Let's conclude my guided tour of George Billis Gallery's current show Earth's Shadow: Landscapes by Philip Koch in New York (note: like many Chelsea art district galleries, Billis Gallery is closed for their holiday break and will reopen the exhibit Jan. 2 - 19, 2013). I'm happy to report one of the major pieces in the show, Otter Cove, will be heading to its new home with some collectors in London.
Here is Northern Pines, Morning, oil on panel, 12 x 24".
It was painted on the same small pond that was the source for another oil in the show, Still Pine. My wife and I discovered the source by wandering down an unmarked dirt road on our honeymoon thirty years ago in Acadia National Park in Maine. Sheltered by the surrounding forests, the water there is always calm and can be counted on to have stunning reflections of the far shore's frieze of pines. I like to return every so often to work there.
I have to smile thinking about the first day I set up there to make this particular painting. There was a quintessentially taciturn Maine fisherman already there fishing on the narrow band of open shoreline. He eyed me doubtfully when I arrived with my equipment but managed a silent nod and went back to his fishing. Selecting a viewpoint a few feet away with my back half turned from the man, I set up my easel and paints and fell into the concentration of making a painting. It went well and I was all business for about 40 minutes. Stepping back to take a break I turned and was amazed to find my fisherman had disappeared, somehow packing up and leaving without making a sound. Nonetheless, he seemed to have given me luck and the painting continued to go well that and the successive days I returned to work on it. Guess the Muse of Art can appear to us in all kinds of guises.
Some of the crowd at the Gallery's opening reception. The Gallery hung five small oils in a long row under the window to the street. Looking at them from right to left, here is Monhegan Dawn, Emerald, oil on panel, 6 1/2 x 13".
Begun on location on Monhegan Island, Maine. The Island is 12 miles off the coast of Maine, and for generations has served as a magical beacon for American landscape painters (Edward Hopper, Rockwell Kent and a host of others of my favorite artists from the past did some amazing work there).
This is the southern tip of the small companion island, Manana, that shelters just enough of the exposed larger Monhegan Island to form a small harbor. It's completely barren rock and early in the morning can turn some remarkable pink hues as the sun is rising.
Below is Blue Mountain, oil on panel, 7 x 10 1/2". Painted in the Green Mountains in Vermont, this piece celebrates the unpredictable rhythms of these geologically ancient peaks.
Here are the final three oils in that row.
Asgaard was the mythic home of the Norse gods. Rockwell Kent, who I mentioned above as one of my favorite American artists who painted on Monhegan Island, later bought a farm in New York's Adirondack Mountains and named it Asgaard. As a boy I had gone to scout camp nearby and later worked as a teenage dishwasher in the same camp. While the camp kitchen wasn't particularly inspiring, the surrounding mountains made a deep impression on me. This is a painting totally from my memory and imagination. I return to the Adirondacks frequently to paint in that rugged area of the Northland.
The Hollow, oil on panel, 10 1/2 x 14" is a very different kind of painting, done mostly on location with my portable easel in the Texas Hill Country. I was exploring the enormous ranch of one of my major collectors and came upon this intriguing "tunnel" of bushes over a stream. I liked the way the diagonal roof of the tunnel moved across the painting and lined up with a light grey hillside in the upper left corner of the painting. Linking things together like this that at first glance might seem unconnected is one of the major delights of making paintings.
And here is Quiet Shore: Silver, painted on a tidal estuary on the Chesapeake Bay in Oxford, Maryland. What began as a sunny day painting evolved into this moodier treatment back in my studio. I had a lingering fascination with some of the fogbound mornings I've loved when painting on the Pamet River in Truro on Cape Cod, MA and those deeper tonalities eventually inserted themselves in this piece.
Here's some of the happy folks at the opening reception, (L to R, Wendy Cohen, Carol Flach, Jenny Pirc and my wife Alice).