Ian, whose uncanny painting of Belmont Hills is seen here, says the word that most characterizes the quality of his work is “intense.”

by J.B. Hyppolite

Germantown resident Ian Tornay, 48, was educated as an architect at the Cooper Union, New York City, but he always maintained an interest in drawing and painting, so after getting his architecture degree, “I decided to go to graduate school and study fine arts.” Ian earned a Masters of Fine Art in Painting from Queens College, a senior college of the City University of New York.

For the past 15 years Tornay has painted landscapes in rural northeastern Pennsylvania, often returning to the same view for years at a time. Most recently he has been painting in Vermont. His paintings, created from direct observation, emphasize fluid and energetic brushwork. Tornay’s longtime studio is a carriage house in Germantown. The studio itself becomes a central character in many still-life paintings. Also an accomplished woodworker, Ian constructs bas relief sculptures in wood and plaster. The subject matter for these includes landscape, still-life and portraiture.

Ian is currently in the midst of the seventh exhibit of his work at Bowery Gallery, 530 West 25th St., 4th floor, in New York City. It will run through Sept. 28. (For more information, call 1-646-230-6655, or visit bowerygallery.org)

The show includes natural landscapes completed while Ian was an artist resident at the Heliker-Lahotan Foundation on Cranberry Island, Maine; also Philadelphia-area cityscapes and still-lifes painted at his Germantown studio. Tornay’s work has been discussed in The New Republic and the Philadelphia Inquirer, which praised his “spontaneous, appealing, often color-rich neighborhood scenes.”

The neighborhoods highlighted in those paintings include Nicetown, Kensington and West Oak Lane.

In his landscapes, variations of green and blue dominate the palette. A loose paint application in darker tones establishes a romantic mood. The Philadelphia scenes highlight the cityscape and the interaction of manmade and natural forms.

In a series of still-lifes painted in his studio, the artist features domestic objects, fruit, tools, geometric solids and blocks of wood laid out on home-made wooden tables. Some bring to mind works by Cezanne. If there is any one word to describe the creative impulse for Ian’s work, it would be “intense.”

“I really love to try to just use art to connect to the world around me,” he explained. “When I’m doing a painting, I’m really trying to get into a rhythm, and that rhythm has to do with feeling the colors and feeling the spacial movements of what I’m looking at. It really is kind of a way to become connected with the world around me and with nature. When I am painting, I am fully engaged for five or six straight hours.”

Ian is a native of New York, but he views Philadelphia as “an awesome place to be an artist.” He sees the city as having an alluring marriage between buildings and landscapes, nature and man-made forms.

“The parks here are incredible, and so are the histories of the buildings. I really enjoy some of the sort-of ramshackle neighborhoods where things aren’t so pristine and perfect looking; I find a real kind of charm in that … ”

As mentioned earlier, Tornay is also a seasoned woodworker. His works in wood have been exhibited at New York’s National Academy of Design, and he has lectured at numerous colleges and museums and garnered many awards at juried exhibitions. He pays the bills, you might say, by teaching at Delaware College of Art and Design, where he is an Area Coordinator for Interior Design. Ian is married and has two children, Sophia and Paul.

More information on his work and about upcoming shows can be found at iantornaystudio.com.