Mining the Burchfield Archives
Charles Burchfield, drawing (undated) panoramic view of
Gardenville, NY Catholic church steeple, Burchfield Penney
Art Center, Buffalo, NY
Charles Burchfield's expressiveness grew out of his highly-trained eye. I am convinced his life-long habit of making drawings, lots of them, sharpened his remarkable imagination. He knew his art depended on an empathetic responsiveness and a finely-tuned selectivity. By making drawings he strengthened these attributes. His 20,000+ drawings at the Burchfield Penney Art Center (BPAC) attest to the seriousness he attached to his task.
Philip Koch, Gardenville, NY, vine charcoal, 9 x 12 inches, 2015
This is the same church Burchfield drew in the illustration at the
beginning of this post. Ironically it was the fist artwork I made
when I began my Residency at BPAC.
The vast majority of his drawings in the Archives are quick studies, often done in rapid succession from the same source. Clearly he valued these drawings as he saved an enormous number of them. Drawing for him was a key that unlocked his artistic vision.
Two drawings by Charles Burchfield from 1918 of simple
houses in his hometown of Salem, OH. Burchfield Penney
Art Center. The twisting and bending of the houses is pure
My own methods of drawing lean toward making more finished drawings than Burchfield did. He was primarily interested in working in line. I have a additional interest in light and shadow and choose the medium of soft vine charcoal for its ability to quickly build up broad fields of darks and lights.
Philip Koch, Charles Burchfield's Home: Salem, OH, vine charcoal,
6 1/2 x 13 inches, 2015. I drew this standing in the backyard of
Burchfield's Salem home.
An undated drawing by Burchfield of the rolling
landscape surrounding a gorge south of Buffalo.
Burchfield Penney Art Center.
Philip Koch, East Aurora, vine charcoal, 7 x 14 inches, 2015.
I made this drawing looking across an undulating field
in the countryside near the town of East Aurora, an area
south of Buffalo that was a frequent subject for Burchfield.
I am just returned from spending another week at the BPAC as part of my Burchfield Residency. In addition to examining the Archives and the museum's exhibitions, I spent more time out in the fields south of Buffalo painting.
Much of the work I produced over the last two years will be on display in an exhibition at the museum scheduled to open in April 2018.