What Should One Paint?

Philip Koch, Route 6, Yellow House, oil on panel, 14 x 15",

Ran across a painting from the '80's a few days ago that I always wanted to go back into. Yesterday I gave in and dove in.

When I was a very little boy one of my first memories was a children's record titled "Whizzer the Airplane." On the dust jacket was a beautiful illustration of a smiling airplane that was painted bright yellow. I used to thrill to the adventure of Whizzer getting lost in a thunderstorm, almost crashing , and then righting himself and fly out into clear skies again (hey, I was four, and such struggles feel like they're happening daily to you at that age). Needless to say I identified mightily with Whizzer. In the realm of feeling, I was Whizzer.

Just south of where Edward Hopper lived on Cape Cod is the small town of Wellfleet, and right by the side of Route 6 that runs up the Cape's spine is this yellow house. I did a number of paintings of it, one time standing in a 3 foot wide concrete traffic divider in the middle of four lanes of heavy summer traffic. Precarious true, but it provided the best viewpoint on the yellow house.

You won't be surprised if I tell you the house was the same yellow as my old friend Whizzer the airplane. Powerful memories of early feelings I'm convinced often get tethered to seemingly unrelated things- like a favorite illustration for children. When I first saw that house, I knew immediately its color was calling to me. I would be painting it. I also suspected I'd have a lot of success with it. To paint it would be to encounter a piece of my internal self out in the outside world.

What should one paint. Be on the lookout for things that strike an unexpected emotional chord in you. Those are the things you're meant to paint. Your batting average with them will be way up there.


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