Artists Who Paint Often Fail to Apologize

Philip Koch, Out to Sea, Ogunquit, oil on panel, 5 x 10"

Went to a panel discussion yesterday and heard an art historian tell the audience that the 1960's saw the complete demise of painting. That sounded pretty bad, but what's more this remains unchanged up through today. What I wish she's said was that she herself just wasn't into painting. But no, we painters are apparently deluding ourselves if we continue with this outmoded vehicle.

Silly me.

I have a very different vision. It's of a towering oak. Over hundreds of years the tree has sunk roots deep into the ground. Its rough trunk rises up and branches out and then branches again. Way out on one upper branch are video artists, another limb holds performance artists, a third conceptual artists, and so it goes on, marching around the trees radiating arms. Sure enough, there I am on a big branch along with a bunch of other suspects- we're the painters. And should anyone care to look, we seem to be having at least as much fun as the artists clinging to the other branches.

Above is a painting I did from a monochrome charcoal drawing a little while back. I believe it to be a very fine painting. But more important, it could only have been painted in our time. Had it been painted in another time, it would have turned out looking differently. We are always going to need art that reflects the psyche of our times. Unless I'm delusional, I think I think I and my fellow painters do that just as well as the artists trying to tell their story employing other media. It's true we painters stumble often and sometimes fall flat on our faces, but have you counted the bruised knees of the video artists?

It's best if everyone takes a long hard look over the whole tree. Land on all the branches and try them out for yourself. If you find one you like best, you might build your nest there.


  1. I wish I had been on that panel. I would have disagreed with her.I might have begun with,
    "then I should call up my hundreds of collectors and tell them to stop enjoying my paintings immediately?"

  2. This really rings true for me after a tough review for candidacy this summer at Savannah College of Art and Design. Went there to find my own voice and vision and the courage of my own convictions but came back cowed by different professors telling what to do, insisting I make the work fit a content/concept, etc. etc. One is completely biased against pastels, another against representational work ARRGH! It helped most when I got home and discovered this blog and the feature article from Fine Art Connoisseur at Philip's show at Cape Cod Museum of Art. This quote is really staying with me: "You don't need a Master's degree to enjoy a landscape...." (Neither me nor my viewers) Well I want the MA degree but I have to figure out how to "play the game" and finish up the thesis next year without abandoning the landscapes and media that really move me.

  3. Bernadette,

    I suspect there are other MFA programs that would have proved more supportive to your chosen direction- my own experience at Indiana University way back in '70-'72 was very positive, and I know they are still quite supportive of realist work. The complexion of a grad program's faculty makes or breaks the experience for any grad student. In general, one probably needs to research who the faculty are in any school, see what sort of work they do, and then ideally go visit the school as check out the current crop of MFA students. Ask them what they like and don't like about the program. I know it isn't always possible for everyone to do these things.

  4. I'm glad I found you through Alyson Stanfield's blog today. Your paintings make me fall in love with representation all over again (but then again, at first glance, I think your work is really about color...will look more as time allows).

    Love your post. I went to school at SAIC in the early 90's; the painters got no respect, but we were by far the biggest program. We even had to steal a piece of hallway to set up a Painter's Gallery, so our work would be shown somewhere!

    Painting is SO not dead; there are so many very very good painters that one can now view from the comfort of our little digital boxes. Some get shows, some sell, and some even get published, I'm sure. Of course, there's also a lot of not-so-good art on our digital boxes. Democracy and all.

    From my own POV, there's just nothing like a good painting. I may be biased, but a great painting makes my eyes happy, my mind wander, and my spirit sour. As do yours.

  5. Philip, I'm a little late to the table on this conversation but I'm enjoying reading through your old posts. In a panel discussion many years ago there emerged a similar thread of discourse to which Janet Fish, one of the panelists, said, "Isms come and isms go, and the painters just keep on painting."

    Despite the persistence of these occasional pronouncements about the death of painting, if your work is any indication then painting is alive and well today! Let's keep our heads down while the fashions rage on around us. Every generation,it seems, is cursed to repeat the folly of its predecessors and regret the clothes it once wore so proudly.

  6. Thanks Frank. I get a real kick and a sense of solidarity getting to know others who are involved with the romance and tradition of perceptual painting, even when I know many of you all only through the internet.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

A Candid Shot In My Studio Even Before My Morning Coffee

Charles Burchfield Exhibition at Montclair Art Museum

23 Years Later: Allen Memorial Art Museum