Going Painting with Charles Burchfield in New England

Philip Koch, Isle au Haut: Gold, oil on panel, 6 1/2 x 13", 2015

As the Artist In Residence at the Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo, NY (BPAC) for 2015-16 I've been pouring over Charles Burchfield's paintings as close hand. It's been influencing how I see. 

Working on my oil painting above this week I had in mind the yellow and gray color chords I enjoy so much in a watercolor by Burchfield like the one below.

Charles Burchfield, Sunshine During a Blizzard, watercolor, 1947-59

Last week I was in New Hampshire in the White Mountains. Previous trips to this area found me drawn to making vast panoramas of the most distant mountains. This time to my surprise it was close-up views of trees that grabbed me.

Philip Koch, vine charcoal drawing, 9 x 12", 2015

I find incredible lace-like rhythms in the New Hampshire forest.

Philip Koch, vine charcoal and white chalk drawing,
12 x 9" 2015

Even in this panoramic view below I ended up focusing less on the looming distant mountain in favor of the rising and falling movements of these spindly dark trees.

Philip Koch, vine charcoal and white chalk drawing
7 x 10 1/2", 2015

 Philip Koch, vine charcoal drawing, 10 1/2 x 14", 2015

As a young artist I made careful copies of 19th century painters like John Constable and John Frederick Kensett. Learned at lot. When I arrived at BPAC I wondered why not do that again.

Left: Charles Burchfield, Early Spring Sunlight
watercolor, Burchfield Penney Art Center
Buffalo, NY. Right: Koch copy in progress

Perhaps I am the only person ever to make copies in oil from original Burchfield watercolors. Above is my trusty French easel
set up to copy a section of Burchfield's big watercolor Early Spring Sunlight in one of the BPAC studios. 

In July when I returned to BPAC  I made a new copy,  painting the intricate center section of Burchfield's very late painting, Early Spring.

Charles Burchfield, Early Spring, watercolor, 1966-67
Burchfiield Penney Art Center, Buffalo, NY

Here I am last week working in New Hampshire on a vine charcoal drawing. Though I was working alone, it was far from solitary. In the back of my mind I was envisioning what Burchfield might have done with the state's marvelous northern forests.

Upcoming: Sunday, October 18, 2 p.m.
Three Masters of Watercolor: What Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, and Charles Burchfield Want to Say to Us Today
An illustrated talk at the Burchfield Penney Art Center, Buffalo, NY
Free with museum admission


  1. I love the simplicity of your Birchfield studies. They are very graceful and beautiful.


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