Surprised on the Cape
Last week I was up staying in Edward Hopper's painting studio on Cape Cod. Above is a photo of the studio up on the top of what's actually a quite tall sand dune with its garage just below. Behind the studio is the unseen expanse of Cape Cod Bay. This is the view from the "main" road, a very bumpy and pot-holed sandy thing that only adds to the mystique of the place.
My residencies in the studio are usually peak painting times for me, and this week was no disappointment. But as so often happens with art making, what I intended to do and what actually came out of the kitchen were entirely different. Several years ago I did a long series of paintings and pastels of the studio's interior. Here's one of my favorites:
Philip Koch, Truro Studio Bedroom
pastel, 14 x 7"
I hadn't done any more studio interior pieces the last few times we were at the Hopper studio and I was itching to try some more. So the first day there I set up my easel in the painting room and charged away at a view of a chair placed in front of the studio's tall north-facing window. The view was packed full of potential and I knew I could do something good with it. About 10 minutes into working a feeling I know well subtly stole into my head. My intuition was trying to tell me something.
It's not that I hear an actual voice, but I get the distinct feeling I have been warned to stop what I'm doing. Somehow some part of my mind knows I'm on the wrong track and need to get off it quickly. In the past when I've ignored its advice, artistic disasters resulted, sometimes painful ones. Maybe about some things I'm a slow learner, but I learned to listen to this "voice."
Chastened, I gathered my materials and headed for my car. And the rest of the week I worked outside. Me and whatever that voice is, we had a great, productive time.
This above is a vine charcoal, pastel, and acrylic paint piece done about a half mile from Hopper's place on Old County Road, a view Hopper would have passed daily.
And here's another vine charcoal, pastel, and acrylic paint piece, done up the hill on Old County Road and even closer to the studio. To get anywhere from Hopper's studio you have to drive through this canyon of foliage.
These colored drawings will be serving as the basis for oil paintings that I'll be starting over the next few days. I'm completely surprised by what I ended up doing on this trip to the Cape. But artists have to deal with what's unexpected, and I'm glad I did. A half dozen strong pieces came out of a week's work. Whatever that voice is that gives me advice, I'm glad I listened.