Kenneth Ahlering on "Why I Paint"
EDITOR'S NOTE: Ken Ahlering is showing recent oil paintings at Adagio Trattoria Restaurant, 136 Main St., Brattleboro, for the month of October. The paintings are of winter ski scenes and the nooks and crannies of the Vermont countryside, where he has had a home since the mid-1970s.
No one in my family that I know of was involved in, or interested in, any form of art. Our family had no art hanging on the walls, just family photos and a few religious items. But somehow in my very early youth I became interested in art and was always sketching. From the very beginning I was attracted to fine art, especially realistic drawings and oil paintings. To this day I have not been able to figure out what the new art is all about. And I have stopped trying. The Old Masters, with their long tradition of beautiful color, composition, and light were what I wanted to emulate. I looked at paintings by the Dutch landscape artists, the Hudson River School, American Western Artists -- old and new -- and the like for inspiration. Several neighbors, early teachers, and other influences -- names long since forgotten -- exposed me to the beauty of these works of art. I would never tire of looking at the great paintings of our past; American and European alike, but mostly American.
When I was a young boy, I was given a set of oil paints by a cousin who thought perhaps that I could make better use of them. I remember my first attempts: a Chevrolet auto, a local church, and a portrait of an old man. These early works are long gone, but I can still picture them and even remember the struggles to produce them. I can still remember the smell of the turps and linseed oil I used to thin the colors, and the proud feeling I had as family and friends admired them.
But as things worked out, my interest in art had to take a backseat to the realities of everyday life. Under it all, however, there still remained a love of fine art, fine paintings, and the beauty of our American scene. From time to time I would take a night course in painting and try to sharpen my skills. Some teachers were helpful, some not, but I kept trying. I read every art instruction book in the library and looked carefully at every fine art painting I came across in galleries and museums. I made paintings for gifts and for my personal pleasure. In the last 10 to 15 years, however, I have found more time to paint and have made a new beginning. When I discovered that people were willing to pay for my paintings, I got a sense of satisfaction that is hard to describe.
My work is best described as "representational," but I do take artistic liberties with my subject. I am attracted to the softer side of nature: storms, weather effects, and peaceful, easy-on-the-eye land- and seascapes. My work can also be seen at the Artists Guild of Manchester and at Mountainside Photo in the village at Stratton Mountain. The subjects there are the winter skiing scene and the nooks and crannies of the Vermont countryside, where I have had a home since the mid-'70s. I am also represented by Main Avenue Gallery in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, where the focus is on seascapes.
I really enjoy meeting interesting fine art people: artists, collectors, and gallery owners. But the best part is I am still learning to paint realistically; painterly, as I prefer to call it. Making a painting is hard but very rewarding work. You see my mistakes and successes as plain as day on the canvas. Each painting is a learning experience, and each painting is a reflection of my feelings, or what I prefer to be feeling: peaceful, serene, and American.
Copyright 2008, Gallery Walk, Brattleboro, Vermont