Memories of John Constable, George Inness, and my Early Days as a Painter

Philip Koch, Deep Forest Pool, oil on panel, 30 x 40", 2011

A lot of my paintings are based on memory, sometimes of a place, other times of just the feeling that a place installed in me. 

A painting is never just what is seems. It comes with baggage, but often of the very best sort. After a few years as an abstract painter when I first started out I became intrigued with the 19th century painters who loved the landscape. John Constable and George Inness were two of the biggest stars to me then and I would consciously look for places in nature that reminded me of the sorts of things they liked to paint. But my own direct experiences played their role too.

I was thinking about my love of painting ponds and tiny lakes that are surrounded by deep forests, something I have been drawn to for years. Years ago one afternoon I felt grabbed my nature's mysterious power. It wasn't a dramatic thunderstorm or anything like that, actually the opposite, something that was the very picture of quiet and self assured grace. 

I was in grad school in southern Indiana went hiking in the woods with a friend. We probably weren't paying enough attention and went maybe a little too far. We got a little lost. Circling our way back we unexpectedly came across a hidden forest pond we had had no idea existed. Totally calm waters completely hidden from view on all sides, it seemed the perfect symbol of a mysterious serenity. We touched its waters gently with our fingers so as not to break its tranquil spell and just gazed at it for a few silenct minutes. Restored somehow and happier than before, we set off to find our way home.

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

Philip Koch, Mirror, oil on linen, 36 x 36", 2013


  1. Nice, I always like to hear/read the stories and influences behind artists work. I have never quite bought into the notion that art speaks for itself (only).
    I am an artist and I am not ashamed to say I can't always interpret anothers' work, at least not without viewing it over a long period of time and/or their body of work done over years.

    I remember reading somewhere, years ago that Winslow Homer rarely spoke himself about his work.
    How sad that is.
    We only know his work through the words and interpretation of others.
    Only the artist can give us the unique perspective as the creator, no one else can do that.
    Potentially one of the best aspects of the web, blogs etc. is how easy it is to record our thoughts now.


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