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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 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…

Allen Memorial Art Museum Publishes My Story

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Peter Paul Rubens, The Finding of Erichthonius, oil on  canvas, 1632, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin, OH
Allen Memorial Art Museum in Oberlin, OH invited alumni to tell how work in its collection had impacted them. Their collection proved to be an amazing teacher. The big lesson I learned is to take exquisite care about how I go about telling a story with my painting.

Yesterday the museum posted my reminiscence on its Facebook page. Here's what I wrote: 

The temptation is always to run straight towards your goal. Sometimes that works, but often it leaves you wide of the mark, especially in art.

This lesson hit me over the head when I was just starting out as a painter when I was a studio art major at Oberlin. The Allen Memorial Art Museum has the most remarkable and troubling painting by the 17th-century artist Rubens, 'The Finding of Erichthonius,' from 1632.

I saw it almost daily and I was always a little creeped out by it. Its subject involves the finding of the snake-tai…

My Painting as a Museum's Art Lesson

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Philip Koch, Spring Frontyard, oil on canvas, 45 x 60 inches, 1989, Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, Hagerstown, MD

The Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Hagerstown, MD is running a series of art lessons for children using images of works in the Museum's permanent collection. Kellie Mele, who directs the WCMFA's Education Dept. originated what she calls the Art A Day Challenge and yesterday (by coincidence my birthday!) built a lesson around my large painting in their collection, Spring Frontyard. Here's a link to the Challenge.



Spring Frontyard  is a major studio painting I made based on a smaller oil painted on location in my neighborhood in Baltimore. I grew up in a new "California Modern" style home but coming across this older white house I fell into a fantasy if what it might be like to have grown up there. My childhood home was in a deep forest. I chose a point of view that similarly sandwiched the painting's white house between two dense bank…