Hunting and Gathering

Philip Koch, Chestnut Ridge Panorama,  pastel, 9 x 12 inches, 2018

I needed to show someone some of the preparatory work I did for my large painting Chestnut Ridge Panorama below. It was the culmination of a 3 year long exploration. Above is a pastel drawing I made in the later stages to help me figure out what color chords to use in the painting's expanse of sky.

Philip Koch, Chestnut Ridge Panorama, oil on canvas, 36 x 48 
inches, 2018

 In many ways saying I do "preparatory work" sounds too organized and polite. It doesn't capture the feel of the process. For me the idea for a major new painting starts out innocently enough with at first just a glimmer of an intriguing new idea stealing into my head. I have to look all over for ideas to convert this feeling into a solid, compelling composition. With lots of experimenting, false starts and head scratching the process takes you to a half formed image. Then the work gains momentum,  and finally takes on a sense of urgency. Nearing the end I start to imagine myself as a hungry cave man on a desperate hunting and gathering mission. 

But it's all worth it in the end.

This work was all created during the time I served as the Artist in Residence at the Burchfield Penney Art Center from 2015 - 2018. Some of these pieces were included in the museum's solo exhibition of the work from the Residency last year.

Following are the series of drawings and pastels I made over the three years in my exploration of the vista from the top of the high ridge at Chestnut Ridge Park about 10 miles south of Buffalo, NY. From there one could see miles of farms and forests ending in a distant listening light on Lake Erie. 

Philip Koch, Chestnut Ridge:May, vine charcoal, 9 x 12 inches

One of the things that so fun about this series is the work began on a warm day in May 2015. Through many twists and turns in the studio the painting evolved away from that into a wintery painting of ice formations on the Lake Erie shoreline. I needed to try out a pile of alternatives before I realized the feeling I was after needed to be radically narrowed down in focus and required a completely different season. 

If you only let yourself jump once, how can you be sure of landing in just the right place?

Philip Koch, Chestnut Ridge: Lake Erie, vine charcoal,
12 x 9 inches, 2015

Philip Koch, Chestnut Ridge, Lake Erie: Blue, pastel,
12 x 9 inches, 2015

Philip Koch, Chestnut Ridge Panorama,  vine charcoal, 
10 1/2 x 14 inches, 2015


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