Saturday, January 24, 2009

Sailing near Brooklyn
14 x 16 Oil on Linen

Sometimes inspiration is served to the artist on a silver platter. This happened to me a few weeks ago when I received an invitation to enter a competition at The Salmagundi Club. The Salmagundi is wonderful arts organization founded 137 years ago. It is now housed in a beautiful brownstone building on 5th Avenue in lower Manhattan. Elizabeth and I have been members since the early 90's. I love being part of a long tradition, walking the same halls and exhibiting in the same gallery as such great American artists as J. Francis Murphy, Childe Hassam, William Merrit Chase, Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth and Louis Comfort Tiffany, as well as my teacher Frank Mason and his teacher Frank Vincent DuMond. The competition involves an exhibition at the Salmagundi to celebrate the Dutch founding of Manhattan 400 years ago. Artist members were asked to paint contemporary scenes of New York waterways. From this exhibition juror Leendert van der Pool (you can't get much more Dutch than that) will select 40 works to travel to the Zeeuws Maritiem Muzeeum Vlissingen in the Netherlands. Holland, the home of great seascape painting, Ruysdael, van Goyen, van de Velde, de Vlieger. I couldn't pass up an opportunity like that, but I moved out of the city 14 years ago and whatever cityscapes I had were sold long ago. What to do, what to do, think Torak, think. I used to live in Brooklyn Heights and frequently walked over the Brooklyn Bridge to lower Manhattan, I especially enjoyed exploring the South Street seaport area. So I rummaged through some old sketch books. There's got to be something there that I can use. Aha! The bridge! Perfect! Late afternoon, the sun to the south of the bridge and west of Brooklyn. Yes I remember it well. Keep it luminous, the Dutch love luminosity, a few big clouds, the Dutch are famous for their clouds, simple, contemporary, atmospheric, cheerful...done. The show opens at the club on Monday. Wish me luck.....

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

24 x 36 Oil on Linen

Why does an artist paint a particular subject? Where does the inspiration for a painting come from? Many artists will answer "I don't know, ideas just come to me." The more poetic might say "Inspiration is everywhere, it's in the air." Students, generally, are not inspired at all but are given something to paint, a still life or a model. Their goal is to paint what they see. Fair enough. After that goal is achieved the budding artist begins to struggle with expressing the character of their subject or their emotional reaction to it. Bravo. Soon enough they are out of the classroom and must find their own subject matter. A flower, an aroma, a bit of conversation, a written phrase, the seeds of inspiration are easily planted. Now how does one go from inspiration to masterpiece? How those seeds are nurtured is often what makes a work of art. Some artists invite everyone in, "Come see what I'm doing. What do you think?" He feeds on every comment, every suggestion, anything that comes along while the work is in progress. Then he takes what he likes and uses it to cultivate his seed. Other artists can't bar the door fast enough. Any interference with his thoughts is considered poison to his seed. He ponders and puzzles and toils in solitude. Only when the seed has matured into a strong healthy painting can it be shown to others. I belong to the latter group. I often become very quiet in social situations, rarely offering my opinion. It's not because I am antisocial or uninterested in the conversation, it's because I am in my garden of inspiration protecting my seedlings.....

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Morning Newspaper
18 x 20 Oil on Linen

Elizabeth did a wonderful painting of me 15 years ago. I was working on a painting and she painted me in rim light which made me seem to be at the moment of inspiration. Tom Painting she called it. Later that year I was inspired again as Elizabeth sat at the kitchen table reading the newspaper. She agreed to spend the next couple of days in her bathrobe as I worked away at The Morning Newspaper. Not long after I did that painting we moved to our new home and studio in Vermont. It was the year of our 10th wedding anniversary. We don't keep many of our paintings because we need to sell as many as we can to make a living, but we decided to give each other these two pieces as anniversary presents. It was the perfect way to commemorate our first decade together in our little studio in New York. It seems like yesterday but it was 14 years ago. Today is our 24th anniversary. Harmony, happiness, delight...bliss.....