Showing posts from May, 2010

Cool Museum! Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Just back from a trip to Virginia to see some art museums. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond just reopened after a big expansion project. I was curious to see what they'd been up to as I'd visited the place a few years back in their previous incarnation and enjoyed it a lot. But the new place was huge and in a word, "wow."
It is much bigger now, huge for a city of Richmond's size, but they have a pretty powerful collection, so it is great to see them have the expanded gallery space to put it to use. In particular, I loved seeing so many new walls devoted to their early 2oth century American paintings. That's a period that sometimes museums don't devote a lot of space to. Not so here.
Above is me standing next to one of VFMA's gems by Edward Hopper (I'm delighted to report I'll be going up to stay and work in Hopper's old painting studio on Cape Cod for my 13th time this Fall!!). Hopper was one of my great teachers. It was his exam…

None of Us Is Really Alone

Above is an old favorite painting of mine, Summer Night by the American painter Winslow Homer. I used to think this was a fantastical sort of imagined scene. But then I went to visit his old studio in Prout's Neck, Maine. Homer's studio was right down near the water and was surrounded by a bunch of other summer homes at the time he lived there. Some of the others were owned by other family members. Illuminated by the light from one of the houses, the two dancing figures standing before the cool moonlit sea probably would have looked just like this. And I'd wager this was something Homer saw more than once in real life on summer nights during his years there.
That said, look the wonderful way Homer creates a warm light on the dancers and plays it off against the cool blue-green greys of the background. But painter that he was, he knew he had to tie the dancers somehow to the distant waves as well. Notice how their arms extend to the left at just the same diagonal angle he c…

Learning from Claude Monet's Haystacks..

Philip Koch, Quiet Shore:Yellow, oil on panel, 10 x 15" 2010
Here's a new painting. I was thinking about the composition of the oil below featured in the last blog post. Became curious to try it with a different sort of light altogether and used a slightly larger panel.

Philip Koch, Quiet on the Shore, oil on panel, 7 x 101/2" 2010
I always feel there are more aspects to a place, or a person, than we can experience at one time. Explorations like these two paintings nod their heads toward that idea. Claude Monet is the most famous example of an artist trying out the same basic forms in many different colored versions. He did it with haystacks, a Rouen cathedral front, and poplar trees. Edgar Degas was even more fanatical with the idea, producing the same essential pose in seemingly endles streams of pastel drawings with each having its own unique color arrangements. He would use tracing paper and go at the same composition over and over. Degas said " Draw the same drawing…

A Polished Subtle Silver in the Air

Philip Koch, Quiet on the River, oil on panel, 7 1/2 x 10", 2010
Here's a new painting based on the vine charcoal drawing below.

Philip Koch, Quiet on the River, vine charcoal, 9 x 12", 2010
Actually it's a re-working of a drawing I had posted last summer on this blog. It originally was of the harbor in Oxford, MD. Came across the drawing in my studio two days ago and realized it could be made stronger if I focused more attention on it's elaborate frieze of shapes at the left.
Back in I went, pulling out the entire right hand side of the drawing and pushing an off white sky much deeper in tone. I like it much better now, with its brooding atmosphere.Until I'd thought of a proper title I temporarily labeled the digital file "My Rembrandt." It made me smile to do so. There's a couple of beautiful Rembrandt paintings I had in my mind as I was developing it. But I'm not comfortable using that other artist's name in one of my titles for fear of b…

Could We Bring the Mountains Out of Arizona Please

Philip Koch, Sedona Mountain, vine charcoal, 9 x 12", 2003
Who are we ? is always the big question that art tries to answer. Trouble is it's too big.
Landscape painters break the question down into smaller pieces and tackle the fragments one at a time. Where are we? is a darned good place to start. Painters are extremely influenced by their surroundings, that's part of our job. I travel a lot in search of good material. Sometimes this gets me in trouble. Remind me to tell you the story of being taken in by the tribal police on a Native American Reservation to purchase a "Painting License" sometime. Other times you encounter things that feel a little too strange or foreign for you to know what to do with them.
The above drawing was done a few years ago in the Southwest in Sedona, AZ. The rocks there are world famous. I don't want to go back there for several reasons, but one of them was that while it was breathtakingly beautiful, it was too dry. I grew up bac…

Painting with Harrison Ford

Philip Koch, Lengthening Shadows, oil, 6 3/8 x 9 3/8" 1981
Last week I started scanning old slides of some paintings I haven't seen in literally decades. I've just finished teaching my two classes at MICA and will be working on and off over the summer getting my old paintings' images in digital form. In the fall I'll be on sabbatical so the project will likely continue. Almost all of the work I've done since the seventies has long since gone to various collectors, and I honestly can't hold clear images of all I've done in mind.
My plan had been to hire a student to do the scanning, but already that seems to be going out the window. Truth is, I like the physical act of slide scanning. I feel like Harrison Ford in one of those old movies where he's opening up some dusty tomb and discovering jewels and silver. The real delight is I like most of what I'm finding.
It's funny but on seeing the old paintings again a rush of memories pulls me right b…

Why Artists Are the Best Cooks

Philip Koch, Passage II, oil on canvas, 36 x 48"
Here's a painting I like a lot. It's an imagined place that draws heavily on my memories of Lake Champlain, the Maine coast, and my old Boy Scout camp in the Adirondack Mountains in New York State near Tupper Lake. Nature flexes her muscles up there in the North, but she always keeps a charming twinkle in her eye too.
I was looking at a recent photo of my grand daughters at a friend's birthday party. Nora, the four year old, is happily wolfing down a huge piece of sugary birthday cake. Remember when you were that age? Sugar was bliss and more sugar could send you to an even greater heaven.
As you grow older your taste buds change, but I think those old appetites endure.
I was putting a second coat of hot rabbit skin glue solution on a newly stretched linen canvas this morning and suddenly found myself thinking about Hershey's chocolate bars. Looking down I realized the wet glue turned the linen just that old enticing s…