Lifestyle

Whidbey Island Open Studio Tour

Luke J. Tornatzky, who uses oils, pastels and charcoals to create colorful cloudscapes, landscapes and more, stands in front of his artwork. Tornatzky is one of 76 artists participating in this year’s Open Studio Tour.  - Cynthia Woolbright
Luke J. Tornatzky, who uses oils, pastels and charcoals to create colorful cloudscapes, landscapes and more, stands in front of his artwork. Tornatzky is one of 76 artists participating in this year’s Open Studio Tour.
— image credit: Cynthia Woolbright

Luke Tornatzky has an international reputation for vivid paintings of sun-drenched rowboats surrounded by sparkling water. Prints of his paintings are sold around the world, thanks to the Winn Devon Art Group who convert his paintings into fine print editions.

The Open Studio Tour Sept. 24 and 25 will present a first-rate opportunity to become acquainted with the work of this talented newcomer to Whidbey Island.

Tornatzky and his wife, Cathy, moved to Greenbank little more than a year ago, but they have already become deeply involved in the Island art scene. Tornatzky was invited to judge art entries in the 2005 Coupeville Art Fair.

When Tornatzky was in kindergarten in Cleveland, Ohio, he already knew he would grow up to be an artist. His mother took him, as a toddler, along

to her art classes, and he loved every moment of it.

He seemed to have such natural ability that no one ever questioned his choice of vocation. He attended the Cooper School of Art in Cleveland, then took further studies at the University of Cincinnati School of Architecture and Design.

Today, he is one of few artists in the Northwest able to make a living exclusively as an artist, without relying on teaching.

He’s in the studio by 9 a.m. every morning. He’s there until dinner, with several short breaks for outdoor chores that help keep his mind clear.

Visitors to his studio will see a variety of landscapes in pastels and oil paints, along with figure studies, and possibly pastel studies for a couple of recent large commissions.

Although the landscapes and seascapes that appear on his canvases are scenes of actual places, Tornatzky rarely paints outdoors.

“Nothing holds still for more than five seconds,” he says, “especially rowboats. They’re in ceaseless motion on the water. And the light changes constantly.”

Instead, he works from snapshots. That doesn’t mean the painting replicates the photo.

“At a certain stage the painting leaves the photo behind,” he says.

From then on, it’s pure painterly creation. His canvases are most apt to remind visitors of the work of French impressionists, who loved the look of fields in dappled sunlight.

Unlike many artists, Tornatzky – who worked as a finish carpenter at an earlier stage of his career – builds his own frames for paintings. It’s a way of assuring that each work has a frame consistent with his vision for it.

The style he employs gives his body of work a distinctive look: wide, brushed-black frames with a matte finish that disappears into the background and seems to make the vivid scenes pop forward from the wall.

In addition to his studio, which Tornatzky calls “Studio 525,” his annual exhibition at the Kimzey-Miller Gallery in Seattle was on view through Aug. 27. The theme this year is “Quiet Havens.”

His paintings will be featured through the end of September at the Earthenworks Gallery’s Port Townsend and La Conner locations.

For more information on Luke Tornatzky check his website at www.lukejtornatzky.com. And don’t miss his studio in the Open Studio Tour.

Deloris Tarzan Ament is the former art critic for the Seattle Times, and the author of several books, including the Washington Book Award winning “Iridescent Light: The Emergence of Northwest Art.” A board member of the Whidbey Island Writers’ Association, Deloris lives in Freeland, with her husband and cat, where she is working on a novel.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the latest Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Jul 26 edition online now. Browse the archives.