Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Painting at Boscobel

Last Friday Lauren and I went painting at Boscobel, an elegant Federal period house museum set on lovely landscaped grounds with breathtaking views of the Hudson River. I was picking up two drawings from a show at the museum called, Hudson River Contemporary: Works on Paper, (catalog) organize by James McElhinney from the Art Students League. Here are the two drawings from the show, but what Lauren and I were really excited about was the fantastic 'Claudian' view of the Hudson River, which we both painted.

Koeppel, Kaaterskill Clove, ink heightened with white

Koeppel, Hudson Valley, ink
When I say that the view is Claudian, I'm talking about it being 'setup' both by its natural backdrop and its composed foreground landscaping to resemble the Classical Landscape. Particularly as it was developed by Claude Lorrain. The key features are a dominant foreground tree arching over a 'stage' where the figure story is told, and then one large swoop of space around the other side of the picture to a very deep space (usually mountains and water). This compositional structure has been very popular through all subsequent ages of landscape painting because of its poetic and philosophical significance as a metaphor. The metaphor is the transition that the mind goes through in the discovery of Beauty from being focused on the human detail and worldly action of the foreground (all of which is fleeting) to the elusive unifying atmosphere of the deep space which is irridescent and intangible. The goal ultimately is to realize that the two things are in fact the same. This trancendental principle was later adapted by the Hudson River School to reflect American scenery as discussed a little here.

Here are the sketches that Lauren and I did to try to capture this view. I feel like they're both fairly romantic, but that was also an inherent quality of the view. I've also begun a larger 30x24 vertical adaptation of the composition that I may even go bigger with later. The first day of intitial lay-in of the compostion is shown below. I added a Large Oak which would originally been a part of the view if it hadn't been 'subtracted' by hurricane Irene.

Erik Koeppel, "View from Boscobel", 10x16 inches, oil on panel

Lauren Sansaricq, "View from Boscobel", 10 x 16 inches., oil on panel

Erik's Sketchbook page of Boscobel view

Erik's 30x24 painting, Day 1
Thank you for reading. More painting trips will be posted soon.

Our websites : Erik Koeppel  and Lauren Sansaricq

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Visiting the National Academy of Design Museum

The Morning of Life

The Evening of Life
Today Lauren and I visited the Museum of the National Academy of Design which has now re-opened, and has free entry for the weekend. We were excited to find that their collection of Hudson River School paintings was fairly well represented. Especially in the lobby where they now have hanging two six-foot-plus paintings by Asher B. Durand. I was excited to see these two  prominantly displayed, because they are strong allegorical landscapes which find their foundations in the European tradition, and refer to the Classical landscapes of Claude Lorrain and Poussin. Although the common view of American landscape painting is as a fairly naturalistic representational school, it is important to note that those leanings grew from a solid understanding of how the landscape can reflect philosphical, theological, and poetic ideals. Also worthy of note is that Durand, and all of the artists of the Hudson River School were capable of painting very naturalistically from their imaginations as the European masters did. Having understood how artists of the past had orchestrated ideal landscapes from the creativity of their own minds to convey human meaning, Durand and others were able to convey those ideals in the same fashion using elements and poetic devices found in their detailed outdoor study of nature in the United States. 
Landscape, 1850
In this "Landscape, 1850" (also at the National Academy) we see a very similar design to "the Morning of Life", but applied to an American Hudson River view. Instead of Greek costumes the story is told with a conversation between two artists holding their portfolios. My feeling is that all of these are great paintings, and that regardless of the 'clothing' the figure-landscape is an exceptional vehicle for artists to express the human condition, and address as philosophers and poets, those issues that we all face. Here are some of my recent attempts at the Ideal Landscape:
Erik Koeppel, "Europa" 36 x 42 inches, oil on canvas 2011
Erik Koeppel, "Heart of the Catskills" 35 x 46 inches oil on canvas
Erik Koeppel, "Vision in the Wilderness"58 x 38 inches, oil on canvas

Thank you for reading. Images from summer painting trips are next.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Making the 6ft Painting, "Kaaterskill Falls" Part 3 final

When I first got home from the Catskills, I wanted to start a smaller version testing my ideas for the painting before going to the full-sized canvas.  This 24 x 36 in. painting is the result. For this one I painted the evening view before sunset when a lot of warm light was shining into the amphitheater of the Falls. I enjoyed the soft light and peaceful contemplative feeling of that hour. If you look at the last post, you'll see some outdoor studies of this time of day. Even though I ended up changing the time of day in the final version, all the work that went into this smaller finished painting really helped to prepare for some of the challenges of the six-footer. This painting had several compositonal changes in it's developement like moving the waterfall to the left, and lowering the horizon line. I was happy not to have to make these changes in the larger version. Another difference from the studies is that I removed a big tree from the center-left of the composition to open up the view of the cliffs behind the fall, and make the space into one large swoop.
Erik Koeppel, "Kaaterskill Falls, Evening", 24 x 36 inches, oil on canvas, Private Collection
Although the evening view worked well for this painting, I felt that for the large one, I wanted to celebrate the grandeur of the Falls shining in full daylight with blue sky and glistening green leaves. Although it isn't as quiet and contemplative a time of day, I thought that it had the kind impact that would work well at a large scale. I also feel that additional poetic details and life add a lot to a large composition. So I added the stags (lower right), the birds flying in the mist (small birds give a great sense of scale), the additional trickle of water at the far left, and of course the rainbow. I had never made a study of the rainbow, but it was a reoccurring phenomenon at this time of day on sunny days, and in my feeling adds a sense of magic that is truly present at this site. When I spent time on these ledges I began to feel like I was in a romantic paradise bursting with life; And the source of life in this spot is this powerful infinite cascade of water. I added the lovers beneath the fall to emphasize the humanity of the experience.

Erik Koeppel, "Kaaterskill Falls", 48 x 72 inches, oil on canvas, Private Collection

Well that's all for "Kaaterskill Falls". Next I'll post some great places that I painted this summer with some great artists, and the results. Thanks for reading.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Making the 6ft. Painting, "Kaaterskill Falls", Part 2

This post will be devoted to the painted studies that I made for this large studio painting. There are too many studies for me to label with all the details, but all of them are under 18 inches, and done outdoors. Some are more finished than others depending on what I was trying to capture and how much time I had to capture it. For instance there was a moment each evening as the sun was going down where areas of the landscape glistened with highlights. There was no time to make a finished picture of this, but I did several very quick paintings making bright notes of where the highlights fell. Other studies were intended to capture the mood of the sky, or the transitions of atmosphere through the deep space in varying conditions of light. As I studied here day after day, the studies began to take on poetic content about what it felt like to exist in this beautiful and amazing place. As with the drawings, I didn't sit and systematically study each area, but rather studied the things that moved me, and over time developed a thorough knowledge of the place that I feel extended beyond its appearance to a more true sense of it's essential beauty.

Looking over these studies I noticed that there is a lot of material that was collected that didn't actually go into the final painting directly. This is part of what I consider an organic approach to studying the landscape. Even though there are lots of ideas that I didn't use on this painting, I can always use them later on another painting. I just paint what is inspiring and beautiful, and sort it out later in the studio.

In the next post, on "Kaaterskill Falls" I'll talk about the 24 x 36 inch small version, and the development of the big one.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Landscape Painting Demo from Workshop in the Catskills this summer

Erik Koeppel
Sunrise Over the Kaaterskill Creek
14 x 10 in., oil on canvas

 Before I continue with the Kaaterskill Falls studies, I wanted to show a series of photos from a demo that I did as part of my workshop in the Catskills this summer through the Grand Central Academy of Art. There will be more about the workshop in American Artist Magazine this fall.

First I chose a spot that I had painted a week before, and wanted to do further studies of at a similar hour for a larger painting. I based my demo on this painting, but backed up one more pool to study the foreground a little further. I love this spot because the sun rises in a beautiful alignment with the creek, and illuminates the trees within the riverbend while creating soft atmosphere even in the not too distant shadows.

The very smooth panel was grounded very lightly with a tint a of solvent, burnt sienna, and ochre, and I began to lay out the large elements in burnt sienna.

Once I have a basic idea of the placement of the major masses of form, I start washing in the structure of atmosphere and light  with solvent, and one red, one yellow, and one blue (burnt sienna, ochre, ultramarine usually).

Here I've washed in the light blue tone of the sky (barely tinted from the ground), and begin to push forward though space lightly with washes.

As I move forward the shadows get warmer. Still no white.

Even though I know I'm planning to have a large tree in the upper left. I hold off on that until the sky is more resolved, and begin to apply some violet atmosphere into the shadows. At this point I'm starting to use a little more medium, and am applying paint to a degree that it can be manipulated more subtly.

I pass over the whole painting again from back to front this time more carefully, but always more mindful of each parts relationship to the whole space than the superficial details. If something far back is coming forward, I make the shadow cooler and lighter to set it back in space.

It's almost solid enough to paint the leaves and branches on the foreground tree.

Erik Koeppel
Sunrise Over the Creek Workshop Demo
12x10 in., oil on panel
 ...And here we are. The sun has moved on to full daylight by now, but I tried to preserve my initial response to that beautiful early morning light. One hour and a half later I have a nice little study for my larger painting yet to come. Next time will be part 2 of the Making of Kaaterskill Falls ...probably.