Showing posts from November, 2012

Looking Through Hopper's Window

Here are a few more photos I took in Edward Hopper's S. Truro, MA studio this October when we were staying there during our 14th residency.  At the top is one of Hopper's kitchen table and chairs where he and his wife Jo would sit to eat. (We supplied the bananas).

Below is a view from overhead of the same table that's flanked by two windows facing due east.  In the mornings this bright unobstructed light comes in through the two windows. It's delightful.

Here is an 8 x 10" pastel drawing I did of the table from a similar viewpoint.

Hopper did a number of powerful paintings of people seated around a table as in this early oil of his, Chop Suey from 1929, five years before he built the Truro studio. I love all the personality he expresses in the torsos of the two women. The one is front sculpted with flat angular planes, the one on the far side of the table with more rounded forms. Hopper is enjoying playing off extremely pale colors in the far woman's skin an…

The Tricky Balance of Contemporary Art

Philip Koch, Sun in an Empty Room III,  oil on panel, 12 x 9", 2012
To anyone who tries to follow contemporary art I want to say I understand why you feel confused. If it's true that art holds a mirror up to life, isn't this pretty much to be expected? Almost everyone I know is glad to be here. But that said, they're bewildered by living much of the time.
"Contemporary Art" isn't a style. It just means art that has been made today. If used properly, the term extends all the way from performance art using digital video projections to work made by artists who think everything that happened after the 19th century French painter Ingres stinks.
I have two observations.
There has been an explosion in the number of possible ways artists can make art. A young student at my art school in Baltimore is expected to have at least familiarity with the following: digital art, video art. performance, installation, time based art, community engagement art, sound art, and the…

More Edward Hopper Studio Photos

Wanted to show some more of the photos from the most recent residency in Hopper's S. Truro studio on Cape Cod in Sept. and Oct. Above is the studio seen just as the first sun of the day is beginning to hit its opposite side, This photo give you a sense of how Hopper carefully chose the spot for his studio, placing it on one of the more exposed high places on the ridge of sand dunes that run along the shore of Cape Cod Bay. He obviously wanted great unobstructed views. 
The studio has as many windows as the construction methods of his day commonly allowed. It literally catches the first and the very last rays of the day's sunlight. I think of it as his "observatory" where he spent years absorbing and studying the effects of sunlight. It shows in his paintings with their remarkable power to evoke the feel of strong sun and elegant moody shadows.

This is Hopper's kitchen in the afternoon sunlight that's coming in through the window on the kitchen door  and the …

The Poetry of Sharp Branches

Landscape painting has been with us in the western art tradition since the Baroque era. Around then painters started having more fun with the backgrounds. Previously the landscape had been relegated to only  a supporting role to prop up flattering paintings of the local nobleman or pious saints. These new landscape painters urged us to delight in the natural world. And they help us answer some big, pesky questions- Where did we come from? Where are we now? The best of their paintings are a forceful reminder that we are part of nature, and that it is in us, right at our very core. 
Above is the 19th century German artist Caspar David Friedrich's Abby in the Snow, a painting that still gives me a little chill ever time  I see it. It's a masterpiece of gradating colors to create an almost supernatural glow to the sky. One of Friedrich's tricks is to push the darkness so forcefully into both his upper sky and into the low hanging mists on the horizon. It would look heavy hand…

Are Labrador Retrievers Good Art Teachers?

I teach painting at a major art college in Baltimore. We have lots of very thoughtful discussions about    what makes for a good painting. Technique, process, vision, art history all get thoroughly chewed over. But underneath it all, I always find myself hoping that my students like dogs.
When I was a kid everyone in my rural neighbor hood had a dog, sometimes two. The dogs all had a heck of a good time together having informal running contests or fighting over a stick. Sure they didn't think and reason a whole lot, but they all had PhD's in knowing how to enjoy whatever was at hand. Dogs seem to live in a world of sensation. Their ability to embrace their experience wholeheartedly is remarkable, and instructive. They know they're alive and they know their experience is worth celebrating.
A big part of my life as a painter revolves around going on painting excursions in New England or the Adirondack Mountains in upper New York- traveling to a see new material seems to t…

Gazing at the Sea

Look above at the sailboat in Edward Hopper's 1935 oil painting The Long Leg. Then see the Adirondack chair in the second photo of the deck attached to Hopper's studio overlooking Cape Cod Bay. Thought it's just coincidence, check out how the Adirondack chair leans to the right at the exactly same angle as the sloop in the first painting. I get a kick out of things like that. This photo and the following ones were all taken in late September and early October of this year at the Hopper studio.
Hopper loved nothing better than to get off by himself to enjoy the considerable pleasures he could find with his eyes. In a way his paintings are like visual conversations he would have in his mind with the subjects, like the sea, that he loved to stare out upon. 
It all started when Hopper was a boy. He could see the wide expanse of the Hudson River one block away from his 2nd floor bedroom window in Nyack, New York (now the Edward Hopper House Art Center). His habit of falling in…

A Preparedness Drill for Winter

Ah, the weather. Much nail biting in my studio last week over the impending Frankenstorm Sandy (we were already traumatized last summer by a violent local storm that left us without power for 4 1/2 days in 100 plus degree heat). This time we got lucky, but reports of terrible devastation from relatives up in the New York area remind us that nature is WAY bigger than we are. 
Here's a painter who knew that in his bones, Caspar David Friedrich (German, 1774-1840). While not technically a winter painting, his oil Rocky Reef on a Sea Shore sure looks chilly enough. Yesterday I stumbled over an image of this new-to-me painting and fell in love with it. 
It's a powerfully evocative example from one of the best painters of nature's sometimes frozen beauty. When one looks at it, the sharply pointed outcroppings of the ice-like reef command your eye. But Friedrich was a crafty devil of a painter. He knew that to hold your eye and your interest he had to offer more than just this o…