Monday, September 5, 2016

Paintings from my Burchfield Residency


Philip Koch, Upper Story: Sunlight, oil on panel, 
12 x 24", 2016. I painted this from the building in
downtown Buffalo that Burchfield used as the center-
piece of perhaps his most famous watercolor, Rainy Night.

Here are ten of my oil paintings that I've finished so far from my time as the Artist in Residence at the Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo, NY. Most of them will be in the show I'm having opening at Courthouse Gallery Fine Art in Ellsworth, ME on Oct. 1st. The oils were begun at different times over 2015-2016 when I was making repeated trips to Buffalo, to work at Burchfield Penney and in areas where the painter Charles Burchfield went to paint his landscapes. 

One of the things that most struck me on the Residency about Burchfield  was how often he would take great lengths of time to complete his paintings. Sometimes the evidence was in the numerous preparatory drawings he would execute to help him with his major paintings. Other times the dates on individual paintings would stretch over decades as he would go back into pieces to improve and expand them. 




Philip Koch, Great Lake, oil on panel, 6  x10", 2016.
I grew up on the shore of Lake Ontario in Rochester, NY, 
near Buffalo. This view of distant Lake Erie from Chestnut 
Ridge Park south of Buffalo stirred my boyhood memories.


One of the ironies of my paintings is that their freely flowing brushstokes suggest they're rapidly executed. I am just the opposite sort of painter. I take all the time I need and slowly craft my vision for each of my paintings. In a way a painter is like a storyteller who needs to first tell the tale to himself- step by step discovering just what the space, light, and mood need to be to tell a compelling story.




Philip Koch, East Aurora Barns, oil on panel, 15 x 20",
2016. East Aurora was a favorite painting location
for Burchfield. I did a lot of my outdoor painting 
there as well.



My wife Alice insists I'm an impatient person (and perhaps she has a point). The lesson the Burchfield Residency reinforced for me is that it's ok to let paintings grow at their own pace. We get our good ideas only once they occur to us. If that takes weeks, or months or years, matters less than bringing the final painting to the highest level possible. 



Phlip Koch, Split-rail Fence, oil on panel, 14x 21"
2016. This is a close up view I painted of the fence
depicted in the painting above East Aurora Barns.


I read a lot from Burchfield's journals during the Residency. Frequently he describes wandering around until something stuck him  as especially ripe with possibilities for making a painting. I followed that method and put a lot of miles on my car.  If you keep looking long enough, I find you stumble into the most remarkable sources. 




Philip Koch, Soft Ochre Forest, oil on panel, 16 x 12"
2016. During my Residency I spent most of my time
outdoors exploring the hills south of Buffalo. I used this 
simple stand of trees in this painting and in the following 
oil to make very different statements of mood and
movement.


Philip Koch, Wind Through the Trees, oil
on panel, 16 x 12", 2016.




Philip Koch, Erie Canal, oil on panel, 12 x 9"
2016. I made a vine charcoal drawing with 
my easel set up on the banks of what was the
Erie Canal (now the much less eleganltly named
Barge Canal). Back in my studio I imagined
the scene bathed in a warm morning light.




Philip Koch, Edge of the Forest, oil on panel, 12 x 9", 
2016. In the hills south of Buffalo you can let the moods
of the forest sweep over you. The cool colors of these
tree trunks were a perfect counterpoint to the warm 
siennas of the leaves.




Philip Koch, Hills, Colden, NY, oil on panel, 7 x 10 1/2", 2016.
As a teenager I used to travel to Colden to ski at the Kissing
Bridge ski area. That memory was in the back of my
mind as I painted this some of the adjoining hills.




Philip Koch, Charles Burchfield's Salem Home, oil on panel,
12 x 24", 2016. This painting was made from a charcoal drawing
I did on location in the backyard of Burchfield's childhood home
in Salem, OH. Though an ordinary house and neighborhood it
served to inspire dozens of that artist's finest early works.

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