You Can Go Home Again

Philip Koch, Northern Pines, oil on canvas, 36 x 72", 1985

For everyone there are memories of people, experiences, and places that just stay with you decade in and decade out. They can be sources of some of the deepest inspiration. Here's one of mine. It's not that it looks like my home. Rather it's a place where I feel most at home with myself.

This is a pond in Acadia National Park in Maine. I fell in love with the spot and did a series of works there on location. They all sold and I found myself missing them. I got to thinking about them and without consulting any images of them started doing a version of the same spot out of my imagination and memory. Below is the result.

Philip Koch, The Song of All Days, oil on panel, 36 x 72", 2008

Actually I like all the ways it departs from the earlier painting. It seems a more universal statement about experiencing the landscape.

One gets busy with other things and though I always meant to go back to the original spot in Acadia, I got drawn into other paintings. Then just a few months ago I went back to Acadia and returned to the same spot for the first time in over 20 years and did the plein air vine charcoal drawing below. I am sure before long it will lead to some oil painting. Nobody is more curious than I to see what I come up with.

Philip Koch, Two Islands, Acadia, vine charcoal, 7 x 14", 2009

There are special themes for every artist. The contemporary landscape painter Wolf Kahn has painted hundreds of versions of the same set of barns on his Vermont hillside farm. Winslow Homer returned again and again to the open sea for inspiration. Rockwell Kent spoke most eloquently in his wood engravings of the human figure in a wide open landscape. If the artist keeps finding new things to say with recycling the same imagery they are doing the magic right.


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