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Lesson 1 - "The Zen of Painting" by Tom Thordarson

Lessons 1 - Thor's Fantasy Art Painting

The parallels between life and painting a picture.


painting thorart huntington pier pressure fantasy art

 My Background:

When I first started to draw, I was about 2 years old.  My Mom still has an old shoe box filled with pencil and crayon drawings of things I saw, TV heroes I wanted to be like, family and pets.  The images were all inspired by a combination of what I witnessed in my life, and what I wanted life to be.  Over a decade and a half later, I would learn to paint.  It wasn't until I was about 18 that I really was interested in painting, though I drew all the time on school books, the back of my homework and always at home.  I recall teachers and fellow classmates asking me to draw.  When I was 9, I learned to draw all the "Peanuts" characters and on Fridays, I would sit in the little school library, waiting with a stack of paper and pencils.  Kids had money on Fridays because it was "ice cream day!"  Well, for a nickel, I would draw any "Peanuts" characters kids wanted and a funny personal message. I recall a small line would form on some occasions even!  I ended up eating a lot of ice cream on Fridays! Haaaaa 


When I first learned to paint, I had an instructor at Pasadena City College named Ben Sakoguchi.  He was truly amazing.  He taught us the "good old fashion way" to create a painting, hard work...down to stretching your own canvases and making cool "floating" frames from natural stained wood.  Ben was extremely encouraging towards my ability to paint instinctively. He was, perhaps the one responsible for me really knowing I wanted to be a true painter one day.

What I call: The Zen of Painting   

I will be doing a series of blogs on out, working toward demos on YouTube on what I call, "The Zen of Painting." Not really connected to "Zen" literally, but a way to share how I have seen life and painting incredibly alike in its process, discovery and lessons learned. Parallels. So, know that I will be connecting painting with "life" a lot from here out...and I can promise you this, the people I have had the privilege to teach and share this idea with, have told me that since seeing this analogy and painting, nothing they saw in their daily lives would ever be the same again.  It opens up a portal...a lens, through which you see how amazingly magical our world really is! Painting is a celebration of being able to "see" the world, and say something back, visually, and in gratitude.  


Earnest Hemingway once said, "This looking and not seeing things was a great sin, I thought, and one that was easy to fall into."   Well I can't quite say being unobservant is "sinful," but to be a great painter, the first thing one must do very well is "learn to see."   Not just look at something and think copying it as closely as you can, but actually "seeing."  As a survival instinct, the human mind thrives on simplifying likes to label and repeat and create patterns, reducing uncertainty. Visually, it says, a shadow is "gray or black," snow is "white" etc.    But to paint snow, on a moonlit night, or as it is lit by the early dawn, you can no longer just take your white paint out and have success.  You must see, observe, and feel.  The paint you mix that "feels white" on that dim moonlit eve on your canvas, might be a pale periwinkle blue in areas, and shift in cool ranges of hue into a faint aqua gray...and then into ranges of cobalt and slate blue.  The paint is not white, but the illusion we have created is a vista of white snow, that shimmers on a cold September’s eve.  We know this because we went out side on such a night and really saw what colors nature was playing with. 

 To See and to Know...

Painting is a combination of what you see and what you know.  This concept alone is the first lesson.  It’s a lot to take in, believe me, before we pick up brushes or paint. I have a challenge for you all who want to learn to paint with me.  Your first "assignment" let's say!  Let's start with shadows. When you leave the glow of this computer screen and go about your daily life, try to "see" like never before!   Everyone "looks"...yet many see nothing.   Sit and look at a certain tree or something outside at different times of the day.  Look at the shadow on the ground.  Tell your brain to stop using "symbols" and block out any past judgments or assumptions. The shadow will not be a bright color, likely, but it will not be just gray either.  Is it a cool color like a slate blue?  Is it warm like a brick red?   Just keep looking until you begin to "see."  I will warn you though...once you start doing this with shadows, your world will never look the same again...and this, my friend, is just the beginning of the enchanting world of a painter!


     Here's "to seeing" for the first time!  ~~  THOR


(The painting shown above is "Hale Kaunu" from my Escape Series.)


I'd love to hear your thoughts! Comment below.


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