Showing posts from June, 2012

Ping Pong

Philip Koch, Adirondack Lake, Late August, oil on panel, 10 x 7 1/2", 2012
When I was a kid I had a pretty large bedroom. This was where my family set up a ping pong table. We played a lot even though none of us were particularly good. I think we all liked the sound of a good long volley more than anything else- ping, bounce, pong, bounce, ping, and on it went, a curious dance between the two paddles.
I got to thinking about this as I started going back into this painting, one I'd thought I'd finished last month. It's a new painting I based on a vine charcoal drawing I did last fall up on Lake Placid in the Adirondack Mountains of northernmost New York State.  I really liked how the new oil looked but kept wondering how it might work with a lighter sky. 
Not wanting  to risk the delicate balance it had achieved, I decided to paint a second version with some big variations in the sky's color. So off I went into the  new panel. From the get go it seemed to have a m…

Great New Video on Major Hopper Exhibition

Edward Hopper, Dead Tree and Side of the Lombard House, watercolor, 1931, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid
What so many find exciting about Hopper is that he breathed new life into the whole tradition of American landscape painting. The starkly elegant watercolor above is a good example. 
A great new spanish language video on the major Edward Hopper retrospective exhibition at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid features a little footage of my current exhibit (through July1, 2012) at the  Edward Hopper House Art Center in Nyack, NY. 
The video’s producers traveled to New York to gather background material on Hopper’s life and work and went up to Nyack, NY to film Hopper's boyhood home and interview Carole Perry the Art Center's Director.  Two  brief views of my show Inside Edward Hopper's Truro Studio installed in Hopper’s bedroom appear at about minute  3:39 in this beautifully produced overview of Hoppper’s art. It is probably the best video on Hopper yet produced, …

Freezing to Death

Here I am two weeks ago working on a drawing on the summit of Cadillac Mountain in Maine's Acadia National Park. The wind was blowing like crazy and I was only able to set up the easel by finding a dense stand of little pines to shield me. It was COLD. We had just had a heat wave down in Maryland before we left and neither my wife nor I could bring ourselves to pack winter coats and gloves. Silly us.
Often when I'm out working like this passers by will stop to watch for a minute. Especially when the weather is, ahem, challenging, as it was, they're likely to ask "why don't you take a photograph and work from that instead of freezing?" They have a point, but I've come to understand it takes even the best painters time to discover what it is they need to say with each painting. Drawing and painting from direct observation by its nature proceeds very slowly. Ours is a language of near infinite subtlety. If you stand outside and take in the space and light w…

A Field Guide to Avant Garde Art


Finding Keys to the Lock

Remember childhood anxieties?  In grade school I worried every day about my school locker. A lot of the time the darned thing wouldn't open. The lockers were old and the combination locks didn't work very well for a lot of us kids. Aways I worried at the end of the day it would make me miss the school bus that would take me home. Why couldn't they just give us each a key?
When I was a little kid there was a print of a Winslow Homer (Am. 1836-1910) watercolor hanging above the couch in our living room. I didn't like it much and can remember sitting on the floor at three years old thinking he should have made his forms more detailed. I actually thought that when I grew up should I choose to I could paint much better watercolors than this Homer fellow. Still it had an amazing ability to make me look at it.  The whole business troubled me.
Over the years that print of the Homer watercolor got better all by itself. 
Above is a Homer watercolor that's new to me, Burnt M…

Housecleaning, Death, and Some Great Paintings

Now here's a real cheer-you-up image!
I did a double take over my morning coffee. It's an oil by the 19th century French painter Millet, Death and the Woodcutter. Like so many paintings by Millet it's a little masterpiece of intriguing silhouettes and an elegant balancing of warm against cool color, but most of all it's really creepy.
Perhaps I'm just in a somber mood because the Apple Corporation is pulling the plug on my website hosting service at the end of June. We've had a good run for the last 5 years or so. will still be operational until near the end of the month, but after that it looks like we may have to switch over to a new domain name for my
I'm still hopeful we can arrange to keep the current web address, but unless you hear otherwise, you might want to make a note that my art website will migrate over to the .org world. (Heck, I've always longed to run a major non-profit organization anyway).
On the same …

Roughing It for Art in Acadia National Park

OK, it doesn't look all that rough I suppose.I spent last week up in Maine in Acadia National Park. Have been going there to paint pretty much annually since I first went with Alice there to honeymoon in 1982. Seeing it for the first time back then I immediately felt a great attachment to it's almost fantastic rocky and cold topography  It reminded me of my boyhood home on the shore of Lake Ontario.  I think all artists discover certain motifs or places that just grab them. It's more important that that kind of head-over-heals romance happen than that we understand exactly why. Making a painting after all is a love affair, and I fell in love with Maine.The state is funny- she offers unparalleled landscape opportunities with one hand and dishes out some of the most challenging weather with the other. Those of us artists who insist on working from direct observation instead of relying on photography are a high risk population when we go up there.On our honeymoon we stayed in…

My Paintings Re-Installed in Edward Hopper's Bedroom

The Edward Hopper House Art Center in Nyack, NY moved my exhibit Inside Edward Hopper's Truro Studio: Paintings by Philip Koch upstairs from one of their first floor galleries to hang in Hopper's bedroom. Carole Perry, Hopper House's Director, told me they've never before mounted one of their scheduled exhibits in this room. (Carole also kindly sent me these photos of the bedroom installation).
I get the biggest kick out of this. 
Both Hopper and his mother were born in this room ( though not at the same time, obviously). Hopper slept in this room until he was nearly thirty. That's funny for me to think about as I left home at 18 and never lived there again. No doubt the Hopper family functioned differently than mine. Hopper was legendarily socially awkward and a generally a very remote personality.  Most artists aren't like that.  I often wonder about the family dynamics in that house during Hopper's formative childhood years. As neither Hopper nor his on…