Searching for Color (or Coping with Vanishing Subjects)

Philip Koch, Recollection, oil on canvas, 36 x 72 inches, 2000.
This painting is based on the pastel drawing below.

Funny story about this large painting. It's based on a pastel that in turn was made from an an on-site vine charcoal drawing. At certain times in my career I found working in stages like this allowed me to be playfully creative with color.

My wife Alice and I were on one of our painting excursions, flying from Baltimore to Northern California. Once there I was taken by the sweeping panorama of San Francisco Bay from the summit of Mount Tamalpais just north of the city. We had crystal clear weather. With such a good viewpoint I grabbed my vine charcoals and set to work on a view of the Bay. Then the legendary fog of San Francisco rolled in like a freight train. In five minutes my subject was completely erased from view. 

 Philip Koch, Recollection, pastel, 10 x 20 inches, 2000. 

"I flew 3000 miles for this?" went through my mind. 

Landscape painters are battle-hardened to changes in the weather and I resolved to take it in stride. Plunging ahead I invented a completely new far distance for my drawing. Ironically, I came up with more intriguing shapes than my original view of the Bay had offered. 

I titled the pastel and the large oil that flowed from it both Recollection, though in truth these compositions are more about forgetting than remembering an original idea. 


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