Showing posts from September, 2010

Painting in the Edward Hopper Studio

I'm just returned from the Edward Hopper studio in S. Truro, MA on Cape Cod. We had a blast. Good weather and a smile from the Muse helped me do a ton of good new work. Above is Hopper's easel holding instead of his masterpieces three new vine charcoal and pastel drawings I did while there. His easel, by the way, is nothing special- it's the type still available today from art stores. Like everything else, Hopper worked with ordinary tools, materials and subjects, yet very often produced things that were magical. Above is my wife Alice standing next to the 10' tall north facing studio window in the studio's painting room. That and the high ceilings give the room a steady bright daylight all day long. It's frankly a beautiful space. Hopper placed his easel just to the right of the window when he worked, as that's the spot where glare from the late afternoon sun could most easily be avoided. And above is me with one of my many easels standing on the north side

More About Edward Hopper

Above is Monhegan Houses, Maine painted early on in Hopper's career around 1916-9. Monhegan was popularized as a great place to paint among artists largely through Hopper's charismatic teacher Robert Henri. Hopper was one of many who made voyages out to the little Maine island. His fellow Henri student, Rockwell Kent, liked Monhegan even better than Hopper and chose to stay and build a formidable studio there later owned by Jamie Wyeth, but that's another story. Hopper did mostly small plein air oils while up there, and they rank among the very best paintings ever made of the island. This one's a view of the tiny village with Manana Island in the background. Nowadays lots of artists have painted similar views, though most lack Hopper's expressiveness. One reason this oil has such power is Hopper's restraint. If you squint your eyes a bit when looking at it you immediately are struck by how Hopper segregated all his really light colors to just the very center of

Big Ed Again

When your first impression of an artist comes from looking at reproductions in art books or images on a computer, you can get the sense the artist was flawless. Hints of the struggle the artist had with the piece can be hidden by the photograph. And you can come away with the sense the artist's feet don't really touch the ground. But as a veteran painter, I assure you they do. Completing a painting is a little like scaling a mountain. You get to the top by a circuitous route and you take a lot of steps. Here's an early Edward Hopper oil, Sailing, I have always loved. Some years ago I was in Pittsburgh and got to see it in person at the Carnegie Art Museum. As I stood looking at it, I was annoyed by random bumps in the pigment in the sky. Then I realized what I was seeing- if one squinted one's eyes you could just make out a human head underneath the sky and sail. Hopper had recycled one of his early canvases. It had been a vertical portrait study he'd done that ha

Edward Hopper

Later this Fall I'll be heading north to go and work in the old painting studio of perhaps the most prominent 20th century American realist artist, Edward Hopper. That's Hopper above in a self portrait done in his maturity. I've been very fortunate to have the opportunity to stay and paint in his studio thirteen times since 1983, due to the generosity of it's current owners. I love the portrait above. Hopper seems to gaze out at us with a thoughtfulness and understanding I find touching. In reality he was a complex personality, troubled by depression and some social anxiety that pushed him to live an almost reclusive life. But while that may be true, he was also a man of enormous talents and extreme generosity, devoting his life to a vision that has meant so much to so many. In my own case, I think I owe 90% of my current direction as a painter to this man. I was an art major at Oberlin College in the late 1960's. Seeking the approval of my teachers, I did work like

Welcome Home

This is my studio this morning. Late yesterday the four heavy wooden crates came home carrying my paintings from my national traveling exhibition Unbroken Thread: The Art of Philip Koch. These same crates carried the show out to Washington State to the Clylmer Museum of Art in Ellensburg early this year and then traveled to Indiana for the Midwest Museum of American Art's installment of the show this June. They'll be staying home until next summer when they'll take the show down to a beautiful non-collecting art museum, the Peninsula Fine Art Center in Newport News, Virginia. My wife Alice and I drove down to see the museum and talk with it's Curator, Michael Preble, last May. We liked what we found very much and are excited to show there next summer. I learned long ago that sending one's art out of town was both a lot of work and totally worth the effort. Art is first of all a communication . Art isn't just the airing of someone's idiosyncrasies. It uses

Washington County Museum of Fine Arts

Washington County Museum of Fine Arts is one of those places that when you visit for the first time you scratch your head and wonder "What's a museum with a collection like this doing here ?" Rebecca Massie Lane, the Director of the Museum, asked me to join their Board of Advisors. As I've been a fan of the Museum for years and had an exhibit of my own paintings there back in 1995 I said sure. Was just out to Hagerstown, MD for one of the Board's meetings last Thursday and took time afterwards to enjoy the quiet of the galleries. Situated between the mountain ridges of the easternmost Appalachians, it came into being when a wealthy artist William Singer and his wife Anna Singer decided her hometown should have an art museum. It's a bit remarkable as it happened during the Great Depression and was started just with the Singer's money and art collection. It's now got some 7000 pieces in its Permanent Collection and has American Association of Museum accr