Friday, June 15, 2007





So now I am fixing them up. The first one went well - at least I thought it did before I looked at this before-and-after blog post. This is a small painting, 6" x 9" or so, of a back-lit wave. The sun was low on the horizon and so intense that I had to squint the whole time I was painting; eventually my eyes started to sting and I had to keep one of them closed it was tearing so badly. When I got the painting inside I thought it looked washed out - not surprising when you are painting in such strong light (makes it hard to see the values). Karen had the same wave in her painting and she had a much better underplane on the bottom of the wave -it really looked like it was coming out over the rock - and a better silouette of the shadow side of the wave aginst the ocean. When I saw hers I made an immediate mental note to fix mine as soon as I got home and it was the first one I pulled out to rework in the studio.

And I do think I did well with it, but, but, but...something is always lost. Looking at the two images side by side I think I lost a little of the joie de vivre that was in the original sketch and I see that I could have gone in a completely different direction - I could have kept it in a very high impressionist value range, moving and singing in atmosphere, water, and light - Turner and Monet linking arms and dancing. Must fix it - next time.

Thursday, June 14, 2007




This was the last painting I did on this trip. I hadn't intended to paint at all. I was tired, having just spent a couple of hours painting cliffs on the other side of the island (see the previous post). Karen and Ann and I had been joined at the hip all week all painting together in the same spots with amazing unanimity. But that last morning they wanted to paint in town and I didn't. They were eager to paint charm: houses and gardens and peaceful pathways, but I was hungry for wildness and went in search of a cliff and a wave to smash against it. I only found the cliff but it satisfied a part of me and I painted happily for hours enjoying being alone for the first time in a week. When I returned I went looking for Karen and Ann and found them working on their second painting of the day at Fish Pier in town. There was barely an hour to go before dinner (5:45 sharp at The Trailing Yew) and the scene looked pretty boring to me: a flat late-day light on a calm harbor, but I wanted to be with them - painting together again after my solo adventure so I rushed back to the hotel for my gear and set up with about 45 minutes to paint. And then it caught me - the quiet shimmering light, the massive blue cloud on the horizon with a low light at my back, the gentle wave affectionately licking the shore, a solitary oarsman coming home.

Well this is all pretty frustrating. I guess I need a course in Blogger - or Blogger needs a course in photo-posting. Needless to say not all of my images made it on the last post including the last two that I did. I'm going to try to post them here and then move on. Apologies to anyone who is able to see all the images and wonders what the fuss is about.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I've been having trouble with blogger. It doesn't seem to be posting all of the images I load. So I'm going to try to post all of the Monhegan sketches on this post instead of two at a time as I have been doing (or rather trying to do). Hope it works. If you don't see twelve images on this post something went wrong.






















Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Day 2: We (my friends Karen and Ann and I ) got up to paint the harbor at dawn.

In the late afternoon we returned to the same spot (it was close to the hotel and we didn't want to miss dinner) This time I looked in the other direction and painted a late day light on the waves.















Monhegan Day 1: Incredible fog, atmosphere and waves. Painting the ocean was like painting pure energy. It doesn't get better than this for seascape painting.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

(by guest blogger Thomas Torak)

When I teach still life classes I encourage the students to bring in things that they want to paint. One night someone showed up with a Russian figurine of a laughing rabbit (I thought it looked more like a pig) and some lettuce and carrots from her garden. “Okay” I thought “let’s not be judgmental. This is what she wants to paint.” Only one other person showed up that night. He loved the fauves so we set up a still life for him with very brightly colored objects and a contrasting brightly colored background. Neither of them really wanted a critique, they just wanted to do what they do and have me give them a pat on the back from time to time. So there I was with 3 hours to kill (back patting doesn’t take very long). Luckily I had my paint box and a good canvas. I thought I might paint alongside them as a demonstration, though I knew they could care less. It was a tough choice but I went for the pig-rabbit. I painted freely and rather effortlessly knowing that I would wipe it out at the end of the class. It looked ridiculous as a figurine so I tried to breathe some life into it. To my great surprise I painted so well that I didn’t want to wipe it out. I showed it to Elizabeth when I got home and she just laughed and laughed…..

Friday, June 08, 2007

(by guest blogger Thomas Torak)

Sometimes I go off in odd directions. Often I find myself revisiting what I call the sins of my youth. Although I claim to have been bored by childhood I must have had some fun because all of my “sin” paintings are cheerful and lively. Twinkies and Superheroes is pretty typical. How can you not love a painting with Spiderman flying through the middle of the piece?
I wonder what art historians will have to say about this piece. “I see the influence of Warhol and the pop art movement. The comic books were obviously inspired by Lichtenstein and the cupcakes by Thiebaud. Of course Koons had a tremendous effect on his work.” Actually none of those things are true, although those artists have made such subject matter acceptable to those viewing my work. My work is indebted to the old Dutch still life painters, Claesz and de Heem; and to Hals and Titian and Velazquez and Van Dyck…..

Thursday, June 07, 2007

(by guest blogger Thomas Torak)

I’ve always loved peonies. I grew up with them. My mother had them in the backyard. Pink and white, beautiful. She would cut them and bring them, and their delightful fragrance, into the house. It is one of my favorite childhood memories.
When we moved to Vermont there were peonies, pink Sarah Bernhardt peonies, on the property. I painted them and showed it to my mother, telling her it made me think of her and how much she loved peonies. “Peonies!” she replied “Blah! I hated those things. Every time I cut them the house was full of black ants!” …..

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

(by guest blogger Thomas Torak)

On the Easel went on the road and out to sea yesterday. Elizabeth took the ferry to Monhegan Island for a week of seascape painting and I hit the road delivering paintings to exhibitions at the Salmagundi Club and the National Arts Club. Testing the Water went to the NAC. It was painted in the studio from a plein air sketch done on a 6 week painting trip to northern England. The combination of grandeur and intimacy fascinated me as did the subtle appearance and disappearance of sunlight.
Ah, back to the studio today. A day to finish nearly completed paintings. It was a bit like playing scales and etudes for the first hour or so. Then, as my palette warmed up, the finishing glazes began to materialize. My palate took over, adding a little salt and pepper, perhaps a touch of cinnamon.....

Sunday, June 03, 2007

I'm leaving for Maine today; Tom has volunteered to guest blog for the week I'm gone. He won't be following the same format, i.e., posting what he is working on at the moment, because I am taking the digital camera to Monhegan with me - but I don't think that format suits his temperament anyway. He will be posting his finished work and talking about it - at least that's what I think he is going to do...can't wait to read it when I get home!

This painting is called "Harbor Rain"; It is one of the results of my last trip to Maine.

Friday, June 01, 2007


This is my landscape palette. I take this out when I paint landscapes (it has a lid) and hang it on my easel below the painting and above the palette where I mix my paint. It looks odd - in a beautiful sort of way - but it allows me to paint much, much faster than I would if I had to stop and mix all those values on the spot. And when you are out of doors you want to paint fast because what you are painting is changing by the minute - and also because you are generally hot or cold or wet or being devoured by bugs or you just knocked over your brush cleaner with the last drop of turps in the county or you recently realized that the serene chomping sound nearby was in fact a cow licking off the only good painting you have done in a week (this actually happened to me once).
The reason I have posted a picture of my palette box instead of a painting is that the painting I did yesterday, which I did en plein air in order to break in my new landscape easel before the trip, was so horrific that I wiped it out. As soon as I got home I dissolved it back into simple chemical compounds, returning it to nature: R.I.P.