Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Getting Creative- Rooms by the Sea from the Hopper Studio

Edward Hopper, Rooms by the Sea, oil on canvas, Yale 
University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT

The first painting I ever paid attention to as a teenager was Edward Hopper's Rooms by the Sea. It was reproduced in a issue of Time magazine that I saw when I was about 15. Like a normal teenager I paid little mind to fine art. But the painting with its mysterious contrast of a door opening right into the sea stopped me in my tracks. I remember thinking "Now that's a painting!" 

In 1983 I had the good fortune to become friends with the owners of the studio in Truro, MA where Hopper made this painting. I began a long series of residencies in the studio and started my ongoing series of oil paintings of its interior. Here's the corner of his studio that inspired Hopper's Rooms by the Sea.

Hopper was a master at rearrangement. He moved the door from the left side the doorway to the right and lengthened the empty white wall. Most critically he moved the sun to shine directly on a wall that in real life faces north and is always in shadow. By changing the lighting he made his composition spring to life.

Here's one of his preparatory drawings where he is figuring out how to create a convincing new lighting situation.

Edward Hopper, preparatory drawing for Rooms by the Sea,
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

Over the years I had done a number of paintings and drawings of this corner of the studio but I had always stayed true to the shadowed lighting that surrounds the wall and door.

In my newest painting Rooms by the Sea: September that I began in the Truro studio during my most recent stay there last Fall I decided to try inventing a new light direction of my own. Here streaks of an imagined early morning sunlight cascade over the wall and door. I'm very happy with how my little bit of fantasy turned out.

This painting, along with 33 others, will be included in the exhibition Light and Shadow: Paintings and Drawings by Philip Koch from Edward Hopper's Studio at Swope Art Museum in Terre Haute, IN February 3 - March 25, 2017. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

A Long Time Coming...Painting a New Oil for my Swope Art Museum Show

Philip Koch, Truro Studio: Two Rooms, oil on canvas, 36 x 48"

My brush strokes are always in a hurry. When I paint my hand is doing more slashing and scrubbing than smoothing things down and polishing surfaces. One might get the idea my paintings happen  quickly. Ironically they don't. Rather I take months to sort through the colors to get them just the way I want them. Sometimes I need to build up my knowledge of a source for years before attempting a major painting.

Above is one of my new oils. It shows Hopper's bedroom in the studio he designed and had built for himself in Truro, MA in 1934. At the left is one of the windows overlooking Cape Cod Bay, and through the door at the right stands his easel where he painted dozens of his world famous masterpieces. 

My painting will make its debut Feb. 3, 2017 in Terre Haute, Indiana at Swope Art Museum's exhibition Light and Shadow: Paintings and Drawings by Philip Koch from the Edward Hopper Studio. It's based on smaller drawings and paintings I made with my French easel squeezed in between the two single beds in the small room. This last Fall I had my 16th residency staying and working in the studio. It's an honor, but it's also an exceptional chance to feel that earlier artist's presence.

Philip Koch, Truro Bedroom Door, vine charcoal, 
13 x 6 1/2", 2006 This was the first time I used
these bedroom doors as a subject

Over that time I have become increasingly intrigued by the bedroom's closet doors. They're the only two clothes closets in the house. You realize the Hopper's had few clothes as the closets are tiny by today's standards. It's hard not to imaging the hundreds of times Hopper and his wife Jo turned the odd black metal doorknobs to reach for a sweater. 

Each door has been repainted many times- enough so that they no longer shut easily. Mostly they stand ajar, open a few inches unless you make a determined effort to close them. The way the Cape light plays over these doors seems to me delicate, intricate and almost impossibly beautiful.

Philip Koch, Hopper Bedroom III, vine charcoal, 7 x 14", 2012

In all I've made at least half dozen works of these doors. With each of them I was coming to know this corner of this historic room more deeply. In my new painting I feel the traces of each of those earlier drawings and paintings. 

Here's a photo my wife Alice took of me two weeks ago in my Baltimore studio finishing up Truro Studio: Two Rooms. 

In addition to this painting both of the above charcoal drawings will be hanging in the Swope's galleries along with 31 additional pieces. There will be a free public reception of the exhibition on Friday, Feb. 3 from 6 - 9 p.m. All welcome! The exhibition continues through March 25, 2017.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Preparing for my Exhibition at Swope Art Museum

Above is the 12 x 24" oil I painted from drawings I made on location at the house that Edward Hopper worked from for his famous oil Route 6, Eastham. Hopper made his painting based on drawings he made on the side of the road. Route 6, Eastham is the keystone of the Swope Art Museum's Permanent Collection and is one of Hopper's best known paintings.

The Swope invited me to show my paintings that I've made of the interior of Hopper's Truro, MA studio during my residencies there and of the surrounding area in a show they are organizing, Light and Shadow: Paintings and Drawings by Philip Koch from the Edward Hopper Studio. The show will open Feb. 3 and run through March 25, 2017 in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Here below is a view of my studio today with the new in-progress 60" wide version of my smaller oil well underway. Should be fun to see this hanging when it's completed in the same galleries in the Swope Museum with Hopper's famous oil.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Willard Metcalf: Celebrating Light and Time

Willard Metcalf, The Golden Carnival, oil on canvas, Memorial
Art Gallery, Rochester, NY

I've learned the most about making paintings that celebrate intense sunlight from Edward Hopper (1882-1967), who had to have painted the brightest sunlight of any of the early 20 century American artists. But Hopper was picking up on a tradition of the light-loving Impressionist artists who'd gone down the path before him. 

Above is a landscape from my "first museum", Rochester's Memorial Art Gallery by my favorite of the American Impressionist painters, Willard Metcalf (1858-1925). It masterpiece of contrasting the warm ochres in the undulating hillside with the surprising cool blue-green hues in the water's reflections. It perfectly evokes the light of a late afternoon just as the sun begins to speed up its descent to the horizon. 

Metcalf, Winter Afternoon

Metcalf's penetrating eye absolutely nailed brilliant sunlight, painting it with a dazzling expressiveness and sensitivity to the time of day. In Winter Afternoon above he paints the midday winter sun crisply delineating everything and casting almost timidly short shadows.

Willard Metcalf, Thawing Brook, 1911

In Thawing Brook above Metcalf moves to later in the afternoon, with his foreground shadow stretching out its arm to touch from side-to-side of his canvas. The yellow greens he chooses for the stream couldn't be more different from his colors for the water in the first oil at the top of this post.  

In The Hills in February below he's moved on to the late afternoon, where the sunlight now hits only the hilltops. The family of red-violet and blue-violet hues in his the foreground trees strike an elegant shadowy presence.

Willard Metcalf, The Hills in February, oil on canvas, Arnot
Art Museum, Elmira, NY

The Arnot Art Museum contacted me this week to tell me they are organizing an exhibition 23 Pairs: Considering an Art History 101 Exercise. 23 paintings from the Museum's collection will be hung with 23 works by contemporary artists. I am honored that they are requesting to include my painting Uncharted II below and pair it with their Metcalf The Hills in February. The show is scheduled to open in February, 2017.

Philip Koch, Uncharted II, oil on canvas, 30 x 40", 2016

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Time Travel (and why I'm so busy in my studio recently)

Philip Koch, Friday Morning, oil on canvas, 40 x 60", 1990.
This was painted on Caves Road northwest of Baltimore, a
place that strongly reminds me of the long driveway I would
walk everyday to reach my school bus stop. It resonates with 
feeling for me because of this.

You may have noticed I haven't added a new post in several weeks. The Swope Art Museum in Terre Haute, IN is opening a major exhibition of my work in January. I've super excited about it and have been deeply involved with finishing paintings for that show. In the meantime here are some of my paintings from 1988-90.

As a break from standing at my easel I've been looking at images from some of my paintings from decades back that have been recently scanned from their 35mm slides to digital format. Gradually a comprehensive archive of my work is emerging.  It is wonderful to see these older paintings again as they all long ago were added to collections all over the country.

Philip Koch, Summer Morning, oil on caves, 48 x 64", 1998

Summer Morning is another painting inspired by my personal reveries. Shortly before he died when I was 13 my father taught me how to sail the small boat we had on Lake Ontario. It's a memory I hold dearly. To this day I can't pass a marina without stopping to hear the rigging slapping against the sailboats' masts.

Philip Koch, Sycamores, oil on paper mounted on panel, 20 x 25"

Sycamores are my 2nd favorite tree after white birches (we had lots of both where I grew up in upstate New York which accounts for my bias). This is a row of sycamores in Owings Mills, MD, near where I used to live. In winter the insane elegant dance their branches perform is inevitably worth studying.

Philip Koch, White Barns, oil on canvas, 48 x 72", 1988

I painted this oil only a few feet from the spot along Reisterstown Road near Owings Mills where I made Sycamores. These two beautiful barns are now completely surrounded by a dense new housing complex. I suspect they liked their surroundings better in the days when I painted this.

I will be sharing all sorts of news about my upcoming solo exhibition at Swope Art Museum. It's going to be a big, exciting show. Jan. 20 - March 25, 2017. swope.org

Saturday, September 17, 2016

My Upcoming Showing and Talk at Highland House Museum in Truro Sept. 24, 2016

This is Edward Hopper's 1930 watercolor of the Highland Light in North Truro, MA on Cape Cod. The painting is a masterpiece on a lot of levels. One thing I particularly love is how Hopper created a real drama of colors between his pale buildings and sky contrasting so sharply against the deep yellow ochres of his sun-drenched grasses. Hopper deftly included the sandy road in his foreground to break up what would have been a visually too empty field. By adding a note of less intense color in the bottom half of his painting he helps connect his foreground with the the painting's more pearly top half.

I'll be including a slide of this watercolor of Highland Light in the slide talk I am putting together for my event sponsored by Addison Art Gallery and the Truro Historical Society on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016 at the Highland House Museum in Truro. There will be a showing of six of the oil paintings I've made during my 16 residencies in Hopper's former studio in Truro. 

We will have a reception at 5:30 p.m. and the talk and discussion from 6:00 to 7:00. All welcome!

Hopper designed his studio himself down to the last nail and had it constructed in 1934. In it he would paint dozens of the canvases that have made him the world famous painter he is today.

The studio shares with his paintings a sort of straightforward and unassuming charm. Above is the studio's kitchen with the table where Hopper and his wife Jo would eat their breakfast. Below is a photo my wife Alice took of me walking back up the long winding path that leads from the shore of Cape Cod Bay up to the studio. In the distance is the studio with its iconic 10' tall north-facing window.

I have been studying the Hopper studio since I first went to stay there in 1983 In its way it offers clues to how Hopper's creative vision worked. While I am primarily a landscape painter I have undertaken a years long project of making paintings of the historic studio's interior. 

Below is one of my paintings that will be in the showing Sept. 24 at Highland House Museum Edward Hopper's Painting Room, oil on panel, 20 x 16", 2016. I painted it set up in the studio's small kitchen looking into Hopper's painting room. That's his easel in the distance on the left.

Let's end with one of my earliest oils of the studio's interior that's long since gone to a private collector, Rooms by the Sea, oil on canvas, 42 x 63". It was painted in the studio's painting room, with the doorway to the left opening to the studio's bedroom and the door to the right leading out to the bluff overlooking Cape Cod Bay.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Paintings from my Burchfield Residency

Philip Koch, Upper Story: Sunlight, oil on panel, 
12 x 24", 2016. I painted this from the building in
downtown Buffalo that Burchfield used as the center-
piece of perhaps his most famous watercolor, Rainy Night.

Here are ten of my oil paintings that I've finished so far from my time as the Artist in Residence at the Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo, NY. Most of them will be in the show I'm having opening at Courthouse Gallery Fine Art in Ellsworth, ME on Oct. 1st. The oils were begun at different times over 2015-2016 when I was making repeated trips to Buffalo, to work at Burchfield Penney and in areas where the painter Charles Burchfield went to paint his landscapes. 

One of the things that most struck me on the Residency about Burchfield  was how often he would take great lengths of time to complete his paintings. Sometimes the evidence was in the numerous preparatory drawings he would execute to help him with his major paintings. Other times the dates on individual paintings would stretch over decades as he would go back into pieces to improve and expand them. 

Philip Koch, Great Lake, oil on panel, 6  x10", 2016.
I grew up on the shore of Lake Ontario in Rochester, NY, 
near Buffalo. This view of distant Lake Erie from Chestnut 
Ridge Park south of Buffalo stirred my boyhood memories.

One of the ironies of my paintings is that their freely flowing brushstokes suggest they're rapidly executed. I am just the opposite sort of painter. I take all the time I need and slowly craft my vision for each of my paintings. In a way a painter is like a storyteller who needs to first tell the tale to himself- step by step discovering just what the space, light, and mood need to be to tell a compelling story.

Philip Koch, East Aurora Barns, oil on panel, 15 x 20",
2016. East Aurora was a favorite painting location
for Burchfield. I did a lot of my outdoor painting 
there as well.

My wife Alice insists I'm an impatient person (and perhaps she has a point). The lesson the Burchfield Residency reinforced for me is that it's ok to let paintings grow at their own pace. We get our good ideas only once they occur to us. If that takes weeks, or months or years, matters less than bringing the final painting to the highest level possible. 

Phlip Koch, Split-rail Fence, oil on panel, 14x 21"
2016. This is a close up view I painted of the fence
depicted in the painting above East Aurora Barns.

I read a lot from Burchfield's journals during the Residency. Frequently he describes wandering around until something stuck him  as especially ripe with possibilities for making a painting. I followed that method and put a lot of miles on my car.  If you keep looking long enough, I find you stumble into the most remarkable sources. 

Philip Koch, Soft Ochre Forest, oil on panel, 16 x 12"
2016. During my Residency I spent most of my time
outdoors exploring the hills south of Buffalo. I used this 
simple stand of trees in this painting and in the following 
oil to make very different statements of mood and

Philip Koch, Wind Through the Trees, oil
on panel, 16 x 12", 2016.

Philip Koch, Erie Canal, oil on panel, 12 x 9"
2016. I made a vine charcoal drawing with 
my easel set up on the banks of what was the
Erie Canal (now the much less eleganltly named
Barge Canal). Back in my studio I imagined
the scene bathed in a warm morning light.

Philip Koch, Edge of the Forest, oil on panel, 12 x 9", 
2016. In the hills south of Buffalo you can let the moods
of the forest sweep over you. The cool colors of these
tree trunks were a perfect counterpoint to the warm 
siennas of the leaves.

Philip Koch, Hills, Colden, NY, oil on panel, 7 x 10 1/2", 2016.
As a teenager I used to travel to Colden to ski at the Kissing
Bridge ski area. That memory was in the back of my
mind as I painted this some of the adjoining hills.

Philip Koch, Charles Burchfield's Salem Home, oil on panel,
12 x 24", 2016. This painting was made from a charcoal drawing
I did on location in the backyard of Burchfield's childhood home
in Salem, OH. Though an ordinary house and neighborhood it
served to inspire dozens of that artist's finest early works.