Monday, January 31, 2011

Saying Goodbye and Saying Hello


This is my wife Alice yesterday out in Hagerstown, Maryland with my oil painting Beneath the Pine at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts (WCMFA). We were there to attend a reception and the drawing for their annual Museum Raffle. They were giving away my oil to whomever had purchased the winning ticket. As it turned out it went to a dedicated Museum volunteer who I'm told has an excellent art collection. An artist can't ask for a better home for one of his children. But, we had to say goodbye to the painting.

It was an older piece I'd painted just a few hundred yards from my studio back in the 1980's. Then last fall I'd gone back into it to clarify the picture's color and to carve out a deeper space. As I've written about on this blog before, this working method seems to click for me. This time too I was able to boost the painting up to a higher level. So I'm sending it out into the world in the best shape possible. To my new collector, welcome aboard. And to the painting I'll say behave yourself and have a long, long life. (What a pleasure to have some children likely to live 500 years. or much more with a little luck). 

Speaking of saying hello, here's what's on my easel this morning in the studio.

Like the previous painting, this is a canvas from a few years back. It's From Day to Night, oil on canvas, 36 x 72" and was originally painted in 2003. It was displayed in solo shows I had at the Cape Cod Museum of Art in Dennis, MA and at the University of Maryland University College that year. After that I took it out of circulation and let is rest. For the last few years we've been eyeing each other, trying to decide what comes next.

A couple of blog posts ago I showed the small oil on panel study I had just painted as a potential guide for how I might work back into this painting. You can see it resting on the easel just in front of the big canvas. Mostly I wanted to re-arrange the layers of clouds to achieve a more delicate balance. And I wanted to restrain the color in the sky as well. While I don't want to say too much about this as the art gods might be listening (and they love to punish artists who get to far ahead of themselves), it's going well and I'm hopeful to complete it shortly. It may make its debut this July when my traveling exhibition,
Unbroken Thread: The Art of Philip Koch opens at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News, Virginia.

We on the East Coast of the US had a big snow last week. I stole a photo off of the WCMFA Facebook page (that I suspect was taken by their inveterate in house photographer and Assistant Curator, Jennifer Chapman Smith). I really liked how it showed the Museum right after the big snowfall.  



The WCMFA is building an enclosed glass roof over their interior courtyard. Just a couple of weeks ago the steel beams were hoisted into place. Here's how they looked yesterday. I was surprised how high up the glass ceiling will be. It's going to be a delightful addition to the Museum


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Love Letters













Philip Koch, Great Dunes, oil, 36 x 72"

I woke up in the middle of the night with a clear thought in my head. It was like the old cartoon of the lightbulb going off. "The job of an artist is to find things to fall in love with."

Why I was thinking this at 3 a.m.?  I have no idea.

In a world rife with alienation, disengagement, and just plain numbness, we need some of the opposite- somebody showing us that meaning, excitement, and beauty are real things. They're vital to our well being. And curiously we humans seem to forget this all the time.

In mid eighties I did a series of major paintings of the huge sand dunes in Provincetown, Massachusetts on Cape Cod. In real life the dunes have a massive, looming peronality. My first painting was done from a distance and focused on the dunes' distinctive silhouettes (that's always a good place to look first). But the following year I went back and set my easel up much closer to the subject. From this viewpoint the outer contours of the dune were understated. I was going to have to find something else to carry the expressive weight of the painting.

One thing I could get into was the pattern of the foliage against the bare sands. I got out my mental clippers and cleared out any stray grasses. I love Cape Cod for its sand. White sand shows the color change of the highlights and the shadows much better than ordinary darker soil. So it makes sense to cast the empty sand in a starring role. I pushed the highlights a little warmer in color and the shadows a little cooler than they actually were. Remember we're trying to hook the viewers' interest so a little theater is called for.

The scrubby bushes suggested an erratic and fascinating pattern breaking up the monolithic dune. But this was too subtle to give the viewer a vivid experience. So I carefully exaggerated the patterns. The top edge of the darkest bushes looked a little like the broken teeth of a comb. Increased contrasts there made an edgy rhythm to play off against the softer rounded sandy forms.

A final delight for me was the spectrum of greens in the bushes. Pushing some of them darker and more towards an inky blue green ramped up the drama of the hillside.

It's like falling in love with a person- you want something a little beyond the ordinary in the object of your affection. Just anyone won't do. And a painting of just any hillside isn't going to catch a hold of the viewers. By definition love is memorable, unique. My job in making this painting was to explore the dune and find something unexpected to ravish my viewers eyes. Good lighting, a little make up. Hey, we're casting a net for the viewers' hearts.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Peek in my Studio















Philip Koch, From Day to Night, oil, 6 1/2 x 13', 2011

In my studio there's a six foot wide oil on the easel titled From Day to Night. It's from a few years ago and has been "resting" after being in solo exhibitions I had at the Cape Cod Museum of Art and at the University of Maryland University College in 2003. That's a long time to nap. I keep a fair amount of my paintings in my studio. Many are completed, some are almost finished, there's a few I'm uncertain where they're headed, Oddly, these strange urges steal over me and I'll find a certain painting just calling out to me to put her on the easel and start working. And so it was last week with this From Day to Night oil.

Above is a small oil painting I did as an alternative to the composition of the sky in that large canvas. Sometimes you see a way to make a good painting better. One tip toes out on thin ice whenever one goes back into older work- there's always the chance you'll ruin what you had. And I have done that occasionally, but far more often I come away with a stronger painting in the end. In fact, about 95% of the time when I re-work an older piece it ends up stronger. Them's good odds.



Philip Koch, From Day to Night, vine charcoal, 7 x 14", 2011


One way I keep those odds high is waiting until an insight comes clearly to mind about what it is a painting needs. So even though my wife insists I'm the most impatient person she knows, this is an area where I won't just charge in with both guns blazing. I make myself work as if I'm a patient person. Only when what looks like a good idea has crystalized in my mind's eye do I start to make my move.

I paint small alternative versions of other ways a composition might be pushed. Both of the above illustrations are just that. The vine charcoal was actually done first while looking at the older six foot painting. Then I tried it in oil on a small masonite panel.





Here's the way my studio looked this morning. On the white easel at the right are the small oil and the small vine charcoal. I like to sit at a distance in my rocking chair and look at all three versions at once, mulling over the possibilities. 

A large canvas has a sweep and drama like nothing else- but it takes a long time to paint. Ironically, you are more free to experiment on a really small canvas. Nothing is as much fun for me as bouncing down to a smaler scale where I can try things out in minutes instead of hours (or days). On a small surface a single brushstroke can suggest a whole bank of clouds. Little accidents happen as you handle the paint, and you find at least some of them are better than what you had originally had in mind. 

When I was six my father drove me down from Rochester, New York to the harbor in Baltimore where we were to board an overnight ferry to Norfolk, Virginia. I saw tug boats for the first time and asked my dad what they were. He explained to me the huge ocean going ships were great on the high seas, but in the close quarters of the harbor they weren't maneuverable. With their massive weight they were likely to crash right through the docks. So instead these diminutive tug boats teamed up to nudge the large ships into their proper berth. It's a good idea on the water. And it's a great idea in the studio.


Friday, January 21, 2011

Dance Steps in Painting


I'm visiting some older paintings this month. The Philadelphia painter Josephy Sweeney inspired me to get my old 35mm slides digitally scanned, suggesting I try one of the commercially available scanning services  (as it's a nasty time consuming job). Just got back the first batch of scans and they're sending me back in time. 

Two of images caught my eye, above a vine charcoal drawing from of the tree outside my studio window just after a heavy snow, and below a 44 x 55" oil, a studio painting done from a smaller plein air study from a field north of Houston, Texas.

I grew up in a family with good people in it but with some real peculiarities- nobody was into music. I don't think I ever heard my parents so much as turn on the radio. Time passes, things change. Years later I find myself a painter. And I even like to dance.

Humans everywhere invented a culture of dancing even before they came up with written language. Buried in our shared psyche must be some wiring that connects moving our bodies with the movement of our emotions. 

The drawing at the top of the page is in its way a dance lesson. You know when something you're looking at strikes a chord within you, and so it was with this tree. This drawing is about the physical act of a painter swinging his arm to describe the heavy snow pulling downward against the springy branches of a large pine tree. Telling about a swirling descent into what...a change in mood, getting to the bottom of a question, memories of the past? And the way the drawing twists and bends as it moves your eye downwards is part of the story. 

Below is very different picture. I was down in East Texas for one of my exhibitions at Meredith Long & Co. in Houston. Naturally I took my paints and spent a few days exploring. Down there they have a variety of pine that's taller and more spindly than the northerly evergreens I'm used to. Their trunks bear only a few branches, and those seem to cluster just at their very tops. Otherwise your eye is uninterrupted  as it follows their gesture upwards. At first they look like pure vertical columns, but then you notice they bend in subtle arcs like the delicate bones of a bird's wing. 

Walking under these trees felt a little like entering a Renaissance cathedral where all the architecture's lines force your eye to ascend to the barrel vaulted ceiling. So I did a painting about those rhythms of  pines that were so good at pulling my eyes up to the heavens. A totally different kind of movement than the snowy drawing above and it stirred up in me a very different set of feelings. While I'm not a religious person, I decided a perfect title for the oil was Cathedral.



Sometimes in the studio I like to blast my music. More often I work in silence these days. Maybe that's because as I paint I'm struggling to hear something else. Painting has a long tradition of moving to its own unique music-  paintings are recordings of how the artist's brush taps, sweeps, swells, diminishes  Go to a museum and look for awhile- you realize it's like an grand old dancehall that never really stays quiet or still.













Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Why I Paint the Way I Do




We find ourselves when we look at art. A painting is always a self portrait, both of the artist and of the viewer. Here are two paintings. One by the famous Pop artist Andy Warhol and the other by myself. I'll give you a minute to see if you can figure out which is which.

Way back in the late 1960's I was sitting in a modern art history class at Oberlin College and the top image (if you guessed that was the Warhol you're sharp as a tack) was being discussed by the lecturer, a then famous art historian who taught at the school. She made the expected commentary about how Warhol was holding up the mirror to show us our mass production corporate culture. And I got her point- honestly I think it was hard to miss. 

But then she said something further that really got my attention. She claimed that in addition to his critique of our society Warhol was creating a visually stunning painting with subtle shifts in the  colors between each soup can. This added an extra stratum of visual meaning. 

No matter how hard I looked I couldn't see even a whisker's difference between one soup can and its neighbor. There was a lot of hoopla surrounding Warhol that had more to do with his celebrity and the goofy blonde "fright wig" he would wear in public than his stature as a painter. I decided Pop Art and I were going to have to part ways.

The other painting above is my Deep Forest Pool, oil on panel, 32 x 40", 2011. Like the Warhol it is a shallow space and many of its trees line up in rows like Andy's soup cans. Obviously it draws inspiration from some artists from our past- in fact it is a subject that could easily have attracted a Winslow Homer, the excellent late 19th century American painter. 

There is a mystery and a poetry to the deep woods. Remember our very distant ancestors were arboreal creatures. I'm convinced deep within us traces of that early identity echo on. We may have built cities, but leaves and branches still live on in our bones. As long as there are forests there is going to be a need for contemporary artists to interpret them for us. An artist working in 2011 of necessity sees a little differently than an artist working in the 1930's or back in the preceeding century.

I want my images of the forest to be something deep and resonant with feeling, so I worked literally for months on this painting making subtle adjustments in its colors. To take just one example, the colored greys in the various tree trunks. Two fallen trunks submerge in ink dark water. They each have toned down highlights as I want your eye to move past them and be caught by the three standing birches on the far shore. These are the lead "dancers", spotlighted as they lean gently to the right. 

Unlike the soup cans, I make them individuals. Each gestures a little differently as your eye travels up their length to the top of the painting. Then the supporting cast of smaller trunks make an opposing movement, gesturing up to the left. They have their highlights held back to keep from stealing the show from the leading dancers.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

My Studio Cat Returns


Happily, my faithful animal companion, Fluffy, returned to my studio today. This is good as it felt lonely while he was away. Here he is waiting patiently by his bowl this afternoon. Now I am sure painting will go better once again.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

More Photos from Edward Hopper's Cape Cod Studio


Here's a Hopper oil from the 1930's, Hill, South Truro, now in the Cleveland Museum of Art. More than any other painting I know it captures the look of the area around Hopper's Truro studio in the years he lived there from the '30's until the '60's.  

I was asked to post the rest of the photos I've taken up in and around Hopper's studio and provide some commentary, and that follows. I now have all 36 such photos gathered together in one place on my website. That means you can visit the largest collection of original photographs of Hopper's studio online by visiting my website's Hopper Studio page.





This is looking at the Hopper studio from its north side. My wife Alice is walking up the path that winds its way down to the beach on Cape Cod Bay. Hopper used to walk down this path to go swimming, typically usually alone. A lot of the time it's really windy up on the top of this dune.



                                             

This is the view looking back up at the studio from that path leading down to the beach.



Here's Alice drinking coffee sitting in Hopper's kitchen (she's always cold when we go up there so she's clutching the cup). The chairs and table are Hopper's.




And this is a viewer view of the kitchen with the open door leading to the stairs down the steep hillside to the driveway. How's that for "Hopper light"!




And here's the other side of the kitchen. The lettering on the coffee cup reads "Truro."






This is the view of Hopper's painting room. He used to have his easel stationed just to the right of the large studio window. The window originally had many separate panes of glass but their collective weight caused the window to sag over time, leading to some of the glass cracking. So the entire window had to be replaced with modern glass. It still provides the fabulous unchanging north light all day long in the studio.




Here's Hopper's easel (now placed in the corner of the room to the left of the large window in the previous photo). Hopper's easel was an ordinary upright easel just like the ones widely in use today. Hanging on the easel is one of his painting shirts and one of his hats. Hanging off the right side of the easel is Hopper's mahlstick (painter's stick, used to steady the artist's hand when doing details- Hopper's was a nice, tapered, rounded and a nice rubber ball on the end). I had placed some of the pastel drawings I was working on on the easel to study them.



Here's me painting in the studio in front of the painting room's doorway looking out to Cape Cod Bay. At the left is the doorway to Hopper's bedroom.




Here's my wife Alice in front of that same doorway. This is the doorway that inspired Hopper's famous oil Rooms by the Sea.




Hopper's bedroom viewed from the painting room. The bedroom is very small with two tiny closets. Hopper saved all the available space in the structure to let his painting room take up fully half the house.
That didn't leave much room for everything else, so the bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom are tiny. It's funny as Hopper was something like 6' 6", so he must have barely fit.







Hopper's studio viewed from the beginning of the path that leads up the hill from the beach on Cape Cod Bay. It's quite a hike- try carrying an easel loaded with oil paints up it sometime.





This is the view of the studio from the "main" road- a rutted sandy dirt road you have to drive on slowly. That's the top of Hopper's sandy driveway at the left.








This is the south side of the house- the window at the left is the bedroom, the right window is the kitchen. And that's the main entrance to the studio through the kitchen at the far right.






The south side of the studio, Hopper's clothesline, and at the left the steps to a deck that was built by the studio's present owner in 1983.





The southwest corner of the studio, the added deck. The adirondack chairs were Hopper's. In the far distance the thin finger of land is Provincetown jutting out into Cape Cod Bay.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Edward Hopper Studio (popular demand) & a serious thought


My intention to say something about painting was interrupted by a couple of requests to post even more of the photos I took up at Hopper's studio on Cape Cod last September. I was going to refuse, but one particularly desperate Hopper addict kidnapped my studio cat Fluffy and won't return him until I post some more photos. I surrender...

Above are the steps leading from Hopper's garage up the steep side of the dune to the studio. We are looking at the east side of the structure. These steps are new, Hopper's were much more modest. For the life of me I don't know how they got the furniture up there in Hopper's day.



And here above is the main entrance to the studio that leads into the kitchen. It's on the south side of the house, and the shingle covered walls surrounding the modest landing are a new addition- in Hopper's day there was just a simple staircase.

OK, maybe now I can sneak in what I'd meant to write about (actually it fits right in). We're looking at the place where Hopper painted a lot of his masterpieces. He did some very significant aesthetic "heavy lifting" in this studio. 

What is it that a painter is doing, anyway, when they pull off a significant painting?  Well I think Hopper was providing for a special need we humans have. We're hungry for a sense of meaning- we're not quite sure what that is, but we're still gripped with the need to feel it.

There are brief moments when the usual veil of confusion lifts and we suddenly grasp a connection between things that we'd thought unconnected. It's almost as if we overhear the whisper of a previously secret conversation that's been going on all along. Seizing that and giving it a form that can be shared with others has been the task of artists through the centuries. 

And Hopper did a lot of that right here. His Cape Cod studio proved to be an extraordinary place. Here he found the unique light and forms to be able to share some of his moments of special discovery with us. That so many different people respond so deeply to the work he did here means this modest little house is an "historic landmark" of our art history.



Above is the doorway leading out from the painting room to the west towards Cape Cod Bay, which lies far below the lofty height of the studio. This is the doorway that inspired Hopper's major oil Rooms by the Sea that's now in Yale's art museum. The love seat-type bench was Hopper's and the artist posed sitting on it outside in front of his studio's north window in the famous photo by Arnold Newman. It's reproduced in my previous blog post and you can see it there. (Some readers might remember that photo with this bench appearing on the cover of the New York Times Magazine some years back). At the right is one of the elaborate decorated chairs the Hopper's bought on one of their two trips to Mexico (if I have the story right).

Lastly here's the big painting room at dawn. Again we're looking west out towards Cape Cod Bay. The early morning sun shines into the studio  hits one of the drawings I was working on. When Hopper built the studio in 1934 Cape Cod was much more denuded of trees than now. But even today the studio stands exposed at the top of a sand dune with nothing to cast shadows over it. So literally the first and last rays of the sun are visible from the many-windowed studio. In my mind I think Hopper designed the place as an observatory where he could study the sunlight. And he proved a very good student indeed.



(I was just contacted by the cat's kidnappers and they say they're not satisfied and that I'll have to post still more photos before they'll agree to return Fluffy. My thought is Jeez guys, get a life, but I'd better put some more pictures up in a day or two or I may start running out of fresh cat fur in my studio).

Saturday, January 8, 2011

For all the Edward Hopper Maniacs Out There



For all you people who are Edward Hopper addicts (trust me, I am one of you), I collected a large number of new photographs I took during my last residency at the Hopper studio on Cape Cod and put them together in the same place- the "Hopper Studio" page on my website. Most had been posted on blogs I wrote last year, but it seemed fitting to have them all together.




Hopper lived and worked half the year in this building he designed himself to be his working studio from 1934 until near his death in 1967.  

Many of the most iconic Hopper painting were made here. The studio exists pretty much the same form Hopper intended it. I know many are curious to get more of a grasp of Hopper the person and how he made his art. His beautiful yet modest studio lives on as a clue to this essential American genius.



All 18 of the photos were taken in September 2010 in the Truro, Massachusetts studio overlooking Cape Cod Bay. This was my 13th residency in the Hopper studio since 1983. Hope you enjoy them.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Animals in my Studio!

Y



I came downstairs this morning to my studio and this is the view that greeted me.

This is my cat. He is my constant companion when I'm working in the studio. Mostly keeps me company but rarely intrudes. Sometimes I wonder what he thinks about the paintings I'm making. Probably, as cats are such keen observers of what they see, he would have great advice for me about the paintings. So far though, he keeps his suggestions to himself, so much so that I've come to wonder if he cares much for painting at all.

Yet he's old and stiff- for him to drag himself over to the window and nose open the blinds to look out makes me realize he's a sensitive guy after all.  

Yesterday I had taken the painting I've been working on for weeks off the easel and hung it on the wall in my front room. And the cat, prophetically, is looking out the window, wondering what we should paint next. You have to admire that in a cat, this eagerness to always see what's coming around the next bend. I'll have to see if I can't get something really special happening on the easel for him.

Here's the painting that was on the easel, Deep Forest Pool, oil on panel, 32 x 40", 2011. 


Down at the bottom of the photo are two of the studio cat's closest friends, an unnamed bird at left and Bob the Rabbit at right.


Monday, January 3, 2011

White Spots Before Your Eyes


John Singer Sargent,  (American, sort of, 1856 1925) A Boating Party, oil, 1889

Here are three great oils I saw this fall in the RISD Art Museum in Providence, RI when I was driving home from my last residency in Edward Hopper's studio on Cape Cod. All three were painted between 1898-1900.

Paintings teach us about new ways of seeing. In the Sargent above, squint your eyes at the picture and see how its surface is mostly an overall grey-green tone. Popping out of that middle tone are a handful of bright white spots in the boating party's clothes. Not quite as dramatic are the small off-white spots of the sky.

Like someone hopping across a stream by stepping on a few exposed stones, Sargent positions his spots of white to create a distinctive rhythm. Imagine how the painting would collapse if the artist had allowed a lot more highlights to creep into his picture. It's a radical painting in that way.



Winslow Homer (American1836-1910), On a Lee Shore, oil, 1900

The next year Winslow Homer turned out this stormy ocean scene. Again like the Sargent, it's mostly a middle grey painting, though the whites and off whites now claim much more territory. Squinting at the canvas's overall design, one sees Homer creating a giant checkerboard pattern over the water's surface. The waves in front lean to the left, those in the background lean the other way.

Here's a little design idea Homer uses that's just great. At the left in the foreground, a wall of white spray shoots upwards. Trace your eye along the two right-most points on that vertical spray of water. They connect along an imaginary diagonal line that is exactly at a right angle to the diagonal lines running through the foreground white water.

Mirroring this in the distance, the masts of the ship point upwards along a diagonal of their own, again exactly at a right angle to the wave lifting the ship's hull. This device of implied 90 degree angles hidden among diagonal forms is unconsciously attractive and reassuring to the human mind. It runs all through the history of art. When it's done well, as Homer does it, it looks completely natural.




John White Alexander (American, 1856-1915) The Blue Bowl, oil, 1898

And finally a year before Homer's seascape, John White Alexander gives us a third alternative with how he handles white against dark. Here the background has grown deeper in tone, and the foreground is almost completely filled by the lovely whites of the woman's gown. It's almost as if she's trying to push all the darks out of the picture. In the upper right hand corner the right-most edge of the woman's sleeve, her hand holding the blue bowel, and her protruding jaw zig-zag against  the dark background. It's sharp and powerful in a painting where you'd expect only soft, rustling silks. 

All three of these painters found something special in their subject and then found a way to show it to us viewers. They understood the expressive power possible in playing off darks against whites. It's a very good exercise to concentrate your eyes on just light and dark, ignoring everything else.  Try to do it a dozen times a day just for fun. Surely these three artists practiced seeing this way a lot.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Poison Ivy's Enduring Beauty


Late in September  we often take a painting trip to Cape Cod, sometimes to stay and work in the Edward Hopper studio in Truro. As we live in the mid-Atlantic area where summer lingers, the trip north is often our first big hit of Fall. Nothing looks as startling as the burning reds you see that time of year on the Cape Cod dunes. Trouble is, it's poison ivy. It's beauty is of a deep oily burnished red. You have to appreciate from afar. Above is a sample of that tricky little plant I took last Fall in Eastham, MA, the town where Edward Hopper painted his gorgeous oil Route 6, Eastham that I discussed in my previous post. 

I can think of other kinds of beauty that you can't just run out and embrace. Green plants can stare at the sun all day. If we try it, it can blind us. So instead we look at it obliquely, appreciating it by watching how it shines on objects and casts long shadows. Like sunlight, the same sort of attraction can hit you when you're looking at the work of a truly great artist. It can be a little overwhelming.

For me Edward Hopper is like that. Years ago he was a guide for me, leading me out of a confused swamp of abstract paintings I was doing. I saw the sense of light he could paint and I just had to shoot for similar results. It led to lots of paintings of victorian style houses that I'm extremely proud of. Years passed and I came to feel too confined by imitating Hopper directly. So I made a decision to do paintings whose recipe couldn't be found in the Hopper cookbook. That said, I still find Hopper's paintings seductively beautiful and look at them a lot, just like the rust and ruby foliage of Cape Cod's autumnal poison ivy. 

On our way home from the Hopper studio last Fall we stopped in at the Rhode Island School of Design Art Museum. It's a place with a great permanent collection and perhaps the wackiest layout I've ever seen in a museum. Just try not to get lost.


Here's a William Bradford, Arctic Sunset, an oil from 1874 from the RISD Museum. I like it in part because it reminds me of the huge winter ice formations that would form in my neighborhood on the shore of Lake Ontario. As kids we'd play all over them, but one had to be careful not to slip and slide into the freezing waters. My neighbor's dog Gigi did just that and drowned. Afterwards we kids realized our parents' warnings to be careful on the ice weren't just idle talk. 


Bradford's painting relies of the giant ice formations for much of its strength. But the artist was sharp enough to design into his composition a contrasting rhythm in the shapes of open water slicing through the foreground ice. 


While we're on Cape Cod I paint my brains out and my hard-working wife Alice takes a well deserved break from her job at the mental hospital. At night we do the real tourist thing and go eat in one of Provincetown's restaurants. Our favorite is Napi's. Below is one of the restaurant's resident cats,  greeting customers for the dinner hour.




And here's a picture of Alice getting blown away by a blast of wind off Cape Cod  Bay. That's Hopper's studio in the background. Old Hopper picked some pretty nice real estate for himself, didn't he.



And here's another painter I love but who I try not to imitate, George Inness. This is In the Berkshire Hills, oil, 1877-78, another painting we saw on our swing through the RISD Museum. Inness had mastered a technique of dry brushing some of his edges- that is, letting tiny dots of paint spill out onto adjoining areas of color. It gives his work almost an instant atmosphere. He could handle this beautifully, but there are some contemporary painters who take this method and go hog wild with it, making paintings that are atmospheric and mechanical looking at the same time. 

I love Inness. At his best, and I think this one in the RISD Collection is a good example, he could blend together a sense of massive weight and scale, feathery textures, moving clouds, and poignant sunlight. This is the sort of painting one can study for hours and I recommend that artists do just that. We can learn from Inness without having to be Inness. 




Here's a photo Alice took of me on that same painting trip to the Cape. It's in the little town of Wellfleet by the rickety Uncle Tim's Bridge that takes you across an inlet in the harbor. I've just finished painting for the day and we're probably headed to Provincetown to go out to dinner. As you can see, I'm having a terrible time, intensely suffering for my art.