Friday, February 20, 2009

Daffodils
20 x 18 Oil on Linen

I have more paintings in my head than I can possibly produce in one lifetime so if this idea appeals to any artist reading this post please feel free to use it. I am thinking about a series of paintings based on Bach's cello suites. Each of Bach's six suites starts with a prelude, setting the theme and mood of the piece. That is followed by five dances, a moderately paced allemande followed by a lighter courante, a stately sarabande, then a pair of minuets (or gavottes or bourrees) and concludes with a gigue. Now let's take that format to the easel. For a landscape it might look like this, a suite of six paintings of the same scene. The prelude would be sunrise, followed by a clear morning (allemande), then clouds and wind appear (courante), an afternoon storm (sarabande), a rainbow or sunset (minuet) and finally the same landscape lit by a full moon (gigue). For Andy Warhol fans the suite might be arranged for unaccompanied soup cans, tomato (prelude) followed by vegetable beef (allemande), cream of potato (courante), beef barley (sarabande), chicken noodle (gavotte) and minestrone (gigue). We could use Daffodils and Bartlett Pears from the previous post as the prelude for a suite on the theme of daffodils, although it would also work nicely as the minuet. Daffodils seems to me to be a sarabande. Now, four more daffodil paintings and my suite will be complete.....

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Daffodils and Bartlett Pears
20 x 18 Oil on Linen

Johann Sebastian Bach wrote six magnificent suites for unaccompanied cello. They are very high on my long list of favorite pieces of music. I like them so much I have four different recordings of them; an intense, full bodied version by Mstislav Rostropovich, a lighter, livelier interpretation by the Dutch cellist Anner Bylsma, Yo-Yo Ma's correct but somewhat colorless rendition and the warm, sensitive performance of Pablo Casals. I find it fascinating to hear the different personalities even though they are all playing from the same score. I try to develop this same sense of uniqueness in my painting students. I am the composer telling them what to paint and how I want them to approach it and they are the musicians, each interpreting my instructions in their own way. This week is the annual class show for my class at the Art Students League. As we hung the show on Sunday I was delighted to see all the different versions of the same pose. Each student worked hard to get the drawing, light and shade and atmosphere, trying to understand and employ what I was teaching them, but each brought their own personality to their work. Some intense, some lively, some colorless, some warm and sensitive. A mature artist, on the other hand, often works alone and consequently there is only one version, one interpretation of his subject. I often wonder how my still life would be rendered if there were another artist in my studio painting the same subject. What would Daffodils and Bartlett Pears look like if painted by Mason or DuMond, Matisse or Cassatt, Manet or Goya or Breughel.....

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

PAINTING OF THE MONTH

Untitled Landscape
Oil on Panel
Image 16 x 16 - Framed 21 x 21
$1600

I painted this Untitled Landscape twentysome years ago. I don't remember why. I doubt that I was taken by the subject, the trunk of a half dead apple tree in front of a whitewashed old shed, a gate that hasn't been closed in a generation. And why a square panel? That's certainly odd for a landscape. The play of light and shade is delightful and the abstraction is quite compelling. Was that my motivation? It's an unusual piece yet I've never had any desire to rework it or wipe it out. I've tried several titles but they all seemed rather pedestrian. Sometimes I'm a mystery even to myself. Perhaps one day a critic or an art historian will explain it to me. I've kept it all these years because I like it, it fascinates me, I don't know why....

The Painting of the Month is a special offer to my blog readers (click on the image for a larger view). This month Untitled Landscape, which retails for $2600, is being made available for $1600 (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.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Quoddy Head, Maine
24 x 34 Oil on Linen

A few years ago, quite a few years ago, I had a yearning to paint the sea, to paint waves, really big waves. So I packed my landscape easel and headed off to Maine, to Acadia National Park. It's my favorite place for seascape painting, partly because it is so beautiful and partly because it is public. There is nothing worse than finding a beautiful place to paint and then have someone tell you "You can't paint here, this is private property." I stayed a few days and painted even though it was misty the whole time and consequently no big waves. Then proceeded to drive up the coast hoping to get out of the persistent fog. I stopped in Lubec because Quoddy Head State Park was there and I could stroll along the public coastline. The fog had indeed gotten thicker but I was determined to paint. There is a lighthouse there that is situated on the easternmost point of the United States, I sallied forth and set up my easel. The fog was now so heavy that I couldn't see the lighthouse but I decided to work anyway thinking that when the fog burned off I could dash in the lighthouse in a few strokes. All I could see in front of me was my easel, I thought of Philip Glass and how, with the wide range of notes available to him, he would pick out a few notes and repeat them over and over and over again, and I thought with all the beautiful colors on my palette I was now repeating the same few tones over and over and over again, and my mind began to see shapes and patterns in the dense fog and I tried to get that variety in my painting as I repeated those few tones over and over and over again, and then the shapes and patterns became rocks and a footpath and I realized the fog had softened to mist and I had a few more tones and colors to work with, Philip Glass gave way to Claude Debussy and there were delicate melodies and harmonies, and the endless repetition became a tone poem. Everything was lovely and peaceful and wonderful even though I never saw the lighthouse and there never were any waves, any really big waves.....