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Showing posts from July, 2010

The Secret Power of the Artist Playing the Curator

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I concluded my discussion of three roles of the artist advising the artist to wear the Curator's hat. Any artist who's been at it more than a few years tends to take really good care of their work.
Above is a photo of the four paintings I wrapped up in bubble wrap yesterday in preparation for their trip up today to Isalos Fine Art in Stonington, Maine. I wanted to make sure they arrive in mint condition so I make an overly sturdy box and then carefully wrap each piece so it can't wiggle around during the trip and get nasty scratches anywhere.
I learned all this the hard way.
Below is a picture of my flat file where I store work on paper that hasn't been framed yet. I purposely keep it out of my basement, which has been attacked by the water gods several times in the last fifteen years I've lived here. (I also run a dehumidifier in the basement 6 months a year to keep the paintings stored down there dry and toasty).




I've a unique vantage point as an art instructor …

Part III- Curator

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Philip Koch, Memorial II, oil on panel, 6 1/2 x 13", 2010




Philip Koch, Edward Hopper's Rooms by the Sea, oil on panel, 5 x 7 1/2", 1991, repainted 2010
I'v said there are three roles for the successful artist to master- Explorer, Magician-Builder, and Curator.
The Curator is the part of you that is the caretaker of your work. There is a physical side to this that I'll be returning to later.
Tellingly "Curator" comes from the same Latin root as the verb "to cure." As an artist you are the Curator of your vision. Likely as not it appears to you at first in bits and pieces. You gather them up, dust them off, and fit them together as best you can. Gradually you assemble them into something you can rightly call a vision. Making a painting is like making fine wine. It grows at its own pace and comes fully into season only when it's good and ready. Usually it takes way longer than one would like. A very big part of playing the Curator is to develop…

Part Two: Magician-Builder

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Philip Koch, The Birches of Maine, oil on canvas, 40 x 32", 2008
Making a painting is a double-edged sword. On the one hand you have to dive deep into that hidden part of yourself where your feelings lie. On the other, you have to pull yourself out of yourself and instead inhabit your materials and your tools.
The first part is the hardest I'm convinced. Visual art isn't primarily about ideas. Of course when art is powerful it stimulates us to think of all kinds of things, often all at once. But at its heart it is about visions. Personally I think the closest equivalent we have all experienced are the vivid dreams we have when we're alseep. Their action unfolds usually in a series of wordless images often accompanied by strong emotions. We are usually the stars.
A painting isn't literally a dream, but when it's powerfully painted, its spaces and shadows evoke the feeling that you are entering another realm. Even when it's an extremely rendered realist painti…

The Three Roles of the Artist, Part One

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Arnold Boecklin (Swiss, 1827-1901) Isle of the Dead
Got to thinking the other day about the different hats an artist must wear. You can boil it down to three: ExplorerMagician-builderCurator I'd like to talk about all three, but pick them up one at a time. First I'd like to say a little about the role of the Explorer. Artists have to be explorers of a very special type.
Art is a tool to help us make sense of our experiences out in the world. And it helps us to understand and come to peace in our inner lives. The above illustration is a painting that impressed me very much when I was a student at the Art Students League of New York. One of the five different versions the artist painted of it is in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Boecklin's painting is a chilly, although very beautiful, reminder that none of us has unlimited time. Our lives begin and then end. There's an imperative to make the most of the time we have. Artists, it seems to m…

Different Threads in my Studio

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Philip Koch, Northern Sky: Orange II, oil, 15 x 22 1/2" 2010



Philip Koch, Orchard, oil, 16 x 24", 2010
Above are two of the 21 oils on paper I just shipped off to George Billis Gallery in New York. Both were completed this year and are about the same size, but in mood and handling, they couldn't be more different.
Let me explain.
I've always loved going back into older paintings to see if I can't make them stronger. My batting average over the years of doing this has been pretty good- I'd say well over 90%. With odds like that how could you not keep re-visiting and re-arranging things. At the same time, it's critical that I maintain a sense of forward momentum too. So I like to be working on brand new projects too. As my color sense has evolved over the years towards more intense colors other changes have been afoot as well. I've stopped painting directly from life, preferring to work from vine charcoal drawings I've done outside, or sometimes out of m…

More New Children and a White Cat

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Brought five new pieces back from my framer yesterday. I feel like a proud mama who's just bought a new suit for my little boy and wants to parade him around to show him off. Like the new suit, a new frame casts a grown up light over the paintings. Especially so with the smaller oils as these were. Above is The Reach, 10 x 15".



And here above, in its fetching new attire, is Quiet Shore: Yellow, also 10 x 15". My frames are custom made in mahogany by an artist who really knows what he's doing with precise woodworking and who takes real pride in his work.
I realize my blog has been negligent in the last few months in terms of posting images of little animals. To rectify that I took a picture of my neighbor's cat Isabella yesterday gorked out on the doorstep in our East Coast heat wave. Isabella was the subject of one of my blog posts a few months ago. She tends to hang out in my garden, hiding in the bush nearest my bird feeder. Wonder what she's up to when she&…

At the Newborn Nursery

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Philip Koch, Northern Sky: Orange, oil on board, 7 x10" 2010



Philip Koch, Winter Oaks, oil on board, 8 x 10", 2010
Here's two new arrivals. Mom (that's me) sure howled a lot during their delivery, but she's alright now and the new babies are doing fine. They are resting (and drying) in the newborn nursery.
The top painting is done from memory and is another one of my hymns to the setting sun. That's one of those grand themes that so many landscape painters get seized by. I'm no exception. I'm reminded of the old line from Winslow Homer- " The sun shall not rise nor set without my notice and thanks."
The second painting is one I've been playing around with for a long time. It originally had a grey sky and an empty far distance. But the oak seemed lonely standing there in its field. I played around with various moves to give it a better supporting cast and came up with a brighter blue-green sky and a row of very dark pines for the background. …