On Tom Buechner/ Tom Gardner

November 16, 2010

 Our Memorial Show for our friend, the late Tom Buechner, has come down.  It was a great success and we thank everyone who came out to see Tom’s work as well as the Tribute show of work by Tom’s paintings companions and students.  We have been running a series of essays by those artists who participated in the tribute show and will continue to do for the next few weeks.

Today we feature the essay of painter Tom Gardner.



“To Sir with Love”

In 1974, Tom was about to have his first one man show ever, at The Art Shop in Elmira, when I met him. He saw some paintings of mine stacked up next to the door, and against tables and benches and in the doorways. He couldn’t miss them. He had to step over them to get thru the place. He invited me to come to his house and paint with him on Saturdays, as I heard he might do if he knew you were a painter too. And he did! I still have the painting I did that Saturday. It was a most unfortunate effort, to say the least, and I held on to it to remind myself how much I had to learn.

In those days Tom was still a captain of industry and somehow found the time to show me what to do. There was no studio, per se, in the house back then. We just rolled the living room rug up and painted, the two of us.

Oh, there are so many things to remember, but let it suffice to say that Tom gave me the equivalent of a university education in art, with a minor in opera, fine coffee, and the finer points of living. He really did show me a world I never knew existed. It all brings to mind the words to the song “To Sir With Love“…and it would revolt him to no end to be the object of such a maudlin swill. The comparison would not set well—sentimental slop—but true, all the same.

I did learn one good lesson over my years of association with Tom. That was to listen carefully anytime he talked about art or the craft of painting. There was always a gem hidden in there somewhere.

Over the years I would hear him tell a student to do this or that, and once I said, “You never showed me that”. He said, “You wouldn’t have listened, Gardner, and besides, I had to try this stuff out on someone, and that was you—sort of a trial and error thing. Thanks for being my test dummy”. Well, I guess I’m still ramming my head against the creative wall, and when I do, Tom’s voice is always in my head with a good answer to the problem.

It’s hard to discover your own voice as an artist when such a strong voice is guiding your hand at every turn, but Tom wouldn’t let me settle for less in myself. He demanded my very best at all times.

Yeah, there is some of Tom Buechner in every painting I do. Like it or not, he’s a part of my artistic DNA.

Tom Gardner


A Question of Framing by J. Perrault

September 2, 2010

The author Paul Bloom in his latest book (How Pleasure Works) opens a chapter thus,

“In the morning of January 12, 2007, a young man in jeans, a longsleeved T-shirt, and baseball cap walked into a Washington subway station and pulled out a violin. He laid out his violin case in front of him, seeded it with a few dollars and some change, and then played six classical pieces for the next 43 minutes, as over a thousand people walked by.

This was no ordinary street performer. He was Joshua Bell, one of the world’s great violinists, and he was playing his $3.5 million dollar violin, handcrafted in 1713 by Antonio Stradivari. A few nights before, Bell performed at Boston’s Symphony Hall. Now he stood in front of commuters, playing for coins. This was an experiment by Gene Weingarten, a reporter for the Washington Post. It was intended as an ‘unblinking assessment of public taste’: how would people respond to great art in a mundane context, when nobody was telling them how great it was?

The people failed. Over a thousand commuters passed, and Bell netted a bit over $32. Not bad, but nothing special. The commuters were indifferent to what they were hearing…As Weingarten puts it, Joshua Bell in the subway was art without a frame.”

Framing is something I’ve been giving serious consideration: Does a painting look better with expensive custom framing, as opposed to a cheap bargain-bin special? Undoubtedly –  and that’s a problem for the artist. Custom framing pushes the overall price of the piece higher, while the artist’s profit remains the same. It’s a delicate balance between the piece being presented in the best possible manner, versus a higher price unlikely to attract a buyer. Basic economics perhaps, but finding that balance can mean the difference between a painting ending up it’s days in the artist’s dusty basement versus being enjoyed on a collector’s wall.

Lately I’ve tried a few experiments of my own. Last spring I took a nice painting and gave it a custom frame. The painting was good, but the framing made it extra special. The framing also doubled the normal price for a painting of that size. Would it sell? It did.

I tried again, taking a matched set of paintings with matching frames. I was curious to see if they would sell not only at a higher price, but also as a set. They did.

This brings me to the “Rituals” show at West End Gallery. My framer had suggested ‘floating’ a series of paintings together. When I asked him how much this would cost he raised his eyebrows. Of course it’s his job to sell me framing, but I also know he wants me to be pleased with the presentation of my work. With the results of my recent experiments in mind I decided to give it a try, knowing full well the expensive framing would raise the overall cost of the pieces. I was pleased with the result.

There is a bit more to the Joshua Bell story. “At the very end of the performance, Stacy Furukawa passed by. She had been at one of Bell’s concerts a few weeks before, and stopped 10 feet away from the musician, grinning and confused. When he was finished, she introduced herself and handed over $20. Weingarten did not count this as part of the total – ‘it was tainted by recognition.’ Furukawa’s gift was because of the man, not (or not entirely) because of the music.

This experiment provides a dramatic illustration of how context matters when people appreciate a performance. Music is one thing in a concert hall with Joshua Bell, quite another in a subway from some scruffy dude in a baseball cap.”

In a perfect world framing shouldn’t matter. Perhaps in the end an art lover should just follow the immortal words of Tom Gardner, “If you love the painting, buy the painting.”

– Posted by Jeff Perrault-

Dustin in Print

July 9, 2010

Face Off- Dustin Boutwell

Look for West End Gallery artist Dustin Boutwell in this month’s issue of the online magazine, POETSandARTISTS.  There is a wonderful spread featuring a question and answer session with Dustin as well as some inside info on some of his unique signature pieces.  It starts on page 64 which you can scroll to on the bottom of the page.  It’s a great look at the work of one of the most talented painters to emerge from this area.  Don’t miss it!

And to see more of Dustin’s new work, stop in starting July 22 at the West End Gallery.  Dustin is one of the four artists in the Upstairs Showcase, Four Views.  In this exhibit four of the gallery’s top artists- Dustin Boutwell, the late Tom Buechner, fresh off his recent solo show Marty Poole and Tom Gardner– each do their own interpretation of 2 photos submitted by each artist plus two from another artist not participating in the exhibit.  So, there are ten photos with four differing versions of each.  It should be a most interesting show!  Must see!

Congratulations, Dustin, on the great article and on the great work!

Inchoate- Dustin Boutwell

Chesney’s View

May 7, 2010

On the island of  St. John, in the American Virgin Islands, on the north shore is a place called Peter Bay.  It’s a gated community with fabulous houses over looking the bay.  This is  Lower Peter Bay,where Kenny Chesney has a beautiful house, tucked high over the turquoise waters.  Across the road and up the hill is the new Upper Peter Bay development.  And when I say upper, I mean put on your oxygen masks, cuz the drive is a series of switchbacks that wind you slowly up into nose bleed altitudes.  This is where  I saw and painted this piece . I sat on the deck where the wedding reception was held when Chesney and Rene Zellweger got married.  This is just a small part of the view to be had up here.  The full view looks from St Thomas, on the right  to 180 degrees to your left to Tortolla.  The island in the distance is Yost Van Dyke and the closer islands are a part of St John.  If you stepped off the edge of the deck, you’d plunge down the hill and you wouldn’t  stop (unless a tree  stopped you first) until you’re on the beach.   

  I met Kenny one morning while I was down on the Trunk Bay Overlook where I was celebrating the finish of a small sketch.  The light really threw me for a loop and I was having a hell of a time getting it right.  Well, finally, at 10 am, I got it,  and decided to open a bottle of wine , turn up the radio and dance a little.  Well, sure as heck, a Jeep pulls up with four dudes in it, with baseball hats on, smiling and lookin’ at me.  I told them it’s a hell of a job, painting, but someone has to do it.  They took a photograph of me and took off.  I found out later that it was Chesney and his bunch.    

  When I got back to the studio, I decided to lay the scene out a little differently and try it bigger: thats when this view was born. 

On a makeshift counter, made of a huge squared off log at the end of the deck is carved ” moments turn to minutes, minutes turn to days, days turn into memories” .  Well, these moments turned into this memory of a fantastic time in St John,  a view that very few people have ever seen in St John.

Star Dust

May 6, 2010

—————Posted by Tom Gardner—————-

I guess I should call this one Aurora , but I heard the song Stardust and just felt like it was more poetic.  So here it is, “Stardust”.   Once you see an Aurora Borealis, you will never forget it. I can tell you the years that I have seen  them–1967, 1974, 1987–and if you listen, you can hear them, too !  It’s a swishing and crackling sound.  This is the view of the valley looking from Moss Hill in Horseheads looking over the airport on the right and toward Route 86 right up the middle.   But I had to insert the aurora, cuz I haven’t seen one from this view yet,  but I’m waiting  for it to happen.  That’s the nice thing about being an artist, with just a few brush strokes, you can make all kinds of things happen. I just got tired of waiting, so I made it happen. I’m sure when I do see it for real, it will blow me out of the water and I’ll paint it then. For now, this pleases me, but mother nature has a way of making artists look pretty feeble.  

 At the very end, I decided I needed a sliver of a moon, so there it is. I’m not sure why I needed it there, it just felt right, along with a few stars floating around to try to give some dimension to the sky.

 Night time painting offers a whole new set of problems. If you try it from memory, well, good luck !  Photos don’t catch it either. I’ve stood out on freezing nights, overlooking the valley, with a flashlight in one hand and a brush in the other, stabbing at frozen paint on the pallete. 

 But then, I did see a night time painting of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico at an exhibit down there,  so I rifled off a quick sketch from memory. When I finally was able to get back to the exhibit to see that painting again,  I liked my version , I just haven’t translated it to a bigger one yet.

Update from San Miguel de Allende/ Tom Gardner

February 19, 2010

Sorry I wasn’t able to get back and blog sooner……… every time I went past the computer place in San Mike it was closed or all stations were full.  Down there,  all the places lock up for siesta at 2,  until 4 pm.   That’s hard to get used to.

I got 10 paintings  (or studies )  done while I was there.  But about a thousand fotos to work from.  As you may detect,  I’m talking in the past tense.   We came back Thursday,  from a cold (by their standards)  and rainy Mexico, to a whiteout blizzard in  Rochester. To tell you the truth, I didn’t go San Miguel  to be cold, I can do that just fine right here, so I cut my losses and came home to sit in front of the pot belly and paint.

It really is a freindly place down there, though.   Loads of happy US expats, siting around and ignoring the crap that Bush and his buddies got us into back stateside.  Pleased to be out of it and no wish to return.  The art and cultural scene there is very active and everyone is up to date on whats going on.

Oh Man, we went to a sanctuary where the Monarch butterflys migrate to each year. It’s in the mountains, about 11,000 feet high, in a forest of 75 foot tall pine trees.  As you look up, the trees look like they are filled with HUGE hanging bees nests….. but not so,  they are clusters of Monarchs piled on top of each other,   some branches break from the weight of the clusters.   When the sun comes out and warms them up, they start to fly arround in clouds of orange and black, sounding like it just started to rain.  Everyone ,  native Mexicans and tourists alike stand there, transfixed by the vision of it all…….no one speaks out loud, ever !   It feels  like you are in a church, or better yet,  a concert hall just seconds after the music has stopped, and you don’t want to come back to this mundane existence too soon for fear that you may loose touch with the mystic thing that is happening around you..    They come down and land all over everyone like snow flakes.   Okay, now go and try to paint that one.

And strangely enough, no less than ten minutes over the hill, a village was washed away in a mud slide two days ago.  That seems to sum up Mexico in my mind,  such tranquil beauty and tragedy living side by side at every turn.

Tom Gardner/ A Painter in Mexico

February 6, 2010

Well, it’s been one week in ól Mexico……. and almost  non stop rain  ( I mean flood of ’72 rain,  3″ a day )  and very cold !  And they say it’s  the dry season.

So I´ve been painting from fotos I took just before the rain came.

This place , San Miguel de Allende, is crawling with U.S. expats , who have left the good old US for calmer, more peaceful vibes………. and they have found it here.  Thats for sure.   Very happy, friendly people and a strong sense of comunity. Smiles everywhere!   I am looking to get some nice work done here.   This is the town where the move to independance from Spain started,  and that is still the feeling here….. live and let live.

Yesterday I saw a pack train of burros walking up the middle of a cobble stone street,  about seven in a row.  All piled high with fire wood.  The herder was going door to door  selling it ..  When a V W  bug came up the street, the herder made them get squeeze up on the very narrow side walk,  and they all did it, with a little protest.  BUT…….today is sunny and nice ,  so the brushes call,   with some help from the Margaritas.       I hear it’s snowing up there,  lo siento.

———-Posted by Tom Gardner, from Mexico