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Showing posts from March, 2012

Inside Edward Hopper's Truro Studio Exhibit

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Last week I took eight small paintings up to Nyack, New York for Edward Hopper House Art Center's intimate show of my work opening this coming Saturday, March 31 through May 1, 2012. Titled Inside Edward Hopper's Truro Studio: Paintings by Philip Koch, the show features interior views of Hopper's studio on Cape Cod where I've had the honor of having 13 residencies since 1983. 
These are some of a long series of interiors I've painted while staying there. There's a reception from 5-7 p.m. on Saturday. Following at 7 I'm giving a slide talk "Three Things You Didn't Know About Edward Hopper" (suggested donation $5.). There are aspects of Hopper I feel I can shed some light on. Hope many readers of this blog can come by to the talk and/or the show.
Above is the poster my graphic designer daughter Susan made for the show- it's a view of Hopper's Truro studio early in the morning back in Sept. of 2010. On the far side of the hill is the open e…

Rockwell Kent, A Master At Teaching How To See.

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The earth, and everything on it is always moving. That's the problem, and the opportunity, for landscape painters.
What I've talking about is that landscape forces an artist to be an activist. There is so much out there within the space you are painting, most of it constantly shifting darker or lighter and waving in the breeze.  To paint that you have to take charge. If you don't you don't get a painting to happen. 
Above is a Rockwell Kent (American, 1882-1971) oil from Monhegan Island off the coast of Maine. If you remove the white capped waves, you're left with a dreadful painting. Kent has chosen to pull all the other tones down into a dark middle grey or darker so you really need those two key white accents. Kent played around with the shape of those whitecaps. They have two very differing silhouettes, each moving across the painting surface in its own trajectory. I think these white waves feel alive and hint at  having distinct personalities. 
Below is a Kent wo…

Charles Burchfield, Edward Hopper's Rare Friend

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Edward Hopper was friends with few other artists and rarely spoke highly of their work. An exception was Charles Burchfield (American 1893-1967, ironically the same year Hopper died).  Wrote Hopper "The work of Charles Burchfield is most decidedly founded, not on art, but on life, and life that he knows and loves best." It is impressive that someone like Hopper, whose work was in some ways so different than Burchfield's, would express such enthusiasm for his friend's watercolors. 
What Hopper was getting at was that Burchfield placed extraordinary value on his direct experience. And looking closely at Burchfield's watercolors you can share in much of what the man felt. I always tell my students that our job as artists is to notice the things of value that everyone else has overlooked. Nobody fits that description better than Burchfield.
His is an art that's about the gesture of grasses stirred by the breeze, the glare of sunlight, and even the noises made by in…

A Mystery About Edward Hopper.

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Here's one of the works that will be in Edward Hopper House Art Center's upcoming exhibit Inside Edward Hopper's Studio: Works by Philip Koch. It's Easel and Open Door, Edward Hopper's Truro Studio, oil on panel, 7 1/2 x 10", 2012. It was begun several years ago up in Hopper's studio on Cape Cod and I made some important adjustments to it just in the last few days.

Below is myvine charcoal done standing in a slightly different spot in Hopper's painting room, Easel, Edward Hopper's Studio,  10 x 12 1/2" from 2002.





And below is a photo taken standing in almost the same spot just as the first rays of the day's sunlight pierced the studio.  A few of my other drawings I was working on at the time leaning against some of the furniture.




And here's a photo I've shown before of his bedroom at left and the door leading out from Hopper's painting room to Cape Cod Bay. 



One of the things I find so fascinating about Hopper was his failure to pa…

Unlearning a Bad Lesson from the Past

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Searching through my flat file drawers for another drawing this week, I ran across an early drawing I made, Edward Hopper's Kitchen, vine charcoal, 8 x 10", 2002. This is the tiny table and chairs Hopper sat at to eat his meals in his S.Truro, Massachusetts studio.  It's funny as Hopper was 6'5" tall and the idea of him squeezing his lanky frame into this tiny space makes me laugh. The kitchen is so small that to get this view I had to back up and set up my French easel in the adjoining bedroom. Hopper was a guy who put painting first, and when he designed his Cape Cod studio he lavishly devoted most of the space to his painting room. The rest of the studio makes you wonder if it wasn't designed as a doll house.

Long ago when I was just starting to learn to paint at Oberlin College, I shared a studio space with another student who was a year ahead of me. She was energetic and articulate and loved abstract expressionist painting. She insisted  "you have to…

Big Lessons from Lawren Harris' Small Paintings

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As I wrote in the previous blog, I was up in Canada last week and saw a knockout collection of Lawren Harris paintings at the Art Gallery of Ontario. It prompted me to do some cruising of other Harris paintings and I came across these two little studies. Both small scale oils. I think they're delightful.

Harris left us some time ago, but people still feel drawn to his work. It has an emotional "rightness" to it and a wonderful energy. Now there are a lot of reasons for this but one of them, I believe, was he took small paintings seriously. So often, most often, new ideas come to us not with cymbals crashing and  bands playing. They like to steal in from the sidelines into an artist's awareness, usually on tip toe. If you're not listening closely you can miss them altogether. Even the best ideas start small. There's a place for such modest beginnings.

In his oil study above look at how he spotlights the ochre yellow leaves up front. In comparison everything e…