Editor’s Note: This one of an ongoing series of articles about members of the Arts Guild of the Barrens.
Glasgow watercolorist Jane Ward Kehrt jokes she’s been painting forever.
As a toddler, she showed her first interest in art by sketching, but instead of using a canvas, she chose the woodwork not knowing it wouldn’t be acceptable.
“My older sisters had to scrub it off,” she said.
Kehrt paints because she says there is something inside her that makes her feel like she needs to.
A friend told her once she didn’t know if painting was a curse or a blessing, because it is something she feels she has to do.
“You can’t not do it,” she said, but added she thinks life would be much simpler if she didn’t paint, however, she doesn’t think it would be as much fun.
“It’s a fulfillment that takes you to another place. I don’t know if it’s a high or not, but it completely transports you to a place somewhere inside
yourself,” Kehrt said. “It takes you away from this world to the point of forgetting to eat, forgetting to sleep, forgetting to sit down. That’s what it does for you. I wish everyone had something that they could do that with, because I think they would be healthier mentally and physically.”
At age 74, Kehrt has been painting professionally for 55 years. She studied studio art at the University of Kentucky and for a while taught art at a community college in Elizabethtown during the 1970s.
For more than 20 years, she has taught a regular watercolor class each Wednesday called the Wednesday Watercolor Group.
On Wednesday, before the start of her class, she worked in her basement studio at her home, painting a fall scene. Nearby lay a photograph she had snapped of a group of trees with bright yellow, orange and red leaves.
The colors in her painting were much more vibrant than in the photograph.
Kehrt tells her students to use photographs as springboards to get ideas for paintings they want to do.
“The other thing I try to really impress on them is so many of them feel they can’t draw. They can draw, but they feel like they can’t. For some reason they have gotten that in their head,” she said.
Kehrt doesn’t like for her students to trace images to paint.
“I keep telling them what they draw is so much nicer than what they would trace,” she said.
She also tells her students that watercolor is a very forgiving medium and that they shouldn’t worry if they make a mistake.
“It’s not a mistake. It’s something they might want to adjust,” she said. “It’s something, if they leave it alone, it might be the best part of the painting.”
Kehrt doesn’t have a favorite subject to paint. The paintings she likes best are the ones she is currently working on, and she usually has two or three in progress at one time.
“It’s not the subject matter, but it’s the feel of paint flowing on paper. There’s a lushness about it when you get paint on the paper or on the canvas and you move the paint around and all kinds of things start to happen. That’s what I love,” she said. “So, it doesn’t matter. It could be anything. I think subject matter is not important.”
Kehrt keeps long hours, but it may not always involve painting or teaching others to paint. It can also include framing.
“I still do 12-hour days; sometimes 14-hour days,” she said.
With help from her husband, Joe, she builds her own picture frames, cuts her own mats and cuts glass for her picture frames.
“A lot of times I’ll come back down here at night and I will frame until 1 or 2 o’clock,” she said.
She does it, she said, because she loves it. Sometimes she has to remind herself that it is her love for painting and all that is involved with it is the reason why she works such long hours.
“Especially, when all of a sudden I think, ‘I’m tired’ and I don’t know if I can get up the stairs or not,” she said.
Kehrt has participated in various art shows through the years. She has not done any art shows in the last couple of years due to illness in her family.
“I have done up to 22 shows a year when we were really traveling,” she said.
She has taken part in some shows in Florida, Chicago, Cleveland, Atlanta and Palm Beach.
“They were really fun. I loved meeting the people and loved interaction with the people,” she said.
Kehrt is hoping to do a couple of shows next year.
She is glad to be a member of the Arts Guild of the Barrens.
“I hope people will respect it and support it,” she said.
Kehrt is a member of other art guilds across the state and displays her work in their galleries, such as Franklin, Georgetown and Midway.
She believes art guilds are important to communities.
“I think they enhance the places where they are,” she said.
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