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Looking Back / Going Forward

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I was turning out the lights for the night last evening in my studio a half hour before it became 2020 and memorialized the moment with a photo. We're supposed to be celebrating new beginnings but on my easels are two paintings that are about looking back. 

Sometimes when you can brush the dust off a memory you see its glow is brighter than you had remembered.

On the left is new version of an all time favorite oil that had been damaged in transit and now belongs to a collector (see the last image in this post). I was at the collector's holiday partly last week and seeing the painting for the first time in years. Despite some cracks in its surface it looked even better than I remembered it. I was surprised how much I missed the painting. Woke up the next morning and realized I needed to paint a new version of it. 

Other times something that was never quite resolved from the past calls for you to fix it. On the easel on the right is my a canvas From Day to Night. The composition ha…

The One Thing Charles Burchfield Wants You to Know

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Charles Burchfield, Bright Winter Day, watercolor circa 1917

My friends at the Burchfield Penney Art Center posted this watercolor on their Facebook page the other day. To me it's a delightful celebration of the world- dazzling sunlight and a swirling profusion of conflicting patterns. Even with everything playfully leaning over to the right you know it echoes how the scene made the artist feel.
It's a watercolor the painter Charles Burchfield made of the view from his front porch in his hometown of Salem, OH. There's a  certain frame of mind Burchfield had that left him open to possibilities that are too easy for us to miss. This painting wants to tell us there's often something extraordinary just beneath the surface of this seemingly ordinary street. 
Burchfield's watercolor has a special impact on me as I know the place he worked from. I traveled to Salem when I was the Artist in Residence at the Burchfield Penney Art Center from 2015-18. With  my easel set up in h…

Opening a Door to Yourself

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Philip Koch, Truro Studio Door, oil on canvas,  48 x 36 inches, 1995
We find hints of ourselves when we feel moved by the art of others.
This was painted from a smaller oil I made on location in the large painting room of Edward Hopper’s Truro, MA studio. 
I’ve been so fortunate over the years to have been given unprecedented access to Hopper’s Truro studio. When one is there you’re inevitably drawn to the windows and this doorway that line the west side of the house. All offer this view of Cape Cod Bay. It’s striking to see.  But for me it also felt familiar as the view reminded me of my boyhood home on the shore of the open waters of Lake Ontario.
It’s funny what can cause you shame when you’re seven or eight. There were two things boys in my neighborhood had to do to be “one of the guys”- ride bikes and play basketball. I was lousy at basketball. And after a hard fall on an early attempt to ride a bicycle try as I might I couldn’t master keeping my balance on a two-wheeler. When basketb…

The Painting that Almost Killed Me

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Philip Koch, Yellow House at McDonogh, oil on panel,  14 x 21 inches, 1995
I just ran across an image of this painting and it made me smile.  It comes with quite a story. 
I had been asked to participate in a benefit art sale that was to take place on the grounds of the McDonogh School, a private school near my home outside Baltimore.
As the school has a lovely campus I drove out there to find a subject. Carrying my French easel and paints I hiked to the top of a hill on a blistering July day. and set up under the shade of a huge isolated tree. The spot provided vistas in all directions but after checking out all the possibilities, none seemed to have that something special needed to spark a really good painting. So I packed up my equipment and headed over to the shade of another tree 100 yards away.
The new spot offered the view above and I again unfolded my easel and set to work. The air was completely still. Just as I was mixing my first batch of oil color a loud cracking noise broke t…

9 Hopper Paintings in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Exhibition

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Edward Hopper, Western Motel, oil, 1957, Yale University Art Gallery

Edward Hopper and the American Hotel at Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond (through Feb. 23, 2020). It's a great survey of the artist's work over the decades.
One theme Hopper returned to again and again was placing prominent windows in his compositions- he loved juxtaposing the inside with the outside.  Here are just four examples in the exhibition. I like the comment the exhibition's Curator Leo Mazow made to me about their role in the paintings: The windows seem like impasses, both connecting and detaching private and public realms.



Edward Hopper. Room in New York, oil, 1932, Sheldon Museum of Art, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Looking at Room in New York from a painters' point of view I'm struck by the icy grays of the outside space. The white sleeves of the man's shirt and the sheet music on the piano are like white exclamation points in the otherwise somber greenish interior light.