JEFF GANDERT  

"In The Spotlight"


"Spotlighting" the artistic process. I may focus on a plant, animal, or bird species that I like, with a different 'spin' on it's characteristics and habits or I may spotlight a painting or exhibition. The creative, artistic process is a highly individualized process and no two artist go at it the same. This page will give you some insight into why I do
 what I do in a painting and what really gets my 'juices' flowing.
  







Red-tailed Hawk



"Winter Fields" Red-tailed Hawk
18"x24" acrylic on panel
From a Private Collection

Open farm land is my kind of country, it's the type of landscape that I grew up with. Farm after farm after farm and I had access to them all. Pastures, woodlots, streams and wide open crop fields-----Red-tail country! Those earlier years where spent observing such birds from a considerable distance but through time I slowly became more a part of the landscape and found my viewing opportunities to be getting closer and closer to these magnificent birds of prey. Then came binoculars and suddenly far came near. What a spectacular bird! In my late teens I bought my first car which opened up greater distances in which to investigate and explore more and more countryside, and with it the ever present Red-tails. I quickly learned that these hawks love to sit on roadside fence post or telephone poles. I also learned that one on a fence post has about an eighty yard tolerance of an approaching vehicle and just about the time you get inside this comfort zone they simply lift off and fly away. For years I'd spot one ahead on a post and think "alright, this time I'm going to get a close look at him. This time he will not fly and I'll get to see him at really close range without the need for binoculars!" Eighty yards though and off he'd go. It just never panned out so a couple years ago I decided to take matters into my own hands and paint that Red-tail scene I'd always wanted to personally view. Out for a country drive on a cold wintry day when up ahead you see him, on a fence post. You let the car slow as you roll down the window. A flood of cold air rushes in, your condensing breath vivid, the heater going full blast, all though somehow curiously warm, and the salt and sand and snow scrinching and scrunching under foot of the car's tires. Suddenly your inside 40 yards, never before have you come this close. Then 20 yards, the car is just barely moving now. He's going to fly, he's going to fly------------ but he doesn't. He's so completely entranced on some opportunity down that fence line that he's completely unaware of anything else  You gently brake the car and for the next several seconds you get to view this spectacular winter scene playing out before you. Time stands still as the open air theater etches into your forever memory, and whatever has held the hawk's intensely sober concentration ends and he, suddenly realizing your presence, lifts off and sails away ..... a light snow begins to fall.

The scene for this painting came from Highland County Ohio and is directly across the road from the Fallsville Wildlife Area Headquarters. I had been taken by this scene more than a decade ago and new it would be a painting but I didn't know if it would be a summer or winter scene and if it would be a landscape painting without wildlife or a painting with some animal or bird in it. During a snowy drive into rural farmland a few years back, I parked the car at this location to head out into the State Wildlife Area for a winter hike, one of my favorite winter activities. As I got out of the car and looked across the road this scene absolutely stole my breath. Initially I thought it perfect for a Northern Harrier flying low over the corn stubble, and indeed this is Harrier country, but later realized this was my dream Red-tailed Hawk painting. The actual scene has a number of metal pole barns and the wooden barn you see in this painting was much farther from the farm house. I moved it closer and omitted the metal barns leaving a very common rural scene from the 1960s and 1970s but very rare now in this part of the country as the barns are gone.
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"Aloft" Red-tailed Hawk
16"x22" acrylic on panel
~ From a Private Collection ~

 I found the scene for this painting near the location for "Winter Fields" and is yet another type of environment where I've so often seen red tails. The host tree is located at the edge of this tree line overlooking an expanse of crop fields, grasslands and overgrown fence rows backed by layers of woodlands that you see in the background of the painting. So many times through the years while in the field I've heard that familiar raspy scream and looked up to see a distant red tail lifting off of a dead, fence row snag and quietly sailing away. When I came across this particular old dead wild cherry tree it was something I instantly responded to. The tree had such a magnificent sculptural quality and its color arrangement was perfect for this red tail painting, a view 'aloft' from the hawks perspective. If you look just below the tip of the hawks tail you will see I've included a squirrel's nest in the upper reaches of the distant tree crown, something I'll occasionally do in such a painting. It lends nicely to the look and feel of a healthy wildlife environment.
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A Red-tailed Hawk study from my sketchbook.