Art Camp -Winter of 2013-2014

Images of work from the ArtCamp series are interspersed in the 2014 and 2013 year galleries. 

The ArtCamp Paintings of Richard Kooyman

Last fall I began a project I call ArtCamp. Initially the idea was to paint a series of paintings that transcribed the variations in light, textures and temperatures as experienced in a small wooded parcel of property behind my studio in Manistee Country, Michigan. Part outdoor painting studio, part campsite, this project became an immersion into the power and presence of weather and nature, and a discovery of the effects this immersion has on the process of making a painting. 

Around the same time I began ArtCamp I also began reading Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Pastand immediately recognized the parallels between the commitment to read one of the world’s great novels, and the commitment to make paintings for a year in my woods. Reading Proust’s depiction of the narrator’s life demanded slow observation and a dedicated introspection. Proust’s own commitment to the novel, over a life time, demonstrated to me the importance of the sustained engagement to an art form. 

There have been many artists I have admired over the years who practiced an art of sustained engagement. Cezanne’s repeated painting of Mont Sainte-Victoire, Morandi’s obsession with painting arrangement of bottles in his studio, and Georgia O’Keeffe’s countless paintings of The Pedernal in New Mexico. The painter Tom Thomsom’s immersion into the Canadian wilderness, working from his camp and even in his canoe, was an important influence.

ArtCamp, for me, is a type of return to a sustained engagement in landscape painting. It is an engagement with a intimately personal environment; a small, over grown parcel of land, wooded with Black Locust, White Pine and native Black Cherry trees.

Each day in ArtCamp I spend time building a fire, clearing brush, and setting up a functional painting area. Building a fire and maintaining a camp like atmosphere grounds me in the setting. I take notice of the crows and bluejays that are around on a particular day and guess as to why they weren’t here the previous day. When painting I’m in tune to how the cold or the wind is conveyed in the painting. I’m drawn to why on a particular day the paint was more urgently applied and why does that exuberance look more successful? Working on location in my own woods decelerates my active attention into a focused, more patient, process of observation. A welcome antidote to todays electronic gadget, screen experienced world.

Some days in ArtCamp I end up starting 3 different paintings and other days it’s enough to sit and tend the fire or make a wood pile. Both activities seem to share important qualities; the willingness to be patient, the ability to be resourceful, the desire to be present. 

So far each season has impacted my process differently. The project was only in it’s infant stage this fall. After the first hard frost leaves fell rapidly onto my paint palette and wet paintings. Winter painting preoccupied me with staying warm and dealing with this years record heavy Michigan snow fall. When the weather warms up I plan to cook some meals in camp, sleep out over night, and make night paintings.

With the coming of spring I will take my new found sustained engagement on the road, so to speak. I’m an avid bicyclists and have built a mobil painting trailer to tow behind my bike. Built from a recycled trailer used to carry children it now contains everything I need to paint. I plan to bike to more remote locations around my rural environment, along with foray’s into the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore near where I live.

I have been selected as this years artist in residence at the Old Art Building in Leland, Michigan. Part of my residency will include an exhibition titled ‘Richard Kooyman- The ArtCamp Paintings’. This will be the first public exhibition of a large selection of the ArtCamp paintings along with documentation about ArtCamp. Opening reception June 27, 5-8pm. An artist’s talk is scheduled for Sunday, June 29 at 3pm. For more information visit www.oldartbuilding.com or email richardkooymanart@gmail.com