It's the 21st Century. Do We Need Landscapes?

Philip Koch, Passage IV, oil on panel, 18 x 24", 2006

Last week I spent the biggest part of each day painting in what felt like the middle of nowhere (Acadia National Park and Deer Isle in Maine). It is as vivid a hit of nature as one can get on the east coast of the US. This has a way of shaking up you up, very pleasantly too. Thoughts of receipts piled on my messy desk and upcoming committee meetings fall away leaving one feeling they've just awakened into a different world. At such time the thought "This is where we came from" cycles through my mind.

Our earth is some four and a half billion years old. Relatively quickly it spawned simple forms of life. With luck and time these evolved into the plants and animals we see today. It's one heck of a story when you think about it. We humans in a real sense are the eyes and ears through which our mother planet can consider herself. We visual artists have to take care of the "eyes" part.

Turn on the TV or the computer and there's all sorts of distraction and even corporate sponsored misinformation about who we humans are and what we need. I've become fascinated with where we really came from- I want to look back, way back. So for the last decade my own paintings have focused on images of wilderness. To view a really good landscape painting of mountains, forests and oceans is to view our collective origin. It is as if one discovers footprints in the snow and begins to slowly trace them back to where they started.

Will humans ever tire of looking at themselves in the mirror or looking at photographs of themselves? I hope not for answering the question of who we are is so central to leading a meaningful life. Painting images of wilderness gives us another kind of " self portrait." We need all the clues we can get.

Fighting the good fight in Deer Isle, Maine

P.M. Update on the Maine mountain lion sighting question I alluded to in a recent post:

Wikipedia (admittedly not always correct, but intriguing nonetheless) says of mountain lions
" the animal may be recolonizing parts of its former eastern territory, such as Maine, where there has been recent sightings in the southern part of the state."
So maybe, just maybe, what my wife and I saw last week near Deer Island was in fact the fabled beast. Please let it be so as I can't think of a better way to get landscape painter street cred.


  1. Philip, I love the comparison of the landscape to a self portrait. Beautifully written.

  2. I love your writing as well as your painting. I am a photographer and I really appreciate your insights into the creative process.

  3. Patricia and Ed, thanks for your kind words.


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