Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Primary Colors
Oil on Linen
Image 16 x 20 - Framed 23 x 27

Shortly after the death of Luciano Pavarotti I was listening to his recording of "Ah! mes amis, quel jour de fĂȘte!" from Donizetti's La fille du rĂ©giment. As he effortlessly tossed off the aria's 9 high Cs I began to think what they might look like in a painting. Pure color obviously, but how to set off those colors? A naive artist, or one trying to shock the viewer, would throw as much pure color as possible at the canvas...COLOR,COLOR,COLOR,COLOR...but that screams at the viewer, the colors rob each other of their respective brilliance, and it is confusing and painful to the eye. A more experienced artist might set off the colors by placing them next to a grayer tone...gray, COLOR, gray, COLOR...better but rather monotonous, it is easier on the eye, you can see the colors, yet it lacks excitement. I hear the high Cs set off by something more like...gray, gray, gray, COLOR...each color is clear and distinct, it brings joy to the eye and quickens the heart. Now the pure colors can be effortlessly tossed off, perhaps as often as 9 times in a single painting. Primary Colors is the result of my colorful musing.....

The Painting of the Month is a special offer to my blog readers (click on the image for a larger view). This month Primary Colors, which retails for $3400, is being made available for $2600 (includes shipping, VT residents add 6% sales tax). To purchase this piece contact me at thomastorak@gmail.com. Payment is by check only please, no credit cards. If you prefer you may make 3 monthly payments. This offer is available for 30 days from the date of this post.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Old Marble Quarry
30 x 36 Oil on Linen

Vermont is famous for its marble. Not far from us there is an old quarry that is no longer being mined. There are some abandoned blocks of marble about and the pit has filled with water. It's now everyone's favorite swimming hole. On a hot summer afternoon it's the place to be. How could I not want to paint there? But how would I go about doing it? There's not much shade so I was reluctant to set up and do an oil sketch on the spot. I don't use photography because it limits the experience and my imagination, so that was no help. Finally I decided to draw and work out the color from memory. I went out in the cool of the morning to sketch the trees and the marble formations, then went home and started an oil sketch in my studio. Later that day I went back and did some quick drawings of the divers and bathers. Nobody stayed still for very long so I had only 10 or 20 seconds to capture each figure, my favorite is the figure in the center of the painting pulling off his red tee shirt. I filled a few pages and returned to my studio to work on the oil sketch again. I decided to limit the number of figures in this painting and focus instead on the grandeur of the scene. After the sketch was finished I quickly began a larger version while it was still fresh in my mind. Since then I've done several paintings of the scene...how could I not.....

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Lemons and Mint
10 x 14 Oil on Linen

August. Friends chatting on the deck, dogs playing in the pond, sun tea brewing. A little down time, a million miles away from work. Unless you are an artist. I cut a few sprigs of mint from the herb garden and drop them in a glass of water to keep them fresh, start to slice the lemons, catch the blue napkin out of the corner of my eye. Suddenly I'm no longer thinking about iced tea for my friends. A little painting is starting in my head. Yellow lemons, blue napkin, a warm red tabletop. Primary colors. Perfect. A shimmer of light passing through the water glass, the dark greens of the mint, a neutral background to control the scene. Cool, refreshing, it can't miss. I return to my friends with the tray of iced teas but it's hard to hear the conversation. I'm listening to the painting. I'm hearing it as one of the 500 or so keyboard sonatas by Scarlatti. Delightful. I finish the painting in my head, tomorrow I will transfer it to a bit of canvas. Down time, relax. I turn to talk to Bill and am fascinated by the shadow that his hat is casting over his face. His eyes resting in the shade as the sun lights up his cheeks, a highlight lands on the end of his nose...Another painting...Down time, relax.....

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

9 x 10 Oil on Panel

July. The Hay Moon. I went out 3 nights in row to study, to observe, to absorb. When you live near mountains the moon can rise very late, so late sometimes it seems impenetrably dark, you can give up hope of it ever rising. Then out of the blackness comes this powerful glow. Glorious. As the moon lit up the sky it made the trees blacker by contrast. The first night was cloudless, the second night just enough clouds to suggest mystery, the third night positively Gothic. I didn't want to paint the full drama of the last night and my mind went back to the middle night's effect. I thought about it for a few days then took out a small panel and let it rush forth. Within an hour it was finished. It wasn't a Chopin or Whistler nocturne. It was darker, deeper, Rothko's Chapel or Beethoven's late string quartets. Very compelling, there is a lot here to explore. I will be visiting this subject again.....