Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Portrait of I.I. Rabi
36 x 30 Oil on Linen

Shortly after we were married Elizabeth's grandfather asked me to paint his portrait. I. I. Rabi was a champion of science, a great physicist, chair of Columbia University's physics department and an advisor to presidents. He was awarded a Nobel Prize for his work on nuclear magnetic resonance. Rabi had a beautiful mind and we had marvelous conversations as he sat for me. There were two moments that have stayed with me and helped shape my artistic philosophy. One came as we were discussing beauty, not only in art but also in mathematics, philosophy and science. When he was solving a problem, he said, it was not good enough to simply come up with a correct answer. The problem was not resolved until it had an elegant solution. The second came as we talked about teaching. His students would often approach him with ideas for a doctoral thesis and ask if it was an appropriate subject. He would answer with a question of his own, "Does it bring you closer to God?"*.....

*I don't want to misrepresent Professor Rabi here, he was not a particularly religious man. Unlocking the mysteries of the universe was his way of being closer to God. No matter how you define God, Rabi's remark is a profoundly beautiful way to approach one's endeavors.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Autumn Poem
Oil on Linen
Image 30 x 24 - Framed 39 x 33

Felix Mendelssohn wrote eight volumes of Songs without Words. Composed at various points throughout his life, each volume consists of a series of six short lyrical pieces for the piano. A few of the songs have aquired titles, The Spinner's Song or The Morning Song, but they have essentially survived as songs without words as Mendelssohn intended. With that in mind I composed my Autumn Poem. Perhaps I'll paint more poems throughout my life and one day there may be an exhibition of my Poems without Words.....

The Painting of the Month is a special offer to my blog readers (click on the image for a larger view). This month Autumn Poem, which retails for $5200, is being made available for $3000 (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, November 3, 2010

Hubbard Squash and Onions
34 x 40 Oil on Linen

While delivering paintings to a show over the weekend I heard an interview with Michael Caine on the radio. He was talking about his early acting experiences. Once he had a small part playing a drunken man. He staggered onto the stage and slurred his lines. No, no, no the director shouted, you are only imitating what a drunk looks like. In order to act like a drunk you must think like one, someone who is drunk is trying very hard to walk straight and talk normally. It was an important lesson, one he never forgot. It reminded me of what happens so often in painting. Many artists get so caught up in the tones and edges they see that they merely imitate what is in front of them. They are outside of the painting looking at the subject as if it were an animal on exhibit in a zoo. The artist should be more like the actor who inhabits his character. Instead of standing outside his work he must become one with the subject of the painting. The artist is the voice for the sitter. He should be able to tell the viewer what his subject thinks and why it looks the way it does. Then there can be communication between the viewer and the painting: a conversation with the portrait, a desire to walk in the landscape, to smell the flowers and touch the fruit. Not simply because it looks real but because it is saying something, there is something interesting about the painting that we want to explore, to know and absorb to enrich our life.....