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Ever Wonder What's in the Next Room in Hopper's Rooms by the Sea?

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Edward Hopper, Rooms by the Sea, oil on canvas, 1951, Yale University Art Gallery

One of Edward Hopper's best known paintings is Rooms by the Sea that was based on his studio in Truro, MA. Its mysterious doorway leading to the ocean captivates our eye. 
Did you ever wonder what the room through the painting's other doorway looked like? Last week a collector asked to see some of the drawings I made during my residencies in the historic studio so I photographed this drawing.


Philip Koch, Edward Hopper's Truro Bedroom: Afternoon  Sunlight, vine charcoal, 9 x 12 inches, 2012.
To make the drawing I set up my French easel in the bedroom Hopper shared with his wife Jo for the three decades they lived in the studio. One of the room's two small closets centers the drawing. At the right is the doorway leading into Hopper's big painting room with his studio easel in the distance. 
What inspired me to make the drawing were the intense patterns the afternoon sunlight made over the clo…

I Really Didn't Like Charles Burchfield's Work, Then...

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Charles Burchfield, North Wind in March, watercolor, 47.5 x 59.5 inches, 1960-66. Ogunquit Museum of American Art
When I first saw Charles Burchfield's paintings as a young art student I didn't like them at all.
To my teenage eyes Burchfield's landscapes seemed cartoon-like and childish. It didn't help that he had lived in Buffalo, NY. I was from the next town over, Rochester, and wanted nothing more than to see myself as fully grown and sophisticated. Burchfield reminded me of everything I was desperate to leave behind. 

Leaving home to go off to college opened a new world to me. Most exciting of my discoveries was modern art. I decided to become a painter, and early on worked abstractly under the influence of Minimal Art and Color Field Painting. 
Burchfield seemed to go just the opposite way. Most of his strongest work is of his little hometown. He found there aspects we either overlook or outright fail to imagine. Somehow his art becomes a vehicle that take us to a univ…

Do Paintings Talk to Each Other When No One Is Around?

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Paintings are inanimate objects I know. But sometimes lying in bed at  night I think I almost hear some whispering downstairs in my studio.
Making paintings is like nurturing your houseplants as it can't be rushed. You have to take as long as needed to complete a painting. 
Above is my studio this morning with the two easels I always have  side by side. On the right is Turret House, Nyack, oil on panel, 9 x 12 inches. It was begun in 2015. I worked on it on and off until summer of 2020 when I was finally satisfied it was saying what it needed to say. The painting's sort of a proud veteran who went through lots of changes before it was done. 
On the left is a new oil that's just getting started. It has an even longer history- it's based on a tiny oil I painted on the coast of Maine in 2009. Still in its infancy this new oil faces growing pains and uncertainties before it comes into its own. I know I'm projecting but I imagine a painting at this stage would be feeling un…

The Little Red House / Travel Back in Time

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Philip Koch, Returning, oil on canvas, 28 x 42 inches, 2020  
Don’t you find certain places find their way into your memory and remain a vivid picture there. Sometimes you can feel like you’ve slipped back in time and are there once again.This old farm house was near my studio in Baltimore. I wanted to paint it the moment I saw it, partly because of its cherry red exterior. But also because it felt instantly familiar. It strongly reminded me of the little forest house I used to stand in front of to wait for the school bus. My town was rural then. Some school years I’d wait with one or two other kids. Other years the bus would stop there just for me. The bus had a long route to cover and often would be 20 minutes or a half hour lafe. But this rarely bothered me as that house was a magical setting- once formal gardens that were now overgrown. It all was beautiful and just a bit haunted in the best way. I like to think memory like this guides my paintbrush.

Brilliant Sun on Barren Hills / Echoes of an Edward Hopper Painting

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Edward Hopper, Mrs. Scott's House, oil on canvas, 34 1/4 x 50 1/8 inches, 1932, Maier  Museum of Art at Randolph College, Lynchburg, VA

I don't usually start a painting with another artist's painting in mind. My new canvas below however owes a big debt to Hopper's oil Mrs. Scott's House that's in the collection of the Maier Museum of Art at Randolph College in Lynchburg, VA.
Edward Hopper and his wife Josephine first stayed on Cape Cod in the summer of 1930. For the next several summers they explored the land out near the very end of Cape Cod's peninsula.  Famously private, I suspect he liked how few people there were in the remote town of Truro. One striking painting that resulted from this searching was Mrs. Scott's House seen above. 
Hopper was always drawn to paint big, solid volumes illuminated by brilliant sunlight. He must have loved the stark contrast of the massive and nearly bare dunes against the small but stubbornly upright house. As conflicting …

Who is the Father / Who is the Child?

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Fathers' Day Observation:  We parents learn from and are changed by our children. Evidence of this crops up all the time but somehow when it does I'm always a little surprised. 

The photo above is what greeted me as I walked into my studio this morning. On the right is my painting from 2019, The Dawn, oil on panel, 18 x 36 inches. It's a view inspired by the coast of Maine.
I was very happy with it. Enough so that I resolved to recreate it on a more grand scale. 

I figured it would be a simple enough job to work up the smaller oils basic composition on the 56 inch canvas at the left. It's at times like this when you think you know where you're going that painting delights in telling you "Not so fast."

One evening last week I glanced at the paintings on the two easels in the mirror I keep in my studio. Unexpectedly it struck me that  I much preferred the lighter tones in the sky and water in the unfinished larger canvas. Before making any radical changes I de…

Finding a Roadmap

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Philip Koch, Morning at the Route 6, Eastham House, oil on  canvas, 30 x 60 inches, 2017, Swope Art Museum,  Terra Haute, IN
For sometime I had wanted to make a painting of the farm buildings on Cape Cod that the painter Edward Hopper immortalized in his oil Route 6, Eastham that is at the Swope Art Museum in Indiana. The source is right on the main highway that runs through the town of Eastham. Unlike the open space Hopper saw, it's now tightly ringed by evergreens.


Edward Hopper, Route 6, Eastham, oil on canvas, 1941,  Swope Art Museum, Terra Haute, IN
Much as Hopper has inspired me, I wanted to do a painting that would stand on its own, free from his long shadow. So instead of jumping right in I took more time than usual imagining different ways I might proceed. It required a balancing act, navigating my way between borrowing too much from Hopper and the need to deal with all those obstructing trees.
Philip Koch, Study for Morning at the Rte. 6, Eastham House #1, vine charcoal, 2…