Thor Magnus Kapor
I am an Iceland-based artist painting landscapes with oil pastel technique.
‘Paint and sail’ is the motto I live by.
Where are you located: Reykjavík, Iceland
ArtMarketDirect gallery URL:
I fear earthquakes. Yet, funnily enough, I settled in a country with constant tectonic activity. I remember vividly the year 1962 when strong earthquakes shook the Croatian coastline, including my hometown Split. People had to evacuate the city and travel northbound by boat to Rijeka. We needed to stay and live there for several months. I've been afraid of earthquakes ever since. Ten years ago in 2008 a powerful earthquake shook Iceland's Selfoss area; however, it did not strike me as being as scary as the one I experienced when I was ten. Iceland is an entirely different country from Croatia. People here are accustomed to the ground shaking; we expect it to happen. In Croatia the atmosphere is different. This sort of thing occurs very rarely and looming anxiety can be felt whenever an earthquake is announced or felt.
What’s your favourite colour and why?:
I don't discriminate against any color. They are all important and dear to me. I express myself in color, using oil pastel. Now black and white... those I love to wear.
Do you live with any family and or pets?:
Not a fan of animals around the house. I never used to have pets. Even though I live alone, I am deeply family oriented and spend several hours each day visiting my 97-year-old mother.
Best and worst food?:
Favorites: fish, and prosciutto with olives. Also lamb. Mediterranean food from my childhood in Dalmatia will always be number one in my book. The atmosphere around the dinner table was something unforgettable; I still prefer a feast with friends over dining on my own. I also enjoy all fruits and vegetables, and there is no food I would not try or I don't eat.
Tell us a little about your full-time job and/or education?:
Since 1993 I have been placing primary focus on my art, with working hours from the early morning – 7AM – until noon. Early afternoon is reserved for other obligations and errands, but then I also work a couple of hours in the late afternoon. Art is my full-time job. Art has been my main interest since childhood. After preocupying my time with drawing in elementary and secondary school, I went on to study Art History at Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb. Think Croatia in the seventies. That is where my mentor noticed me, recognized my potential and recommended me for specialization in art restoration and conservation. I ended up doing restoration with him in Italy. From 1971 to 1976 I worked on various projects, moving from Milano to the Vatican. When I returned, having acquired experience and references abroad, I was often asked to work in my field by various institutions in former Yugoslavia. It was an honor, but as soon as the political climate in my homeland changed, I began to distance myself from it both mentally and physically. My life switched course in the following years, until finally I ended up here in Iceland, with painting as my job and passion.
If you weren't an artist what would you be doing instead?:
Nothing comes to mind, honestly. If I wasn't an artist I don't know what I would be doing. I was only eight years old when I started drawing. We would gather in our house and all the children would play and draw, so I developed a fondness for it early on. Nobody from my family is in the fine arts, but my mother used to be an opera singer and I admire her talent.
What moment in your career are you most proud of?:
I am proudest of my work in art restoration and conservation, and the decision to take up landscape pastel. The situation in my homeland in the nineties was less than favorable, so I did not wish to be part of that society any longer. The decision to uproot and move to Iceland with my art was a big one, but it is actually my proudest moment.
Before you became professional in art, what is the best non art related job you ever had and why?:
I used to teach engineering on a tanker ship in the eighties – I would train youngsters to be seamen. Words I live by are 'Paint and sail', as those are my favorite most fulfilling activities to do. My father worked as a telegraphist so I had always been connected to the seas. Wishing to change my life, in the '80s I completed a course in naval engineering. It was a wonderful time in my life, I still remember it fondly.
Getting Down To Business
There’s a lot of artwork on the market these days, how do you differentiate yours from the rest?:
I have never seen anyone do what I do in oil pastel. My expression is authentic with no role models to inspire me. Music is the only thing that helps me create sometimes. When I first moved to Iceland I exhibited various works in a library in Keflavik in 1993, but after that I made a conscious decision to only paint landscapes in oil pastel. Oddly enough that was also the first ever time I worked with oil pastel, and my work evolved organically from there. My pieces are made in bigger format than those of most artists, and I believe pastel technique is more challenging than painting with a brush. Each stroke needs to be precise – a chunck of colour forming a fine line cannot be easily corrected. The surface of an oil pastel painting is less powdery than that of a a soft pastel painting. Oil pastels provide a harder edge than soft pastels but are more difficult to blend. One more thing. Every one of my paintings needs to have a purpose and a goal. I have a series dedicated to Reykjanes for example, that is a triptych of paintings. I also made a triptych on dandelions.
What is the most challenging part about being an artist in todays market?:
The greatest challenge is to be unique and display something organic, not to copy or follow trends on the market. The art connoisseur recognizes authenticity, and simply making good art is the most challenging feat to accomplish.
For you what is the best part about creating art in the way you do?:
I enjoy it because it brings me harmony and peace. Both the process, and the environment. Creating my work makes me feel happy and satisfied. Iceland calms me and that can be seen within my oil pastel pieces.
If you were able to go back to give yourself a nugget of advice before you even got started what would that be?:
Do what you can, and do what you're good at. I would not change a single thing. I regret nothing I did and if I had to do it all over again, I would do things exactly the same.
Visual art is often love/hate. How do you handle negative feedback?:
I take constructive criticism into consideration, but people enjoy my art for the most part. Not many people have reacted negatively to my work. But it is a matter of taste. There have been instances that some observers disliked a particular piece, but had no explanation when asked why. Different folks, different strokes.
What do you feel when something is sold? Why?:
I am glad when a piece sells. That's about the extent of it.
What are your tools and/or equipment and/or medium of choice? Why?:
My medium is oil pastel because the technique looks clean and fresh, just like Icelandic landscapes in real life. I paint on big canvases. The technique matches the motifs perfectly – that is why I choose to work the way I do.
What is your creative process like?:
Firstly I envision a painting, then translate it to canvas or paper. I memorise what I've seen and I paint it. I work in my studio always, never at home. When I feel inspired I sometimes visit my studio up to three times a day and work as much as possible. I create fast-paced. In two years (2015-2017 ) I completed ten paintings and am currently working on finding a bigger gallery for all my pieces. The working environment is important to me; if the space is adequate, it's easy to work. I find it easiest to work in open spaces, nothing cluttered. As my studio gallery fills up with new finished pieces, work becomes more difficult. My work also looks best in bright lighting and open spaces.
How do you come up with a profitable pricing structure for your pieces?:
I take into account the time, expertise and size of the painting. That's why my prices can go pretty high.
What do you believe is a key element in creating a good composition?:
Into every piece one should invest the same amount of energy, effort and respect. If you are creating something authentic, the piece is automatically 'good'. It is paramount that it is. A 'bad' piece would be a half-assed one. I don't feel like expanding on this because the quality of a piece is visible to those who are interested in seeing it.
What’s the best art tip you’ve ever received which you would be willing to share?:
One of my university professors once told me that a true artist never stops working. Should you stop working, you cease to be an artist. Art is all about creativity and inspiration, but work ethic is extremely important.
How has your style changed over the years?:
I started in art restoration, working with pieces from old masters. I used to paint portraits and landscapes within restoration work. But with oil pastel I started to create more complex and detailed paintings and that is what I stick to.
Tell us about any experimenting you are doing lately?:
Each new piece is an experiment. It's always tricky to formulate and transfer an image from your creative mind to the canvas. Everything is an experiment until it is done. That takes the most toll on you; not experimenting with style, but experimenting with transferring what is in your head to what is in front of your eyes.
Do you have any upcoming events we should know about?:
Recently I held a few events and gatherings in my gallery in Brautarholt 16 in Reykjavík. We are currently working on exhibiting my work in the main building of Arion banki. It might be my next big exhibition. Stay tuned for updates.