Friday, May 27, 2011

An Interview with Artist Erik Koeppel

Recently, I sat down with senior Hudson River Fellow Erik Koeppel to discuss his work and the Fellowship. Erik studied at RISD and the NY Academy of Art; however, his heart lies in classical landscape painting, which has led to his involvement with the Fellowship and GCA. Erik will be teaching a workshop on landscape painting as an extension to the Fellowship this summer. You can find out more about his ten day workshop in the Catskills here.

Could you tell me a little bit about your artistic journey, from student to professional?

One of my teachers told me, which I think were wise words, is that if you focus on making great
work that you really believe in, then once you’ve achieved that, your career will happen in a very
Kaaterskill Creek by Erik Koeppel
14" x 11"
Oil on Panel
Private Collection
natural way. I feel that that has been true in my own transition so far; in that I never set out to promote myself, I just tried to make great work, and slowly people came to notice it and I can continue to make the work I want to make.

You’re one of the senior fellows at the Hudson River Fellowship; what initially attracted you to joining and aligning yourself with this group of contemporary artists?

I heard about the Fellowship randomly through an email. At the time I was trying to make ideal landscapes in my studio, and preparing for a show of that subject. So when I heard about this opportunity, where the main idea was spending a month outside painting in nature and trying to do what the masters did, I thought that is really appealing to me.

How much do the ideals and methods of the Tonalists and Luminists of the Hudson River School affect your work?

I am more influenced by individual paintings or artists that I find to be really great, rather than a particular movement from art history. Such as in the Tonalists, I prefer Inness to Whistler, and with the Luminists, I am more influenced by Church and Gifford. Overall major influences for me are Durand, Corot, Claude, Turner, Constable; artists I consider to be the forefathers of landscape painting. Claude Lorrain is the overarching figure though, he was a major influence on almost every great landscape painter in history.

Kaaterskill Falls by Erik Koeppel
Oil on Canvas
Private Collection

How much have the annual gatherings of the Hudson River Fellowship changed your
work since you began attending?

I am influenced by so many things, but the experiences that I have with the Fellowship, getting out into nature by myself and thinking deeply about my relationship as a human being with nature, and then studying it very closely - not only what it looks like, but also what it feels like to be in these amazing places. Being immersed in a place like that, has spurred changes in my work and my approach to working that has made me seek out the real landscape a lot more as an influence in making ideal landscapes. Although my previous landscapes were certainly informed by my own experiences, I had never really gone through the process of trying to paint a large painting of a specific spot, like Constable or Cole would. But now I also take on such subjects as
a specific waterfall and try to make it work in a composition like Cole and Durand did. I think that starting to do that at the Fellowship led me down a path where I wanted to do it more and more.

The Rising Sun After a Flood by Erik Koeppel
Oil on Canvas
Private Collection
You’re teaching a landscape workshop this summer as part of an extension of the
Hudson River Fellowship; what will you be focusing on teaching during this workshop?

We’re going to cover a lot of ground in ten days that will be helpful for students of all levels, from proficient painters to beginners. I’ll start off with composition, which I believe is very important; we’ll look at examples of master paintings to show how to see compositions in nature, and then from there go through the process of how to understand light and shadow in the landscape, as well as color. Beginning students will get more hands-on training, while more experienced students will be able to incorporate and explore these ideas and methods amidst their own working process. I’ll also demonstrate some layered painting techniques that were used in traditional outdoor studies.

Do you have any words of advice for aspiring landscape painters out there?

Be moved by nature, and try to bring that true response into your paintings. Your paintings can only be as rich as your own experience of Beauty. From there, learn to communicate that experience as the masters did.

1 comment:

Alexandro said...

What a great interview. I had the pleasure of taking a figure painting class with Erik in 2007. I found him to be a very patient and knowledgeable instructor. Whoever signs up for his landscape class is very lucky to have such a passionate instructor.