Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Three New paintings: Hopper, Maine & Burchfield



Philip Koch, Eward Hopper's Painting Room, 
oil on panel, 20 x 16", 2016

Painting well is a little like developing a green thumb. You can't rush a painting into completion. They reveal themselves to the artist only gradually. All we can do is water and nourish them. Often several paintings will come to completion all around the same time. So it is this week in my studio. Here are three newcomers to the fold.

My painting above was done from some drawings I made during my previous residencies in Edward Hopper's studio in Truro, MA. It is a view looking from the studio's small kitchen down a short hall and opening into Hopper's large painting room. In the distance at the left is the easel Hopper used to paint many of his world famous masterpieces and at right is the dark walnut desk where he and his wife Jo would pay their bills. 

Initially I had centered his easel right in the middle of the painting room but it didn't feel right in that spot. Instead I moved it to the lefthand side to create an empty space between it and the lone white chair. One of Hopper's gifts as a painter was his legendary ability to infuse seemingly empty spaces with a personality. I chose to focus my painting more on the light-filled empty space of this room. It's a slightly wistful reflection on solitude.




Philip Koch, Porcupine Islands, oil on panel, 9 x 12", 2016

This was painted mostly from direct observation in June during a trip to Mt. Desert Island in Maine. It was early in the morning and
I chose a vantage point half way up Cadillac Mountain overlooking the Porcupine Islands. As I worked a dark bank of clouds was pushing its way insistently into what had been a crystal clear morning. I love these sorts of dramatic changes in the weather and chose to make that the subject of the painting. Also as I'm serving as the Artist in Residence at the Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo, NY  I have in my mind the watercolors of Charles Burchfield, who loved an oncoming storm more than anyone.



Philip Koch, East Aurora Barns, oil on panel, 14 x 21", 2016

On my last trip to Buffalo in June I spent most of my time in the nearby town of East Aurora. It was an area that Charles Burchfied loved to paint. 

It held an additional attraction for me as the town had so much of the look and feel of my old hometown of Webster, NY, just outside of Rochester. We all find certain places ressonate with us in a very personal way. Often times they resurrect old memories for us. This can lead one to traffic in a formula-ridden nostalgic way of painting. But when approached correctly, inviting some of the energies of long held memories into one's painting can provide a vital spark. 

Once in East Aurora my method was to slowly drive the backroads searching for a subject. I had in mind wanting to paint some architecture much like Burchfield often did. I came across a barn with a cupola atop it that seemed loaded with personality.  Yet it felt unconnected to the surrounding field. I needed to get a conversation going between it and some other major element. After trying out about 20 different points of view I settled on letting an old apple tree obscure much of the barn. It seemed to bring out a rhythmic dance between the its limbs, the angles of the barn's roof and the irregular geometry of the dark far distance. 

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