Nature’s Historian and Painter of the Land Harry Orlyk, Artist

Upon meeting Harry Orlyk, it doesn’t take but a minute to realize that you’re in the company of a very special man. He is warm and engaging. And there’s no pretense or attempt to impress. He’s just Harry. But his simple, gentle nature belies a strident com mitment to his craft and the land he loves. Not only an accomplished painter, Harry is nature’s historian.

“My upbringing planted me very solidly in a spiritual orientation to life and out of that spirituality I learned to consider the land as the most significant focus that I should keep in my lifetime.”

Born in 1947, Harry was raised with the love and security of a large extended family that began when his brave grandmother, Sophie, emigrated from Ukraine and set down roots in Cohoes, New York at the tender age of 16.

She soon married his grandfather who opened a meatpacking business that eventually employed many family members including his uncles who built their homes in the same area after returning at the end of WWII. For Harry, it was like growing up in a special village surrounded by loving aunts, uncles, and cousins. There was always someone to play with or visit.

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On the cusp of inner and outer in landscape painting

24 August 2016 01:37PM
by Mona Mark

Thomas Sarrantonio and Harry Orlyk, both plein air painters, create in an ‘in-between’ space, a difficult place to describe, where multiple states of being and movement become melded into one. It is neither purely here in the subject nor there in nature but somewhere ‘in-between’ that the artist and nature are both participants, where the outer and the inner become a ‘one’, a vortex breathing life onto a canvas that is in a sense painting itself, the artist a conduit.

When standing in front of their canvases the viewer becomes aware of the creator as being both in his center while at the same time being immersed in and a part of the nature surrounding him. We feel the movement of their materials, the paint and brush, as they fiercely push it around before their hand might come to a halt, mirroring the evanescent changes of light, wind and temperature surrounding them. It is the locus of Being where nature is an active participant in the painting and the artist is an active participant in nature while Time seems to be directing their ‘play’.

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Harry Orlyk Is the Weather



Harry Orlyk is a most unusual fellow, even for an artist. In the rarefied atmosphere inside his van, the windshield is his window on the world, allowing him to paint in all weather. “I used to take my backpack. I’d walk to my chosen vantage point, then I’d have to build an eagle’s nest of brush and branches to keep the cows out. That was before I drove my van onto the fields. Why should I make it difficult for myself?” Orlyk is 68, tall, thin and craggy, like Lincoln, but with kind, intense, deep-set blue-grey eyes like Robert Frost. He doesn’t use an easel—his steering wheel suffices.

Especially on days that are sunny, he itches to get going. “Orlyk men tend to self-destruct,” he remarks cryptically, “Hence my insistence to bring sunlight into the picture in my quest for the spiritual.”

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A Wintry Bridge to the New Year: Framing Harry Orlyk

Posted on December 29th, 2016

Today I finished framing two exceptionally beautiful East Coast landscape paintings that an old and dear friend had brought in. They’re by upstate New York painter Harry Orlyk (b. 1947). The first one makes a very suitable New Year’s offering—a bridge in the cold but no less lovely winter light.

Harry Orlyk (b. 1947), (untitled), 2010. Oil on canvas, 15-3/4″ x 16-1/8″.

The frame, which Trevor Davis made, is a slight modification of our mortise-and-tenon frame No. 1100, the modification being that the sight edge chamfer is carved to harmonize in texture with the exuberant impasto brush work. I also like how the simple contrast between the flat face of the frame and the 45 degree chamfer echoes the flat valley floor and the banks of the creek. It’s in quartersawn white oak with Medieval Oak stain matching the shaded side of the principle tree. The simplicity of the profile and the frame construction suit the loose painting style as well as the central rustic structure of the bridge.

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Salem, N.Y., artist Harry Orlyk paints close to the land


By Laura Yanne

Special to Berkshires Week & Shires of Vermont

Harry Orlyk relaxes in his studio.
Harry Orlyk relaxes in his studio.

SALEM, N.Y. >> “See, spring is coming,” said Harry Orlyk on a sub-zero evening by the wood stove as he looked at a new painting.

“I did this one today,” he said, “and notice the difference in the light in this one that I did in December, when the sun sits low on the horizon all day long.”

Orlyk paints from the driver’s seat of his white van. The windshield is his window on the world, allowing him to paint in all weather. He doesn’t use an easel — he leans his canvas against the steering wheel.

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TimesUnion: Harry Orlyk talks about his paintings and the land.

Check out an interview by Tim Kane of the Times Union with Harry Orlyk on May 2, 2013

Harry Orlyk's "Barn Under a Red Sky" (Courtesy Laffer Gallery)

For more than a quarter century, painter Harry Orlyk has transformed rural Washington County into light-infused essays. Almost every day, Orlyk ventures out into the seasons to capture dapples of gold, honey browns, snow whites and verdant tones that envelop the countryside.

Fading light yields the moon in “Moon Rise (No. 4830).” It casts a subtle luminosity over rolling hills, a stand of trees and sloping farmland. The scene is nearly sculpted by his ardent and soft brush strokes directing oil on linen like clay, leaving an impression like a dream, or memory. It’s hard to escape the sense that you’ve been there before, but when remains elusive.

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Photos from “Plein Air” Painting Workshop at SAW (Salem Art Works) with Harry Orlyk

June 9th, 2012.

Testimonial from the workshop…

“Hello Harry,
Here are some of the photos from yesterday’s workshop. I’m really enjoying taking the workshop. The demo yesterday was great. I really loved watching and being able to ask questions. Thanks so much, Laura Kemmerling”

Please comment if you attended and would like to add your own testimonial.

Photo by Laura Kemmerling

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