with soft hair brushes on a smooth painting surface, as in the Flemish Technique. Brushes used by the early Flemish oil painters were primarily soft hair rounds. Some were pointed at the tip; some were rounded, and some flat. Hog-bristle brushes were also used for certain purposes, such as scrubbing the paint on in thin layers for glazing and other effects. Painting commenced with the laying in of shadows and other dark shapes with transparent paint. In this method, the painting is carried as far along as possible while the paint is wet, but is usually not finished in one sitting. Large areas of color are applied after the shadows are laid in, and worked together at the edges. These middletone colors may be either transparent, opaque, or somewhere in between, depending on the artist's preference. The highlights are added last, and are always opaque. Several subsequent overpaintings may be applied after the initial coat is dry, if desired. Some Flemish artists also employed an underpainting of egg tempera, or egg oil emulsion paint, to help establish the forms before painting over them in oils.
The Flemish method, in summary, consists of transparent shadows and opaque highlights, over a precise line drawing, on wood panels primed pure white. The painting medium may possibly contain a resin and/or balsam, which increases clarity and gloss, or a combination of a polymerized oil with a raw oil, which takes on the most desirable characteristics of a resin when used together (i.e., sun-thickened linseed or walnut oil, plus raw linseed or walnut oil, mixed together), without the defects of natural resins. The innovations are the use of oil paint and the technique of glazing with transparent color. A glossy varnish is applied at least six months after completion. Paintings are generally limited to smaller sizes, due to the difficulties involved in constructing, priming, and transporting wooden panels of greater dimensions. It had its limitations, but was a vast improvement over egg tempera, both in ease of execution and in the beauty of the final result.
Although it originated in Flanders, word quickly spread of the marvels of oil painting, and it was soon adopted by the German artist Albrecht Dürer, who is known to have traveled to Flanders and to Italy, and by Antonello da Messina, who studied in Flanders, according to Vasari. Giovanni Bellini then learned it from Antonello, and taught it to Giorgione and Titian. The Flemish painter Rogier van der Weyden, who was adept at painting in oils, came to Italy around 1449 and influenced a number of Italian artists, including Piero della Francesca. The use of oil as a painting medium was adopted cautiously by some, and derided by others, as anything new always seems to create controversy. Michelangelo refused to paint in oils, and reportedly ridiculed Leonardo for adopting it. Titian (Tiziano Vecellio) recognized its merits, and soon added several innovations of his own.
"TreeBeard Lives in the Tallgrass Prairie", 44" x 36", colored pencil on acrylic ground on panel
by Fran Hardy copyright
When we finished our interview with Bob Hamilton, director of the Nature Conservancy's Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, he said to make sure we saw TreeBeard on our way out. That was what he named a huge old cottonwood tree that had burned in one of the controlled burns that keep the prairie as grassland. The prairies used to burn frequently from lightening strikes and the native americans who set them ablaze to keep the land healthy for the bison and other large game. Without fire the prairies would become woods. The Tallgrass will be about seven feet tall by the fall and walking through it all one can see is grasses and sky above. It is a majestic experience. There used to be vast areas of prairie but now most of it has been used for agriculture. The Tallgrass Prairie Preserve and other prairie habitats that have been preserved gives us a taste of what a large part of the central United States used to be like.
The cottonwood that inspired TreeBeard had been burnt so that the whole center was hollowed out by fire, making him look like a walking creature. Bob Hamilton named him TreeBeard after the character from Tolkein's 'Two Towers'. He saw him in the movie. I remembered him from the books which my father read me before I was young enough to read. This was well before his books became popular and there were no illustrations, so I made my own and we inserted them in the books.
Here is a picture of Bob shooting and Daniel Lay taking production stills of the tree that inspired my painting. This gives you a glimpse of how I change the actual to the imaginary.
The tallgrass prairie biome depends upon prairie fires, a form of wildfire, for its survival and renewal. Tree seedlings and intrusive alien species without fire-tolerance are eliminated by periodic fires. Such fires may either be set by humans (for example, Native Americans used fires to drive bison and improve hunting, travel, and visibility) or started naturally by lightning. Researchers' attempts to re-establish small sections of tallgrass prairie in arboretum fashion were unsuccessful until they began to use controlled burns.
Due to accumulation of loess and organic matter, parts of the North American tallgrass prairie had the deepest topsoil recorded. After the steel plough was invented by John Deere, this fertile soil became one of America's most important resources. Over 99% of the original tallgrass prairie is now farmland.