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Going back to School- the Eskenazi Museum in Bloomington, IN

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John Robert Cozens, Sepulchral Remains in the Campagna near  Rome,  watercolor, ca. 1782-83, Eskenazi Museum of Art. Bloomington, IN

About a thousand years ago (actually 1970) I moved to Bloomington, IN to enter Indiana University's MFA Program in Painting. As I had previously been one of only a few art students in the small art department at Oberlin College I was hungry to finally be surrounded by other committed artists. The experience at Indiana worked out well- better than I'd expected. 
More than for most of the other painting grad students, the campus art museum (now the Eskenazi Museum of Art) really spoke to me. I ended up taking a history of landscape painting course from one of the art history faculty, Louis Hawes. He had an almost fanatical enthusiasm for two early British watercolor painters, Cozens and Girtin that intrigued and delighted me. 


Thomas Girtin, Landscape with House, watercolor, ca. 1798-1800 Eskenazi Museum of Art, Bloomington, IN

Hawes organized a powe…

Quick Visit to the Baltimore Museum of Art

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Thomas Wilmer Dewing. Lady with a Fan, oil, 1911
My wife Alice and I took a break yesterday and spent an hour at our Baltimore Museum of Art. I hadn't been to the BMA's galleries in months as last winter and spring I was busy in my studio finishing up paintings for Burchfield Penney Art Center's current exhibition of my work in Buffalo, NY (thru July 29). As our time was limited we headed to see some of our old friends.

Above is one of those distinctive and ever so slightly weird painters who I love. Thomas Dewing delighted in painting languorous women in expensive gowns. They seem wraith-like and lost in a world a bit removed from our own. Fortunately Dewing was a master at posing his sitters and their gowns to generate fascinating silhouetted forms.  I always get a sense that there's a mist in the rooms he painted, but it heightens the pensive mood he creates.

Speaking of mist and atmosphere, how about this John Kennett painting below.



John Frederick Kennett, View of …

Edward Hopper's Sailboat

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Edward Hopper, Lee Shore, oil on canvas, 1941
Shortly before he died my father taught me how to sail. I was about 9 or 10. As a result I have a tremendous bias in favor of any painting with a sailboat in it. And I've painted quite a few myself over the years. Edward Hopper was also one to sail back to his own memories when he wanted to make a painting. Above is his 1941 oil Lee Shore. Naturally I like it almost too much.
Hopper drew on his boyhood memories for the painting, choosing to place a turreted house almost precariously near the water. Very likely he was remembering a similar house from his boyhood that still stands just a few blocks from his family home in Nyack, NY. As in the Lee Shore painting, in real life it's perched so close to the waters of the Hudson River it looks like it could fall in.


Philip Koch, Turret House: Nyack, oil on panel, 9 x 12 inches, 2015

Back in 2015 I made a trip to Nyack to paint. As the weather proved too rainy for extended painting sessions …

Same Place / Different Worlds

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Philip Koch, Blackberry River Forest, oil on canvas, 55 x 44 inches, 1994. The on-site study for  this studio oil is just below.
Introspection is a good and useful tool. Yet often we find out something new about ourselves when we're looking outside at the world.
This struck me as I looking at a group of my earlier paintings of white birch trees. All four were based on two stands of birches in Norfolk, CT. 
I had set my French easel set up alongside a hilly country road. If looked to the left an older growth of birches backed up against a heavily wooded mountainside. That forest looked impenetrable and the heavy older birches were bent over. They had lost many branches in  storms. Yet they stubbornly survived. You sensed there was a long history here.



Philip Koch, Blackberry River Forest, oil on panel, 25 x 20 inches, 1987. This was painted on location.



Philip Koch, Near the Blackberry River, oil on canvas, 48 x 60  inches, 1987
From the same spot and looking to the right a very diffe…

Selecting Charles Burchfield Drawings for my Exhibit

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Drawing is seeing.
I don't know who said that, but it is something I find myself saying all the time. 
One of the joys of the two and a half years I spent as the Burchfield Penney Art Center's Artist is Residence was my discovery of how much the painter Charles Burchfield apparently  agreed with me. Burchfield drew seemingly all the time.
When the museum first proposed holding an exhibition of my work from the Residency they suggested I could curate into my exhibit drawings I selected from their Burchfield Archives. I think my response at the time was a dignified "I'd love to" but on the inside it was " Holy Cow!!!" I feel deeply honored to have my work displayed side-by-side with this American master




Burchfield's drawing of a house and trees at left; at right my  drawing of Burchfield's boyhood home that I made on a trip to Salem, Ohio. Below is a better view of the Burchfield.



There are a few drawings in the main gallery where my exhibition's …

Burchfield Penney Art Center Exhibition- Updated

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My painting Winter Sky, oil on canvas, 40 x 60 inches.



I have been busy with painting (very busy) and haven't posted a lot of the photos of the wonderful museum exhibition the Burchfield Penney Art Center has staged of the work I made during nearly 3 years of my being the museum's Artist in Residence. Here are a few photos from the show- I posted additional images Saturday 5/26.


Getting ready to speak to the museum's docents  before the opening of the exhibition,



 My wife Alice with Late Autumn Sun, oil on canvas,36 x 48 inches
at left and East Aurora Barns, oil on canvas, 36 x 54 inches on the right.




Chestnut Ridge Panorama, oil on canvas, 36 x 48 inches, This is a painting that started out as a summertime painting. As I worked on it it seemed to want to be a story about the colder months.



Alice with the row of small oils on the far wall.




I apologize for all the photos that include me but they're the only
installation shots we have. Uncharted III, oil on canvas, 36 x 4…

Warmth of a Frozen Memory

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Philip Koch with his painting Chestnut Ridge  Panorama, oil on canvas, 36 x 48 inches, 2018
In June of 2015 I began traveling to Buffalo, NY as the Burchfield Penney Art Center’s Artist in Residence. One of the first places I went to paint was Chestnut Ridge Park, miles south of Buffalo, an area where the artist Charles Burchfield did some of his landscape work.
I loved the view from the Park’s overlook facing north- miles of forest and fields leading towards Lake Erie. The Lake at this distance was just the thinnest band of silver-white but it exerted a surprising pull on me. Sometimes you will see something that catapults you back in time.
I grew up on the shore of Lake Ontario in the then rural town of Webster, NY. A school bus would take me on a half hour long tour of the rolling countryside every morning and afternoon. Usually I rode lost in my daydreams. But there was one spot on the route where I’d rouse myself so as not to miss the view. As the bus crested the top of a particul…