Showing posts from 2020

Who is the Father / Who is the Child?

Fathers' Day Observation:  We parents learn from and are changed by our children. Evidence of this crops up all the time but somehow when it does I'm always a little surprised. 

The photo above is what greeted me as I walked into my studio this morning. On the right is my painting from 2019, The Dawn, oil on panel, 18 x 36 inches. It's a view inspired by the coast of Maine.
I was very happy with it. Enough so that I resolved to recreate it on a more grand scale. 

I figured it would be a simple enough job to work up the smaller oils basic composition on the 56 inch canvas at the left. It's at times like this when you think you know where you're going that painting delights in telling you "Not so fast."

One evening last week I glanced at the paintings on the two easels in the mirror I keep in my studio. Unexpectedly it struck me that  I much preferred the lighter tones in the sky and water in the unfinished larger canvas. Before making any radical changes I de…

Finding a Roadmap

Philip Koch, Morning at the Route 6, Eastham House, oil on  canvas, 30 x 60 inches, 2017, Swope Art Museum,  Terra Haute, IN
For sometime I had wanted to make a painting of the farm buildings on Cape Cod that the painter Edward Hopper immortalized in his oil Route 6, Eastham that is at the Swope Art Museum in Indiana. The source is right on the main highway that runs through the town of Eastham. Unlike the open space Hopper saw, it's now tightly ringed by evergreens.

Edward Hopper, Route 6, Eastham, oil on canvas, 1941,  Swope Art Museum, Terra Haute, IN
Much as Hopper has inspired me, I wanted to do a painting that would stand on its own, free from his long shadow. So instead of jumping right in I took more time than usual imagining different ways I might proceed. It required a balancing act, navigating my way between borrowing too much from Hopper and the need to deal with all those obstructing trees.
Philip Koch, Study for Morning at the Rte. 6, Eastham House #1, vine charcoal, 2…

Allen Memorial Art Museum Publishes My Story

Peter Paul Rubens, The Finding of Erichthonius, oil on  canvas, 1632, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin, OH
Allen Memorial Art Museum in Oberlin, OH invited alumni to tell how work in its collection had impacted them. Their collection proved to be an amazing teacher. The big lesson I learned is to take exquisite care about how I go about telling a story with my painting.

Yesterday the museum posted my reminiscence on its Facebook page. Here's what I wrote: 

The temptation is always to run straight towards your goal. Sometimes that works, but often it leaves you wide of the mark, especially in art.

This lesson hit me over the head when I was just starting out as a painter when I was a studio art major at Oberlin. The Allen Memorial Art Museum has the most remarkable and troubling painting by the 17th-century artist Rubens, 'The Finding of Erichthonius,' from 1632.

I saw it almost daily and I was always a little creeped out by it. Its subject involves the finding of the snake-tai…

My Painting as a Museum's Art Lesson

Philip Koch, Spring Frontyard, oil on canvas, 45 x 60 inches, 1989, Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, Hagerstown, MD

The Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Hagerstown, MD is running a series of art lessons for children using images of works in the Museum's permanent collection. Kellie Mele, who directs the WCMFA's Education Dept. originated what she calls the Art A Day Challenge and yesterday (by coincidence my birthday!) built a lesson around my large painting in their collection, Spring Frontyard. Here's a link to the Challenge.

Spring Frontyard  is a major studio painting I made based on a smaller oil painted on location in my neighborhood in Baltimore. I grew up in a new "California Modern" style home but coming across this older white house I fell into a fantasy if what it might be like to have grown up there. My childhood home was in a deep forest. I chose a point of view that similarly sandwiched the painting's white house between two dense bank…

Before Realizing What I Was Doing

The Roof, oil on canvas, 20 x 14 inches, 1980.

Sitting at our dining room table yesterday my wife looked up and remarked about three of the four oils I had just hung on walls. "They're all pictures of home" she exclaimed. This hadn't been my plan, I just pulled out canvases that I felt like looking at.

Truro Kitchen, oil on canvas, 40 x 30 inches, 2018.

But I had to admit she was right. Without realizing it I had selected paintings of houses I'd like to live in. Places where I'd feel safe. In this time of a frightening virus, my unconscious was guiding my selections. In Truro Kitchen above the painting shows the tiny kitchen Edward Hopper designed for himself on Cape Cod. In the morning sunlight it's amazingly cozy- the kind of place we'd all like to be just now.

Houses on the Hill II, oil on canvas, 30 x 24 niches, 2020

We carry with us through our adult lives a sense of "how things are supposed to be" that forms in our childhood. I grew up in a…

Warmth of Art in a Cold Troubling Time

Philip Koch, Edward Hopper's Parlor, Nyack, oil on canvas, 32 x 24 inches, 2020 (at Somerville Manning Gallery, Greenville, DE)
You know things are bad right now. 
Something I've learned from decades of making art is as I develop my painting somewhere I'm going to hit a roadblock.   It's not fun to have to let go of your plans. But I try out some alternative solutions. Pretty soon something works.
In our personal lives having difficulty hit you over the head can hurt. If you don't let that pain blind you often that sharp collision scatters a few sparks of opportunity.  With your normal routine upended you have a chance to look at things with fresh eyes.
Here are two of my paintings. At first they look unrelated. The interior above is an oil of the artist Edward Hopper's boyhood home. The living room has heavy wooden planks for floorboards that were layed down in the 19th century. They show they've been scuffed and gouged over the years but were built to last. T…

Looking Back / Going Forward

I was turning out the lights for the night last evening in my studio a half hour before it became 2020 and memorialized the moment with a photo. We're supposed to be celebrating new beginnings but on my easels are two paintings that are about looking back. 

Sometimes when you can brush the dust off a memory you see its glow is brighter than you had remembered.

On the left is new version of an all time favorite oil that had been damaged in transit and now belongs to a collector (see the last image in this post). I was at the collector's holiday partly last week and seeing the painting for the first time in years. Despite some cracks in its surface it looked even better than I remembered it. I was surprised how much I missed the painting. Woke up the next morning and realized I needed to paint a new version of it. 

Other times something that was never quite resolved from the past calls for you to fix it. On the easel on the right is my a canvas From Day to Night. The composition ha…