Kempton artist preserves local landscapes on canvas
Nestled among a patchwork of lush greens in every hue, local barns and other structures create a picture that evoke the quiet and simplicity of times past.
These scenes continue to inspire Kempton artist Gene Allen, who seeks to document them for local folks now and for the future.
By his own admission, Allen is most interested in “preserving the old by painting the rapidly disappearing landscape.”
“One of the reasons we settled here is because the landscape is so beautiful [especially] the juxtaposing of nature and the manmade buildings,” Allen said.
“You’re trying to preserve the ever changing countryside, because the developers of the world have no interest in preserving it.
“There are a lot of artists in the Kempton area [partly] because it is such a beautiful area.
“My emphasis is on the landscape but you could see evidence of people in my paintings as well.”
Even his studio reflects this commitment to capture the moment and its ties to the past.
“They used to raise turkeys in this room and we had chickens in here one time,” said his wife, Marianne. “Gene decided in the late ’90s to make this into a studio.
“He used to have a little studio in the milk house but this is much better. It has electricity and heat.
“It’s off by itself and it has a lot of storage.”
The open and airy space makes a fitting setting for the canvasses he wants to share with visitors.
Allen is enthralled by “color and good light.”
“I prefer early morning or late in the afternoon when the lighting and the colors are more dramatic and the shadows are more interesting,” he explained.
He pointed to several paintings on display.
“Everything has this purple hue,” Allen said.
“Here, the colors of the sky help to tell the story.”
“Most of the landscapes are of the Kempton area,” Marianne said. “In fact, most are of our property or four miles away or less.
“People can point to each and [identify] the location.”
“Most of the work are scenes of the Lehigh Valley,” he said. “Three are of Steins Corner.”
His paintings involve all the seasons,
“I love to paint snow scenes anytime but especially during the winter season,” Allen said.
“There are lots of reflections of colors.
“The paintings turn out very impressionistically.
“I usually paint in the afternoon only because I do physical work in the morning.
“People have the misconception that painting is really easy, but I’m really tired after painting.”
Allen’s artistic eye is always on the search for subjects to paint.
“When we’re going someplace I keep my eyes open,” he stated.
“When I see something striking, I go back with my camera, and take several shots of one place so that when I get back to the studio I can figure out what works best.”
The photographs inform the final work.
Like many painters, Allen is moved by great artists of the past.
“I love Monet because of his colors and technique,” he explained. “I like that he approached one subject in many different ways.
“I love Hopper because of the dramatic lighting.
“I admire Georgia O’Keefe because the way she sees things is not like how we see things.
“She simplifies everything down and looks at things a little differently. I often [wonder] about my own paintings how she would do it.”
Among the works on exhibit are several of New York State and the Hudson Valley.
“I wanted to do a series of the Duchess County Fair because I just love the excitement of colors,” Allen said.
“The fair always seems like an anthill, always busy with people moving around.
Allen prefers painting with acrylics, using oils infrequently.
“I kind of lost touch with oils [because] acrylics dry so rapidly that you can layer another color on top. I like doing that,” he said.
Allen has been involved with the arts for most of his life.
“I seriously turned to painting around 2004, but I always wanted to be a painter,” said Allen. “My father painted when he was in his 60s, but he said I had to go to school so that I could support myself.
“Art and music kept me sane in school. I painted and drew whenever I could, at camp, in high school. I was in every musical organization I could be in and I played organ in church and I was in musicals and in chorus at college.”
Allen is no novice when it comes to sharing his work with the general public.
“I was accepted five times into the Berks Art Alliance Show,” he said.
“I usually submit two pieces at the Berks Art Alliance and a jury selects.”
His work has been shown at Governor Wolf and Albany Township historical societies.
Allen has also had his work displayed at GoggleWorks in Reading and Flatworks in Kutztown.
The retired middle school art teacher continues to teach as well, though his students’ ages have changed.
“I teach a painting class at Fellowship Community, Whitehall, Tuesday afternoons,” said Allen. “We have six-week sessions and then we take a little break and do six more weeks. I talk to them about visual vocabulary.”
“The more you paint the more you will increase your visual vocabulary.
“Most become pretty absorbed in the two-hour classes.
“I think it’s really awesome for senior citizens to do something that they’ve never done.”