Drawing: A Shared Compass Between Me and Charles Burchfield by Philip Koch

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

It makes sense to have heroes, to enjoy the work of great artists, study it, even become best friends with it. One of the painters I have learned the most from is Charles Burchfield. I grew up in Burchfield country (Western New York State) and always felt a special kinship with his nature paintings. We both work left handed, (few people realize how big a factor that is in giving a drawing or painting its distinctive personality).

I was recently discussing with a friend why I choose to make charcoal drawings in such great numbers considering I am primarily an oil painter. Musing on this I began comparing my practice to that of Burchfield, who also made countless drawings. If you go to Burchfield Penny Art Center's online pages of Burchfield's drawings they have 1408 of them posted!

Much as I love Burchfield's work, I don't draw or paint the way he did. Yet I feel in his work a hint of some hard-to-define energy that I sense in the landscape. That he could convey this so expressively is an incredible achievement. Given that my personality is very different than his, I have to come at that mysterious energy of nature from a different direction. Yet looking at his work, despite how different it is from my own, gives me an extra push as I work my way down my path.

Above is a drawing I began as I was starting to dream up a new composition. It's in vine charcoal, a medium prized for how easy it is to smear it and for being easy to erase. My drawings begin by moving the dry black charcoal dust this way and that until an image begins to form that excites my eye.

You have to coax the idea into being. Flexible vine charcoal for me works better than anything else to grab a hold of the new idea when it's still fleeting and tentative and make something solid and substantial out of it.

Here below is the large oil on canvas I painted from the idea I first worked out in the drawing.

Read more at Philip's website.

Learn more about Philip Koch at http://www.burchfieldpenney.org/artists/artist:philip-koch/