Edward Hopper's Studio's Art Lesson

I ran across this photo my wife Alice took of me during one of our earlier residencies in Edward Hopper's former painting studio in Truro, MA.  In the photo it was a windy and chilly morning. I was walking slowly with my heavy easel making my way up the narrow path that Edward and Jo Hopper had made to reach the shoreline far below their studio.

Hopper had been a key figure in inspiring my direction as a painter. I badly wanted to make a painting or drawing that resonated with the importance his legacy held for me. Despite that, in several attempts over my previous stays in his studio, I wasn't able to make what I felt was a significant piece. In the photo above, even with the overcast, I was feeling good as I'd finally discovered a point of view and an approach that did justice to the historic studio and its natural setting.

Sometimes you just have to wait until the conditions, both internal and external, are right.

Two in--progress paintings in my studio. Left: Beneath the Pine,
36 x 54 inches. Right: From Day to Night, 36 x 72 inches.

Here's a photo of my studio this morning. On the easel at the left is a big canvas I'm working on. It's based on a smaller oil from early this spring I am really excited about. I hurried to block in the first layer of oil paint on the larger surface. It's one of my most elaborate compositions with an enormous number of small precise shapes. After days of roughing in the initial paint layer I was worn out. I knew it would be best to put the canvas aside for awhile to let my eye rest from it.

Months went by and I fell into other paintings (like the large panorama in progress on its side in the above photo). Then two days ago the large canvas on which I'd begun Beneath the Pine called out to me and said "Hey, it's my turn."

I dove back in. It's got a sea of little shapes that all need clarifying and refining.  But it is feeling like a welcome challenge and I can feel the finish line is coming up right around the next bend. That's a sign that putting it aside for months worked.

Philip Koch, May 15, 1967, vine charcoal, 7 x 14 inches, 
private collection

Here's the drawing I had just completed when my wife took that photo of me walking back to the studio. It's drawn from a viewpoint down on the beach that shows the scale of the huge dunes Hopper chose to build his studio. That morning was windy and cold as I worked. I had fallen into a somber mood. The studio looked a perfect representation of the loneliness and isolation so many people find in Hopper's work.  Appropriately I'd decided to title the piece May 15, 1967, the day Hopper died.

And below is the small oil on which I am basing my new canvas on.

Philip Koch, Beneath the Pine, oil on panel, 19 x 28 inches, 2019
Available at Courthouse Gallery Fine Art,  Ellsworth, ME


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