Long Island artist Gregori Oleanik describes the inspiration for “Feeding Frenzy,” a 16” x 20” oil on canvas work, painted on location at Ditch Plains Beach in Montauk, as “the smell, the roar of the water, the spray and the graceful precision of the gulls.”
He adds, “The power and movement of the ocean has always amazed me,” noting, “There are endless places to paint. Every season presents a new challenge. I don’t do much swimming anymore but as a child you couldn’t drag me out of the water. Some of my favorite places to paint are Gosman’s Dock, Ditch Plains Beach, Amagansett National Wildlife Refuge and on the shoulder of Old Montauk Highway.”
Seagulls: love them or hate them?
Seagulls get a bad rap. They’re beautiful, graceful birds with fantastic coloring.
What are you most looking forward to in this season on the East End?
The solitude of the East End in winter is by far my favorite season out here. The contrast of color between fall and winter is amazing.
What do you think the significance of painting is for contemporary society?
Everyone has something to say, something to communicate, an idea. Art is a beautiful way to convey your message, your mood, your interpretation of any subject matter. If you look at people today, they all have their heads down in their “smart phones.” I looked the same way when I was a kid but I was sketching.
My wife is a New York City schoolteacher in Queens. They all but cancelled the art classes there, I was heartbroken. If I’m lucky enough to win the lottery, I would open a art barn that would be free of charge for the kids. It would be a non-computer generated art school, where the kids would actually pick up a paintbrush or pencil!
Where’s the most unusual place your work has appeared?
The bathroom door of Maroni Cuisine of Northport. Michael Maroni was trusting enough to give me complete artistic license for the murals as long as it was rock ’n’ roll themed, and, he wanted a new mural every other month.
If you could sit down to coffee with any sailor from history, who would it be what would you talk about?Captain Nemo of the Nautilus. I would ask him how it is living 20,000 leagues under the sea and to pilot the electric powered Nautilus submarine. He was so ahead of his time. I’d want to know all about the unknown sea creatures he undoubtedly discovered. My runner-up sailor was Captain Fred of the Yellow Submarine.
Do you think in color?
Without a doubt, color and shapes. I’m constantly simplifying shapes and mixing colors in my head. French ultra marine, cobalt, cerulean blue or permanent, viridian green or cadmium red medium or cadmium yellow light.
What else should readers know about this work?
I grew up in a creative home, both my mom and dad were artists. We were the wacky Addams Family house on the dead-end street. As a child, my dad used to take my sisters and me out to paint “en plein air” (painting outdoors). Most all my paintings are still en plein air. In the ’80s, I studied at the Art Students League of New York. My latest technique, including this painting, has been applying the paint with palette knives only. This prevents me from getting too detailed.
I have been strongly influenced by the French Impressionists of the 1800s—Claude Monet, Edouard Manet, August Renoir—and post Impressionists—Vincent Van Gogh, Camille Pissarro. Impressionism engages the viewer, and puts them to work to fill in the blanks. When I first started painting I thought it was all about realism. The more realistic the better, and then it hit me, I can just take out my “smart phone” and take a photo. So much easier. Painting realistically is too much work and not fun. You can’t be wrong when painting in an impressionistic way because it’s your impression of a scene. You can even see what mood the artist was in!