Drawings and paintings in varying states of completion by Thomas Torak with comments, observations and musings by the artist.
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Saturday, October 31, 2015
22 x 14 Oil on Linen
Yesterday in class I saw a student reading a book simply titled Perspective. "Is that about perspective in art or on life?" I asked playfully. "What's the difference?" another student inquired. "Well," I said, "one is a particular point of view, the other is viewed from a particular point".....
I never knew my grandteacher, Frank Vincent DuMond, but my teacher, Frank Mason, would talk about him and how his love of nature affected his painting. "Don't make the greens in your landscape look like arsenic" he would say, "it should look like something a cow would want to eat." He didn't want any harm to come to the cows, or to the birds. "There needs to be air between the branches of your trees so the birds can fly through them" he would tell his students. One day a student brought in a painting to be critiqued. It was a landscape with a large tree in the center and some odd black dots under the tree. "What are those dots at the bottom of your tree?" DuMond asked. "Oh," the student replied "those are the birds that couldn't fly through my tree".....
The surface of the canvas the artist works on is known as the picture plane. For many years, centuries actually, artists painted their sitter or landscape or still life as if it were receding from the picture plane. When the painting was framed you felt as if you were looking through a window or doorway at the subject of the piece. More recently, the past hundred years or so, artists have built their paintings on the picture plane. This brought the subject of their works right up to the face of the viewer. I can see advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. In my own work I've taken a different path altogether, I choose to ignore the existence of the picture plane. Instead I see my canvas as an empty space. This lets me to enter into the space beyond the canvas and also bring my subject as close to the viewer as I choose. Because the picture plane is no longer a window, or barrier, between the artist and the sitter I am able to occupy the same space as my sitter. I can talk with my sitter, reach out and touch her, engage with her, laugh with her, paint a more intimate portrait.....
I can describe every representational painting
ever created in five words: light on form in space. Now, of course, this is a
very basic description and does not take into account the subject matter and
its story or content, or the emotional impact, or even the technical merit of a
piece. It does, however, describe the inspiration for most paintings, nature.
Whether an artist is painting a portrait, or a figure composition, a still
life, landscape or seascape the inspiration for his work of art is a form,
occupying a certain space, revealed by light (generally a single light
source). The artist is free to manipulate this subject matter in whatever way he
chooses. Some add to or subtract from the objects of their observed subject
while others manipulate the composition on their canvas to create a more
pleasing picture. Others flatten or distort the subject, while some create impressions
of what they observe. No matter what the artist does, or how he chooses to
express it, he is still essentially painting light on form in space.....
Still Life Con Brio didn't come to me in a flash
of inspiration. It began with my gallerist suggesting I do a painting demonstration
at her gallery. It was to be done in the Christmas season so the idea of having
red and green dominate the color scheme was a given. The music of the piece
began to come to me. I like to think of the time spent conceiving a painting as
its opening movement. The thoughts for this piece developed at a good pace, not
too slowly, not too fast, an andante perhaps. The second movement, the
demonstration itself, was an adagio con anima. I began by slowly expressing my
thoughts and philosophy of painting. Slowly but with life, with feeling. That
movement had a long cadenza of course so I could show off my technical skills
(you can watch a short video of this movement on Vimeo). I came back each of
the next two afternoons to work on the painting while chatting with a friend
who watched as I worked. Now I was free to paint at my own pace, allegro con
brio. The paint came flying off the brush at a lively pace, expressing the
objects in the painting with vigor and vitality. Portraits of each object in
the painting began to emerge, then each took its place, harmonizing with the
others to create a gorgeous ensemble. The colors were bold and beautiful and
brushwork virtuosic. I was at my easel and nothing else in the world