Saturday, August 29, 2015

From the Studio of: John Terelak

"Snow Evening",  John Terelak

John Terelak invited me into his bright and airy studio this morning, where he had been hard at work at his easel since 3 a.m. He took a short break for this interview before he turned his attention to last minute details, in preparation for his solo show, "Fifty Years at the Easel", a stunning  collection of his masterworks, which opens on September 3rd at the North Shore Arts Association's Gordon Grant Gallery.
John's unwavering discipline, coupled with determination have served him well in his artistic life. During his student days, John was a very talented athlete, earning multiple offers of college scholarships, but in his junior year he discovered his passion for art.
The first major turning point in his life occurred when working for a greeting card company. A foreman, impressed with John's obvious artistic abilities, encouraged him to apply to art school.
Submitting three drawings in his application, John was accepted in 1960 to the Vesper George School of Fine Art. Although he flourished in the commercial art department, he was also trying his hand at a variety of media; oil, acrylic, pastel and watercolor. He clearly remembers that while working on a watercolor, he realized that his true calling was as a fine artist.
All of the skills that he'd acquired as an athlete would come into play in realizing his dream. To this day, he freely admits that he has a competitive nature; he wants his paintings to be the best, and to that end he works as hard as he can every day, without fail. At the end of each painting day he is able to say to himself, "I tried my hardest and I couldn't have painted any better than I did today."

"Evening Light", John Terelak
A second major bit of luck came through his association with artist, Don Stone. John was a professor, teaching at Vesper George after his graduation, when Don extended an invitation to come up to Rockport and to teach an outdoor oil painting class. John had grown up in Hyde Park, a "rough and tumble" Boston neighborhood. When he arrived in Rockport, he was immediately taken with the beautiful, idyllic seaside town and the very active artistic community that it attracted. Among the very accomplished painters working in Rockport at that time, were Aldro Hibbard, Paul Strisik, Tom Nicholas, Don Stone and others of the highest caliber.
After a short stint in the Army, Terelak returned to Rockport, establishing his home there. He founded the Gloucester Academy of Fine Art in 1975 and as its Headmaster taught college level and art school graduates, guiding them to find their individual voices and make a firm start in their professional lives. But after teaching for a number of years, and with both a growing family and a growing demand for his art work, he left teaching and devoted all of his considerable energies to his own paintings.
His subject matter is wide ranging and varied, but Terelak says that is not the most important aspect of his work. The landscape for him is a stage, often inhabited by wonderful human actors, on which he challenges himself to explore color harmonies and new techniques. Terelak has done a considerable amount of on location work and his intense, visual memories serve as the creative springboard for his studio work.
He is able to close his eyes and visualize the finished painting. He starts a painting without sketches, drawings or preliminaries, preferring to follow Jasper John's dictum, "to do something, do something to that and then do something to that." It is not unusual for Terelak's paintings to have eight paint layers or more as he pushes the paint and himself; glazing, scraping, and scumbling to follow and to explore where the process of painting will take him.
As the painting "grows", it takes on a life of its own, with its own demands. He will often work on a painting over the course of a year or more, setting it aside as he considers it and lets its "mistakes haunt him" until he can satisfactorily solve the puzzle. He wants the surface of the painting "to have a rich patina, a depth and texture that is beautiful in its own right."

"Looking For Charlie", John Terelak
This past year, John sees a dramatic change in his work. He finds himself seated before his easel more often, rather than standing, and feels this posture is allowing him to achieve a higher level of detail, a refinement, and a closer observation of nature. He is taking more time with each painting, his work becoming less impressionistic, less tonalist, but ever more powerful as he leans toward more traditional approaches to landscape.
Terelak says he would never alter the choices he's made in life. He recommends every artist read the article written by author James Lee Burke and published in the New York Times; and article which, for Terelak, "sums it all up." (* link to article below)
For John Terelak, "The ability to live the life of an artist is a gift. Never disrespect your talent or take it for granted. Work very hard every day at expressing and exploring the fullness of your talent." Seeing a Winslow Homer retrospective and the powerful images that Homer created later in life at Prout's Neck, Terelak says that it hit him, "If Homer could paint with that power as an older man, I can, too!"
And therefore, he rises each morning well before dawn, facing his easel always with the greatest enthusiasm and in awe of where his painting journey will take him.
He ends our interview with the energetic exhortation, “Well! It’s time to go back to work, dear!”

North Shore Arts Association is honored to offer the work of internationally acclaimed Rockport artist John C. Terelak in a stunning solo show of his masterworks. Entitled "50 Years at The Easel," the exhibit's Opening Day is September 3rd and runs through September 26th. "Meet The Artist Reception" is Sunday, September 20, 2-4 pm.


“The acclaim that John Terelak’s work has received from serious collectors is strong evidence that his paintings will be recognized as an important and permanent part of the best of American fine art created in this century. His paintings are included in thousands of private and public collections throughout the United State. Included are the Andrew Mellon Foundation, Sheraton Corporation, Winthrop Financial Corporation, Prudential Insurance Company, Bank of Boston, Shawmut Bank, State Street Bank, Boston, and Sterling-Regal Publishing Company. Included among Mr. Terelak’s private collectors are many prominent persons from the business world, the entertainment and sports industries, and perhaps most significantly of all, the art community itself.”
-excerpt by Cavalier Galleries, Greenwich, New York City, Nantucket

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