Philip Koch's wife Alice at Art Essex Gallery's exhibit of Koch's paintings.
Last year I showed a major oil at George Billis Gallery in New York, Horizon, 40 x 60" based on the ideas I originally worked out in the small oil above, Northern Sky: Yellow. Modest in size, a painting like this plays a critical role in my studio practice.
For the first couple of decades I was painting I always did all my experimenting and searching right on surface of my larger canvases. I saw this was a way to embrace immediacy. An artist after all feels a certain urgency as they work to bring their paintings to life. I just wanted to dive in.
That method led to a lot of canvases I am very proud of to this day. But overtime I came to see that sometimes slowing down could make me see more deeply into the worlds I was imagining on canvas. I began exploring new ideas in stages, trying out alternative compositions first in a sketchbook and then on a modest scale in oil. Impatience I realized wasn't really my friend.
The irony is I found an even greater freedom working out my ideas on a small surface first. With less at stake than in a large canvas, I became more playful and more willing to take risks, to investigate ways of solving a painting I'd never tried before.
Deep Forest Sun, oil on panel, 6 x 8", a painting I am especially happy with. It invites you to walk into its space, climb the hill and spy what's just over the rise.
Isle au Haute Morning I, oil on
panel, 6 1/2 x 13"
Last summer when I had a solo show in Stonington, Maine at Isalos Fine Art, I did a number of paintings of the Stonington Harbor in the early mornings. In this oil the mountains of Isle au Haut, part of Acadia National Park just to the north of Stonington, are just emerging out of the sun-filled mists.
The Sea, oil on panel, 6 1/2 x 13" was inspired by another part of Acadia National Park. My wife and I honeymooned there many years ago. For me it's probably the most special of all the places I go painting. This is based on the Porcupine Islands that shelter the port of Bar Harbor from the rougher open waters.
The Reach, oil on panel, 10 x 15" was based on a vine charcoal drawing I did on one of my residencies in Edward Hopper's Truro studio on Cape Cod. Walking down to the beach where Hopper used to go swimming (usually alone, as he did so many things) I drew the line of sand dunes extending to the south along the shore of Cape Cod Bay. While up at the Hopper studio we have been treated to some elegant displays of moonlight filtering through the clouds. That nocturnal memory figures in this image as well.
This painting served as preparation for the much larger oil The Reach III that is also in the exhibition.
I'll show it in the 3rd and concluding blog post about the Art Essex Gallery show on Thursday, May 29.
The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA has invited me to give a talk on Thursday, July 31 as part of their programming for their major summer exhibition The Unkown Hopper: Edward Hopper as Illustrator (June 7 - Oct. 26, 2014).
Inside Hopper's World: A Contemporary Painter's View. An Evening with Philip Koch
Thursday, July 31, 5:30 - 6:30 p.m.
I'll be speaking about Edward Hopper's life on Cape Cod and how it shaped his art. I will show photos I've taken during my 15 residencies in the little-seen Truro, MA studio where he lived and worked for 30 years. I will also make some side-by-side comparisons of how Hopper handled similar themes in his illustration work and in his paintings.