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Edward Hopper's Studio's Art Lesson

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I ran across this photo my wife Alice took of me during one of our earlier residencies in Edward Hopper's former painting studio in Truro, MA.  In the photo it was a windy and chilly morning. I was walking slowly with my heavy easel making my way up the narrow path that Edward and Jo Hopper had made to reach the shoreline far below their studio.
Hopper had been a key figure in inspiring my direction as a painter. I badly wanted to make a painting or drawing that resonated with the importance his legacy held for me. Despite that, in several attempts over my previous stays in his studio, I wasn't able to make what I felt was a significant piece. In the photo above, even with the overcast, I was feeling good as I'd finally discovered a point of view and an approach that did justice to the historic studio and its natural setting.
Sometimes you just have to wait until the conditions, both internal and external, are right.

Two in--progress paintings in my studio. Left: Beneath the…

The Seven Secrets of Art (and a few more...)

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Philip Koch, The Roof, oil on canvas,  20 x 14 inches, Somerville Manning Gallery, Greenville, DE

Edward Hopper and Charles Burchfield are two painters who have exerted enormous helpful influence on my work. Hopper wrote almost nothing about art. Burchfield filled literally thousands of pages with his observations on painting. 
I guess I fall kind of in between those two. 
I am shortly going to be leaving teaching my final course at MICA and moving to being a full time painter, an exciting prospect. Below is a list of ideas I'm going to be giving my art students tomorrow. They're general advice distilled down to just bullet points. Some of them may just provoke more questions. But maybe that's the idea.
The 7 Secrets of Art (and a few more...).

        #1.That there are secrets and mystery in art. #2.Art is a language with its own grammar. There are in fact  rules- some to be followed, some to be broken.
#3.Tone is often more important than color. #4.Shapes are almost always more …

Inner Clearing / Inner Storms

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Philip Koch, Penobscot Bay #1, pastel, 7 x 14 inches, 1999

Just before I went to bed last night I was looking at the above pastel for the first time in a long while. My first thought was that the drawing wasn't sure if it was about brightening sun or darkening storms. Then I decided that was its point.

Way back in 1999 my feelings had been hurt when a relative had forgotten to invite me to an important family wedding. Not wanting to sit home moping I booked a last minute flight to Maine to paint for a week in the coastline of Penobscot Bay.  

The area lived up its reputation for striking natural beauty. But Maine can be notorious for rain and gloom and the art gods had decided that was being to be the menu for that week. Every day it poured. 

Of course I was disappointed but I'd come prepared and was able to turn the front seat of my rental car into a makeshift studio, making a series of finished charcoal drawings of the landscape.  Later on these became pastels or oil paintings …

My New Painting of Hopper's Home

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Philip Koch, Edward Hopper's Parlor, oil on canvas 32 x 24 inches, 2019
Where to great ideas come from for artists?
There are all sorts of answers advanced to that question. When we artists are at our best our hands seem to be guided by a part of ourselves that is just beyond our awareness. I'm convinced great art reaches deep into an artist's psyche to borrow images that have been echoing there since their childhood. 
This was driven home to me when an old friend of mine from my boyhood town of Webster, NY came to visit me. Seeing an array of my paintings in my studio he exclaimed "Phil, this is our old neighborhood." Actually I'd never painted in my old hometown. The paintings he was looking at ranged from scenes I'd painted not in Webster, NY but in far flung locales all over the country. Others were fanciful imaginary landscapes. Going around the room he named places we played as young children that these paintings echoed. 
Above is my new painting of Ed…

Edward Hopper's Famous Doorway: Personal Awakenings

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My wife Alice didn't know I was taking her picture. 
She was standing last Fall on the deck just outside Edward Hopper's studio in Truro, MA. She had stepped out for a moment while I was inside lost in working on one of my paintings. Realizing she hadn't returned I looked out the door in Hopper's painting room that overlooks Cape Cod Bay. There she was standing still in a strong wind gazing off toward the horizon. Something about how the doorway framed her small figure grabbed me and I hurried to take her picture. 
A few minutes later she returned and told me she had reached an important decision. Alice is a psychiatric nurse. For several decades Alice had been the Director of a Partial Hospitalization Program at  a Baltimore hospital. It was a place for people who were in the most severe emotional crisis. Over four decades she poured herself into crafting the program into something that was remarkable. It is no exaggeration is say it had saved many lives. The work was in…

Three Things Edward Hopper Wants You to Know

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Here's a painting the young Edward Hopper made in art school. Tomorrow I begin teaching my final class at MICA before moving on to being a full-time painter. Fittingly my class is Life Drawing class. Probably I'll begin the class by showing the students this painting.

In Hopper's oil above we can see him working to master the basic grammar that would serve him so well in his ensuing years of painting. His painting from the model offers us a host of lessons about about painting and about seeing itself. 

Here are three that I think are among the most important.

1. Color in reality is more unexpected than we think. The pinks and subtle oranges we imagine we're going to see in the model's skin are shown instead in a world of cool grays and gray-greens. Hopper sees her color as part of the overall mood of the light in the room.

2. Hopper walked around for awhile before starting his painting to check out all the possible vantage points. It's not the normal way to present…

Brandywine River Museum of Art- N.C. Wyeth Exhibition

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N. C. Wyeth, Blubber Island, Port Clyde, Maine, tempera and oil on hardboard, 1944, Brandywine River Museum of Art

N. C. Wyeth: New Perspectives, organized by the Brandywine River Museum of Art and the Portland Museum of Art (in Maine) is on display at the Brandywine Museum through Sept. 15. It heads up to Portland Oct. 4, 2019 through Jan. 12, 2020. My wife Alice and I drove up to see the exhibition last Friday. In a word it's super.

Sometimes we head into a show intending to spend more or less equal time with all the works. That didn't happen as I totally fell into the first two paintings I saw as soon as I entered the gallery.
First is the one above of a solemn rocky island adorned by a device the wall label identifies as a hydrographic signal. That signal lifts our eye up from the heavy mass of the rocks and gets us to look into the sky. 

At first I wondered why the signal and the several seagulls flying off to the left felt so right. Then I realized that if your string the s…