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Showing posts from July, 2013

My First Art School was a Sandbox

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The first four years of my life we lived a house with a sandbox in our backyard. It was a substantial wooden construction that my parents had replenished with new sand by the time I, the youngest of three, came along. Pulling my hands across the sand's soft surface delighted my tiny fingers. And best of all were the amazing patterns that magically emerged on the sand in my fingers' wake. In a funny way, that sandbox was my first art school.




Humans have been "playing in the dirt" like that for our whole history. It's embedded in minds, this love of making simple shapes and patterns on a flat surface. Here above is an oil by Willem de Kooning (1904 - 1997). In addition to being vividly colored, the painting shows some of that "sandbox playfulness" with the artist dragging his brush, scratching back over previously drawn shapes, wiping out and so on. Looked at as a design on a flat surface, the painting has a certain appeal. Also the woman's spacey expr…

Busy Times in the Studio

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Events conspire, good events mind you, against serious blogging this week. Had a crew come in and paint my studio and home from top to bottom. It looks great, but there's been a lot of moving of paintings and equipment to allow it to happen. Time consuming, but the studio has never looked so fresh and inviting...

My painting above, Deep Forest Pool, oil on panel, 32 x 40" is now hanging in the Annual Members Exhibition at the Academy Art Museum over in Easton, Maryland. It's a piece done entirely from imagination and memory of my boyhood in the northern forests.

Last Sunday my wife Alice and I drove over to hear Peter Trippi, Editor of Fine Art Connoisseurmagazine, give a great talk and slide presentation on contemporary realist painting. He kindly included my own work in his talk. 

That's Peter on the left below at the Academy Art Museum. For anyone interested in the links between historic realist painting and realist painting today I don't think you'll find ano…

Are There Rules in Art?

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Philip Koch, Inland, oil on canvas, 45 x 60", 2008, George Billis Gallery, New York

Are there rules in art? The short answer: yes.

I grew up in the northern woods along the shore of Lake Ontario. It was gorgeous. It looked a lot like my painting above. As a setting for a childhood it was amazingly vivid. Almost all my paintings today echo my memories of those days.

When I was a kid we played outside in all kinds of weather every day. Some of the games were competitive, and with them I noticed an odd pattern. Even though we were just playing, agreeing ahead of time what rules we would follow ended up being a lot more fun. Having some rules curiously heightened the drama.

Imagine a baseball game where one team got three tries at bat and their opponents could swing away as long as they liked. It would be pretty dull.

There is by now a well known story of how modernism swept through the art world in Europe. Painters like Manet started borrowing the unorthodox compositions of Japanese pri…

Brandywine River Museum- Rockwell Kent, Jamie Wyeth

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At least once a year I have to get up to one of my favorite museums that's mercifully close to my Baltimore studio, the Brandwine River Museum in Chadds Ford, PA. Cozily Tucked away on the wooded banks of the Brandywine River, the Museum is housed in a renovated 19th century grist mill and it celebrates its former self in a delightful way. Last week my wife and I drove up to see the Brandywine's just opened exhibition Jamie Wyeth, Rockwell Kent, and Monhegan (the show runs through Nov. 17, 2013). Part of the show is work by Kent owned by Jamie Wyeth. Other paintings are on loan from the Plattsburgh State Art Museum, the major repository of Kent's work.
The charismatic painter and teacher Robert Henri (Am. 1865-1929) visited Monhegan, one of the farthest out to sea islands off the coast of Maine and was enchanted by the place. Never one to keep his opinions to himself, Henri urged his students to go and spend time on the island and paint. Edward Hopper (Am. 1882- 1967) was o…

Pig Bladders, Drawing, and a Visit with Thomas Cole

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Here's a new vine charcoal drawing I did while at the Thomas Cole  National Historic Site in Catskill, NY in June. It's titled simply Catskill. It was done from the same vista of the Catskill Mountains that Thomas Cole used for several of his paintings, including this one, View Near the Village of Catskill.




Here's my wife Alice standing in front of the same view, heavily back lit by the late afternoon sun. The particular mountains Cole and I chose to focus on are just above Alice's head in the photo.



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Here I am working on my drawing on the Thomas Cole house's front porch that faces that dramatic panorama of the Catskills. One great advantage of working with vine charcoal instead of oil pigments in a sensitive location such as this is my vine charcoal medium doesn't leave a trace on any on the surrounding surfaces. A tiny gust of wind and even the tiniest charcoal particles are history.







Here's the drawing in-progress sitting on the front porch of Cole's hou…

The Birthplace of American Landscape Painting- Thomas Cole's Studio

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Who doesn't want to feel a part of something bigger than ourselves? That's always been at the heart of landscape painting, an art form that is most often a hymn of praise to our earthly planet.
Above is one of my favorite paintings, Schroon Mountain by the first great American painter who turned his focus on the look and feel of the wilderness, Thomas Cole (1801-1848). When I was in my grad school painting program from 1970-72 at Indiana University I got a hold of a book that had a splendidly colored reproduction of this painting. This painting was one of the spurs that propelled me into becoming a landscape artist myself. 
Cole's oil (from 1838, now in the Cleveland Museum of Art) depicts a mountain in New York State's Adirondacks. I feel it is one of Cole's best. The artist masterfully breaks up what could have been a monotonous jumble of 10,000 individual trees into dramatically contrasting large shapes. He cleverly plays off a spotlighted and highly textured fore…