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Showing posts from September, 2019

The Seven Secrets of Art (and a few more...)

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Philip Koch, The Roof, oil on canvas,  20 x 14 inches, Somerville Manning Gallery, Greenville, DE

Edward Hopper and Charles Burchfield are two painters who have exerted enormous helpful influence on my work. Hopper wrote almost nothing about art. Burchfield filled literally thousands of pages with his observations on painting. 
I guess I fall kind of in between those two. 
I am shortly going to be leaving teaching my final course at MICA and moving to being a full time painter, an exciting prospect. Below is a list of ideas I'm going to be giving my art students tomorrow. They're general advice distilled down to just bullet points. Some of them may just provoke more questions. But maybe that's the idea.
The 7 Secrets of Art (and a few more...).

        #1.That there are secrets and mystery in art. #2.Art is a language with its own grammar. There are in fact  rules- some to be followed, some to be broken.
#3.Tone is often more important than color. #4.Shapes are almost always more …

Inner Clearing / Inner Storms

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Philip Koch, Penobscot Bay #1, pastel, 7 x 14 inches, 1999

Just before I went to bed last night I was looking at the above pastel for the first time in a long while. My first thought was that the drawing wasn't sure if it was about brightening sun or darkening storms. Then I decided that was its point.

Way back in 1999 my feelings had been hurt when a relative had forgotten to invite me to an important family wedding. Not wanting to sit home moping I booked a last minute flight to Maine to paint for a week in the coastline of Penobscot Bay.  

The area lived up its reputation for striking natural beauty. But Maine can be notorious for rain and gloom and the art gods had decided that was being to be the menu for that week. Every day it poured. 

Of course I was disappointed but I'd come prepared and was able to turn the front seat of my rental car into a makeshift studio, making a series of finished charcoal drawings of the landscape.  Later on these became pastels or oil paintings …

My New Painting of Hopper's Home

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Philip Koch, Edward Hopper's Parlor, oil on canvas 32 x 24 inches, 2019
Where to great ideas come from for artists?
There are all sorts of answers advanced to that question. When we artists are at our best our hands seem to be guided by a part of ourselves that is just beyond our awareness. I'm convinced great art reaches deep into an artist's psyche to borrow images that have been echoing there since their childhood. 
This was driven home to me when an old friend of mine from my boyhood town of Webster, NY came to visit me. Seeing an array of my paintings in my studio he exclaimed "Phil, this is our old neighborhood." Actually I'd never painted in my old hometown. The paintings he was looking at ranged from scenes I'd painted not in Webster, NY but in far flung locales all over the country. Others were fanciful imaginary landscapes. Going around the room he named places we played as young children that these paintings echoed. 
Above is my new painting of Ed…

Edward Hopper's Famous Doorway: Personal Awakenings

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My wife Alice didn't know I was taking her picture. 
She was standing last Fall on the deck just outside Edward Hopper's studio in Truro, MA. She had stepped out for a moment while I was inside lost in working on one of my paintings. Realizing she hadn't returned I looked out the door in Hopper's painting room that overlooks Cape Cod Bay. There she was standing still in a strong wind gazing off toward the horizon. Something about how the doorway framed her small figure grabbed me and I hurried to take her picture. 
A few minutes later she returned and told me she had reached an important decision. Alice is a psychiatric nurse. For several decades Alice had been the Director of a Partial Hospitalization Program at  a Baltimore hospital. It was a place for people who were in the most severe emotional crisis. Over four decades she poured herself into crafting the program into something that was remarkable. It is no exaggeration is say it had saved many lives. The work was in…