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Meet Luke Tornatzky: 2014 Tulip Festival Poster Artist

Luke Tornatzky had planned on painting a somber, dramatic scene for the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival poster, perhaps depicting a person, with a couple of flowers on the floor. But the more the Port Townsend artist thought about it, the more he realized that wasn’t exactly right for the occasion.

And then he visited the tulip fields and saw the flowers reflected in the ditches of water and it just clicked.

The artist is known for his paintings of rowboats and his art often has water themes.

The poster he created for the 2014 Tulip Festival shows splashes of yellow, pink, red and purple rows of clustered tulips, their reflections cast in a still trough of water. In the distance, a farmer putters past the sea of flowers against a backdrop of misty blue mountains and a red barn.

“I like it because it’s a great way to put interesting color that you wouldn’t ordinarily think would be in water,” Tornatzky said of painting water reflections. “And you can make great, sort of abstract shapes out of those colors. So they’re infinitely variable and interesting to me.”

Tornatzky grew up near Cleveland, but knew he wanted to check out other places. It terrified him that he might find a place he liked much better when he was too old to enjoy it.

“You should choose where you live,” he said.

So he traveled. He was drawn to mountains originally, but after living near them, found they didn’t do it for him. Then he reached Puget Sound.

“Being by the water is the best part of being here, too,” he said, remembering his favorite part of growing up in Ohio was having Lake Erie in his back yard.
His mother dabbled in the arts, and he found himself drawn to them ever since he can remember.

“It just fits my person perfectly to be a painter. I’d have a hard time doing anything else,” he said.

Before being chosen to create the festival’s poster, Tornatsky had painted flowers only once before, for the Sequim Lavender Festival poster. But he wasn’t concerned.

It’s all sort of the same, he said. A boat, a tree, a flower — it’s something outside that has sun shining on it creating shadows.

Creating posters is a good challenge, he said. He will also create the poster for the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival in September.

Tornatzky will rent part of the gallery space in Tulip Town to show a few pieces of his work during the festival.