Tuesday, January 29, 2008

New Onions
15 x 26 Oil on Linen

When I teach I like to work on the student’s painting and explain what I am doing and why. One day I noticed one of the students taking notes while I was talking. Out of curiosity I asked her what she had just written. “Torak thinks in music” she responded. She could not have been more correct. I hear painting. Many people get a picture in their mind when hearing a piece of music, a landscape perhaps. When I am painting I hear what I want to paint. Not as specific notes but as rhythms, harmonies, dissonance, dynamics. I heard New Onions as something by Rachmaninoff. Big, dramatic, powerful. There were bold, almost opaque, passages and others transparent in their delicate nuance. Much of it seemed technically challenging, dazzling in its virtuosity. There were moments of rich complexity and broad sweeping passages. Yet when taken as a whole there was great unity and harmony. Not quite symphonic but more than a prelude…variations on a theme perhaps…..

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Storm over Coniston
14 x 16 Oil on Linen

This is a great example of artistic license. The painting was started over 20 years ago, en plein air, when Elizabeth and I were on a painting trip to the Lake District in northern England. I was hoping to use it as the sketch for a larger work. Several attempts were made over the years, all were eventually wiped out. Finally a few weeks ago I decided to complete the unfinished sketch. I had a vivid memory of the day we painted there. It was what we thought to be a rather windy day, we later found out there were gale force winds. It was brutal but we were young and determined so we persevered. Once I had mixed my color and decided where to put it I had to aim about two inches to the right of that spot on the canvas because the wind pushed my hand as I tried to paint. We fought on until we had something to bring home. With this in mind I boldly threw in a stormy sky adding a rain shower in the distance to boot. The painting was starting to look a little angry so a few days later I brought a bit of sunlight into the middle distance. There were sheep grazing while we were painting though I didn't put them in at the time. I remember thinking how oblivious they were to the weather that was causing us such distress. So I added them too. Now with the sun low in sky and the moisture in the air I had created the perfect conditions for a rainbow.....

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Artist
16 x 14 Oil on Linen
Collection of the Masur Museum of Art

The title of this blog comes from a line in the first act of Puccini's Tosca. A few minutes into the opera Mario Cavaradossi, an artist, enters the Attavanti Chapel where he is working on a large painting of Mary Magdalene. After some small talk he climbs the scaffold to his painting and asks the sacristan, who has been cleaning his brushes, to hand him his palette. "Dammi i colori", give me my colors, he says. Then in the beautiful aria recondita armonia he compares the fair, blue eyed Magdalene in his painting to his dark eyed love Floria Tosca. Before long Tosca arrives at the chapel.....yada, yada, yada.....Tosca stabs Scarpia, the villain, Cavaradossi is murdered in what he thought was going to be a mock execution, and Tosca leaps from the parapet of Castel Sant'Angelo to her death. Passionate, glorious music...how can you not love it......