Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Charles Burchfield Archives- Unexpected Influences





Philip Koch, Great Dunes II, oil on canvas, 36 x 72", 1985
A painting I made from a smaller plein air oil painted on location
just outside Provincetown, MA.

An unexpected benefit of being the Artist in Residence at the Burchfield Penney Art Center this year was spending time going through the Center's extensive Burchfield Archives. Charles Burchfield valued all his work and saved almost everything. Burchfield Penney has each of the 25,000 pieces of his work and his writing assigned a catalogue number and archivally stored. 

They gave me white cotton gloves and more boxes of his drawings than I could ever work through. Gingerly lifting each drawing out of its box I felt like Burchfield was sitting right next to me. For someone who wants to get beneath the surface of how a creative mind like Burchfield's worked, it was dream. 



 Philip Koch, State Road, oil on paper mounted to panel,
19 x 28 1/2",  circa 1989. I painted this on location
on the Eastern Shore of Marland.


Examinging hundreds of Burchfield's preparatory drawings gave me a more complete picture of how carefully and strategically he worked up his compositions. What I saw in the Archives proved to me it's possible to be both spontaneous and thoughtful as a painter.

The experience lit a fire under me to get images of my earlier work organized and to write notes about each of the paintings. Undertaking this made me take a long second look at paintings I haven't given as much thought as they deserve. 




Philip Koch, Third Story, oil on camas, 42 x 63", 1985. This was
the most creepy house near my Baltimore studio. Wouldn't want 
to spend the night in it, but I had to paint it. Its builders created
 an elegant gothic sculpture. Sadly it was torn down
after I painted it.


When I first stared with landscape painting I did almost all my work in oils outdoors in front of the source. Eventually I switched methods, opting to work in only black and white charcoal drawing outdoors and inventing color when I worked from the drawings in oil back in my studio. 

Getting to know my earlier oils better inspired me to start painting in oils outdoors again. In the last two weeks for for example I worked in oils outdoors in both Buffalo and Maine. I'm finding that I have more creative freedom with color after all that experience painting from my black and white drawings. I am thinking in color more clearly. Couldn't be more pleased with where things are going.




Philip Koch, Spring Front Yard, oil on canvas, 45 x 60", 1985.
While I liked this white house it seemed too formal viewed 
straight on. Seen from the neighboring yard the wild shapes of this 
screen of trees changed the feeling completely. Sometimes an 
oblique view tells us more.



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