Pastel: Fran Hardy's July 26th Chat Transcript

0707hard1_576x363Read the transcript from our online chat with mutimedia artist Fran Hardy.

2007-07-26 12:00:14.0
Administrator: You have joined a chat with Fran Hardy, an artist who transforms her graphite drawings into remarkable multimedia pieces that incorporate sgraffito. Feel free to ask her some questions and to join in the discussion.

2007-07-26 12:00:39.0
Alli: Fran, could you define "sgrafitto" before we get started?

2007-07-26 12:01:54.0
Fran Hardy: allison, I think of it as a scratching through one layer to reveal another layer. I don't know if that is the dictionary definition. Originally it meant scratching through India ink to reveal the white ground beneath. Now I use colored grounds–watercolor–then put oil pastel on top. I then scratch through the oil pastel to reveal the watercolor design underneath. What made me think of doing sgraffito? I noticed that I was scratching through the hard ground of a copper plate in my printmaking, and this reminded me of the sgraffito technique.

2007-07-26 12:03:48.0
NE: Hello Fran. My question is: how do you choose your subject matter? Do you choose the medium first, then find a subject that is best suited for it?

2007-07-26 12:04:44.0
Fran Hardy: NE, I generally find the subject matter first, then I think about how I want to interpret it. I think about what would inspire me the most. A lot of times I will interpret one subject matter many different ways–drawings, scratchboard, prints… I didn't use to work in series like I do now. I get fixated on one thing, like the staghorn fern plant, and explore the different stages it may go through.

2007-07-26 12:06:26.0
NE: When working in mixed media, do you find things go differently than you expect? Do things interact in surprising ways?

2007-07-26 12:07:55.0
Fran Hardy: NE, definitely. When I worked in oil and watercolor, the paintings were very planned out. With mixed media it will change often–there's much more of an edge when I am working on those. I'll go in a different direction at any time. Maybe I won't be sure that something is working, so I will try something new. Or I may change things if I feel something is too confusing, or if something needs to pop out more. The mixed media pieces come from another place for me. I’m really not conscious of what I'm doing when i do it. Part of that is that I like the image in the more abstract pieces to have a little of a push-pull–a little tension–with the more representational elements.

2007-07-26 12:10:27.0
Alli: It seems like you are attracted to living subject matter over inanimate objects. Why is this?

2007-07-26 12:11:56.0
Fran Hardy: Alli, it's something that has always been there since childhood. My grandfather had a really big garden and I loved that. It's also an important connection to the life force in all of us, and I think it is really important to remember that, remember that we are all part of a bigger picture. By the way, I used to paint still lifes, but even those had fruit in them. I had an organic garden at one time and I would set up still lifes as I picked the fruits and vegetables. I would paint or sketch them right in the garden.

2007-07-26 12:15:45.0
Alli: How would you describe your style? It seems more symbolic and expressionistic than representational or realistic.

2007-07-26 12:16:32.0
Fran Hardy: Allison, I would agree with that. It is more symbolic and expressionistic. I started out as a realist, and that evolved into a magical realism, and then that evolved into this. I used to think I was a realist until I looked at my work next to realists! There are indeed symbols…In the staghorn series, I was fixated on this plant and I would watch them change through the seasons. My interpretation is that they were aging and having babies so to speak, and so forth.

2007-07-26 12:17:44.0
NE: It seems like you blend the two–realistic and abstract. I guess my question is: how do you do it? What is your technique? What is your thought process? What has prompted the shift to more abstract work?

2007-07-26 12:20:02.0
Fran Hardy: NE, I was always fascinated by abstraction but coming from a realist bent I was never sure how to incorporate it into my work. I noticed that when you are drawing anything it starts to break down into abstract parts.

2007-07-26 12:21:15.0
Administrator: You have joined a chat with Fran Hardy, an artist who transforms her graphite drawings into remarkable multimedia pieces that incorporate sgraffito. Feel free to ask her some questions and to join in the discussion.

2007-07-26 12:21:34.0
Fran Hardy: I've been trying for years to integrate abstraction in some ways. Moving here to New Mexico, something definitely shifted because there is so much abstract work around here. Things emerge out of the drawings–a lot of things like faces and tree sprites seem to emerge from some of the trees. I wasn't consciously putting these things into the trees. It's like they were coming from some deeper place. I also seem to unconsciously pick up some the ancient petroglyphs that are around here. I think that these are images that man is naturally drawn to. I look at it as tapping into some sort of universal consciousness. Now with the scratchboard it starts with abstract images and then I scratch in more realistic images.

2007-07-26 12:24:06.0
MegmKing: Hi Fran, Admin and friends… I live in Central Florida but just visited Arizona. The desert is beautiful and abstract. BTW – I enjoyed your recent "Doc"/Interview On Amer. Artist this week.

2007-07-26 12:26:06.0
Fran Hardy: MegmKing, thanks! I see abstractions everywhere. The desert is definitely abstract–in so many ways–whether you are looking at it close up or the wide open vistas. All the patterns of color…the striations in the rock, the textures…I see it as an ancient ocean bottom. Some people say it is too brown, but I think it is the most colorful place I've ever lived. It's subtle, but it grows on you. And our skies are huge and constantly changing, too. The changing light we have here is something I love. I used to live in Florida and enjoyed the very different but intense light there, too.

2007-07-26 12:25:48.0
erhail: Can you tell us something about your technique?

2007-07-26 12:28:48.0
Fran Hardy: erhail, I'll start with the graphite drawings. I use an acrylic gessoed panel to get a nice hard surface that will get very dark blacks. I go to the site and do sketches on paper. Then I do a rough sketch on the panel and just start building on it. Then I'll take that very realistic (or magic realism) drawing–a lot of times it's a very complex image–and then I work out the abstract pattern in watercolor–that is a very intuitive process. I may do spirals or various symbols–usually in a dark, deep tone. I have to think about how all the layers are going to work. THEN I PUT WHAT IS OFTEN A VERY COLORFUL AND COMPLEX ABSTRACTION ON TOP IN OIL PASTEL.  I have to think how the pastel color will interact with the watercolor color underneath. When I am done with that I begin scratching the image through to the watercolor layer. I often pair the two versions together, hang them together in shows.

2007-07-26 12:34:36.0
Fran Hardy: It's a very organic process when I am working on the abstract part of it.

2007-07-26 12:36:01.0
MegmKing: What do you mean by "organic" when you are working on the abstract part of it, Fran?

2007-07-26 12:32:19.0
MegmKing: I can relate to getting lost in a drawing or sculpture as you have mentioned. 🙂 Have you ever spent some time in the Wyoming prairies and where the mountains jag straight up from the valley floor? The same color palette is there too. In Florida the colors are best at sunrise and sunset when the shadows start to become really defined. The colors in Florida then show at their best.

2007-07-26 12:36:37.0
Fran Hardy: MegmKing, I haven't spent much time in Wyoming but when I get the time I want to do a lot more exploring … i just haven't had the time. I agree on Florida–right after a rainstorm you get these orange spotlights. They seem to come from nowhere and illuminate a section of trees, and nothing else–I've never seen that anywhere else.

2007-07-26 12:37:03.0
MegmKing: oooo… yes.

2007-07-26 12:38:03.0
Fran Hardy: MegmKing, I mean that it is constantly changing and I'm not in control of it. When I am working in watercolor and oil, it was all planned. Now, there are a lot of questions I have when I am working and a lot of different paths that I could take. At first, it caused me a lot of anxiety! Now I realize that it will always be OK.

2007-07-26 12:39:11.0
Fran Hardy: On a recent piece, I didn't know if it was going to work until literally the last ten minutes. Then suddenly I felt like I had pulled it off. Some yellow ochre highlights in a few spots created this push-pull between the dark and light areas that hadn't been there before.

2007-07-26 12:39:59.0
Alli: How does your vision of the object that you are drawing change as you are drawing it?

2007-07-26 12:40:39.0
Fran Hardy: Alli, interesting question. I think it becomes less of what it is in the real world and more of what it is in the symbolic mind. It isn't conscious, but at some point I realize what I am doing…that I am commenting on mortality or aging or something else. The forms become abstract and almost meaningless–I mean devoid of its meaning or content in the real world. I think that's what is important for all of us. We think about how things should look and be in our lives. It is good to break it apart into pieces that are more relevant. Otherwise, it can limit you to think about how we think should be or how we should look. By looking at a tree and turning it into something different it's a good lesson that things are constantly changing, and by having a fixed view, we are limiting ourselves.

2007-07-26 12:44:18.0
Alli: Do you find that the theme of mortality that you are finding in your series is a personal discovery or a universal theme?

2007-07-26 12:45:23.0
Fran Hardy: Alli, I think it is definitely a universal idea that we all need to be aware of. We need to remind ourselves that we will be passing on–this makes life that much richer to know that our time is limited.

2007-07-26 12:45:43.0
Alli: Very true!

2007-07-26 12:46:35.0
NE: How long, on average, does it take to complete a piece such as "Old Age- Fragility"? When working on such detail and with so many layers, how often do you step back from the piece?

2007-07-26 12:47:20.0
Fran Hardy: NE, I step back constantly. I think that is the real fun as an artist, to step back. The planned paintings usually took me at least a month. The recent pieces…it varies from two weeks to two months. I find it quite unpredictable. I’ll think I'm almost done with something, and two weeks later I find myself still working on it. I think it has to do with the more organic way of working. Sometimes it takes a lot longer for it to come together. With watercolors, it was a lot of layers and glazing. With working in oil over egg tempera, it was solid color with India ink for shadows, and white egg tempera for the highlights. Then many layers/glazes of oil, to create an almost stained glass looking piece. On one piece, I loved the underpainting so much I didn't want to put the oil on top. That is how I got the idea of preserving the underpainting or underdrawing and just adding more color to it. So in a way I have been taking all the ideas and techniques I've used over the years and putting them together now.

2007-07-26 12:48:38.0
NE: How do you stop yourself from overworking a piece?

2007-07-26 12:49:16.0
Fran Hardy: NE, that's not a conscious thing for me. I just know. If anything, it has been underworking something, and realizing that I need to push it further.

2007-07-26 12:50:11.0
NE: Okay, thanks.

2007-07-26 12:50:16.0
Administrator: We only have a few minutes left, so please ask your questions now.

2007-07-26 12:50:26.0
MegmKing: Have you ever created art (be it drawing, painting or sculpting) that slowly and mysteriously takes on a meaning, an interpretation or a message that you had no idea about when your art work is finished? That has happened to me… I overwork a piece to death all the time… geeze.

2007-07-26 12:56:36.0
Fran Hardy: MegmKing, definitely…more and more with these pieces. My father used to read to me and I would do illustrations for the stories. A lot of the work I am doing now is coming from that rich imaginative place where those illustrations came from. I'll see things in these trees that I have no idea where they are coming from. What can be more exhilarating than standing in my studio finding those places in my psyche that i didn't even realize was there?

2007-07-26 12:52:36.0
MegmKing: Fran, thank you very much for taking the time with us. Do you have a personal web site? I think I already saw it but will you please tell us how to get there again?

2007-07-26 12:54:34.0
Administrator: Meg, Fran's website is

2007-07-26 12:55:44.0
MegmKing: You choice of mediums sound very organic! You are truly blessed, Fran. Thank you for Fran's web site. I wish you the best on your journey. Bye for now. 🙂

2007-07-26 12:56:33.0
Administrator: Last call for questions.

2007-07-26 12:57:48.0
Administrator: Thanks for the chat Fran.

2007-07-26 12:58:17.0
MegmKing: I love the playfulness you may experience when you catch or run into these illustrations from the past.

2007-07-26 12:58:26.0
MegmKing: Thank you, Fran.

2007-07-26 12:58:35.0
NE: Thank you Fran!

2007-07-26 12:58:42.0
Alli: Thanks!

2007-07-26 12:58:57.0
Fran Hardy: Thank you, everyone. This has been really fun! I'm having two solo museum shows–the details are on my website. I'll be at the openings–hope to see you there!

2007-07-26 12:59:42.0
Administrator: Great-thanks.

2007-07-26 12:59:50.0
MegmKing: I will check it out on your web site now . Peace:-*


Fran Hardy’s Upcoming Workshops

Mixed Media: Egg Tempera and Oil over Egg Tempera comes out of it's shell with Watercolor, Oil Pastel, Graphite and India Ink  with Fran Hardy

Sept 17-21, 2007
Brevard Museum of Art and Science, Melbourne Florida
contact Bobbie McMillan, Museum School Director    321-254-7782 or 321-242-0737 

Sept 22-23, 2007 Museum of Florida Art , DeLand Florida
contact Andrea Hart, Assistant to the Director  386-734-4371


Fran Hardy: Pentimento Museum of Florida Art 
DeLand, Florida   
Sept 14, 2007- November 18, 2007      
opening reception: Sept 14

Millenia Fine Art 
Orlando, Florida
Sept 27- November 30, 2007
opening reception Sept 28

Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art 
Shawnee, OK   
Dec 21, 2007- Feb 3, 2008

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Pastel Painting