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Showing posts from August, 2014

Looking Back

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Philip Koch, Near the Yale Farm, oil on canvas, 24 x 36, 1992 Private collection.
A project to get my 35mm slides of my earlier paintings scanned and catalogued is underway. As the images come back to me there are a lot of pleasant surprises. More than anything I'm amazed at how many paintings I was producing over all those years. You can see the beginnings of the project on the "Earlier Works" page of my website.
Above is a studio painting I made based on an oil study I painted in Norfolk, CT in the Litchfield Hills. I painted there frequently, staying at the cottage of an old college friend. It's a heavily forested area, but the silvan gloom is wonderfully punctuated by the stands of white birch. And rows of delicately pristine ferns line all the back roads. My focus in painting this was inventing a rhythm of highlights and shadows that would organize the incredibly crowded forest into a deep space that beckons the view to enter in.


Philip Koch, Farm at Craddock Lan…

Drawing: A Shared Compass Between Me and Charles Burchfield

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Philip Koch, The Birches of Maine, vine charcoal, 12 x 9", 2006

It makes sense to have heroes, to enjoy the work of great artists, study it, even become best friends with it. One of the painters I have learned the most from is Charles Burchfield. I grew up in Burchfield country (Western New York State) and always felt a special kinship with his nature paintings. We both work left handed, (few people realize how big a factor that is in giving a drawing or painting its distinctive personality).
I was recently discussing with a friend why I choose to make charcoal drawings in such great numbers considering I am primarily an oil painter. Musing on this I began comparing my practice to that of Burchfield, who also made countless drawings. If you go toBurchfield Penney Art Center's online pages of Burchfield's drawings  they have 1408 of them posted! 
Much as I love Burchfield's work, I don't draw or paint the way he did. Yet I feel in his work a hint of some hard-to-defi…

My Edward Hopper Talk at Norman Rockwell Museum Part III

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Here are the concluding 20 photos from my July 31talk Inside Edward Hopper's World: A Contemporary Painter's View at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA. You can read the first two installments of the presentation here and here.
Above was the painting that first introduced me to Hopper, Rooms by the Sea, now in Yale's art museum. I was a teenager mostly interested in girls when I spied it in my parents' Time magazine. "Now THAT'S a painting!" I thought. Little did I suspect years later I would be privileged to have residencies in the privately owned Hopper studio on Cape Cod and stand and look right at the same doorways that had fired Hopper's imagination. Here's a photo I took of the source for the painting.



Notice how Hopper moves the door from attaching on the right side of the door frame to the left side. Also he stretches the proportions of the wall, and most remarkably, shines direct sunlight on a wall that in reality faces due north…

Part II of my Talk on Hopper at Norman Rockwell Museum

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Here's Part II of the photos and notes from the slide talk I gave at the Norman Rockwell Museum on July 31. My topic was Edward Hopper on Cape Cod as part of the Museum's program for their current exhibit The Unknown Hopper: Edward Hopper as Illustrator (through Oct. 26). You can read Part One here. Stephanie Plunkett, the Deputy Director and Chief Curator of the Museum just yesterday sent me the above photo of some of the audience at the presentation.
One of the major lessons I've absorbed from my residencies in  Hopper's studio is how relentlessly particular Hopper was in selecting a source for one of his paintings.  Hopper wanted to present us with the unexpected but significant thing. I told the audience he must have walked a lot, searching out just the best possible subjects and points from which to view them. Here I am below returning from painting on the beach down below Hopper's studio. It's a long way up from the water and my portable easel is heavy, bu…

My Edward Hopper Talk at Norman Rockwell Museum, Part 1

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Stephanie Plunkett, the Deptuy Director and Chief Curator of the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA invited me to give a talk on July 31 about Edward Hopper as part of the impressive exhibition she organized, Unknown Hopper: Edward Hopper as Illustrator (through Oct. 26, 2014). Here I am standing in the middle of the exhibition in front of the Museum's wall-sized mural of Hopper's famous oil Early Sunday Morning. 

We had a great and enthusiastic turnout for the talk. Someone who wasn't able to make it to Stockbridge asked me if I would post the slides I used in my talk and re-tell some of the points I made. As I showed 48 images, I'll break the presentation up into three installments.
Hopper had to support himself for two decades by doing illustration work for magazines until his painting career really took off. The exhibition shows Hopper was a skillful illustrator.

My talk started by comparing Hopper's oil Cape Cod Evening  with two of his illustrations. In t…