Ernest A. Kilman
I have a serious concern about our natural environment which comes from paying attention to the land, and the rivers, and the natural settings I love. As both an observer of natural landscapes, and a painter of them. I want to make a social statement. My works are interfaces: landscape paintings functioning as escapes back to the tranquility of our original and natural habitats.
It’s hard to find a place to go and paint that remains undeveloped. I’ve seen paintings of early American landscapes that inspire me. Let’s pay attention to those paintings. Let’s get back to that natural environment. Let’s have respect for Nature and the natural settings. Scientists tell us mankind survived for hundreds of thousands of years by adapting to our original habitat. Now, we are running out of natural spaces, mostly as a result of unplanned urban sprawl, devastating the vast American landscape. This comes from a lack of respect for natural settings.
Today, the word “landscape,” as in “landscape gardener,” refers to a setting, designed and built by humans, intended to mimic a slice of the natural habitat. Meanwhile, the real natural beauty of America is disappearing at an astonishing and accelerating rate. As we travel across the country today, we see one continuous flow of fast-food restaurants, strip malls, gas stations, billboards, polluted rivers and manmade “lot-scapes.” As I observe all of this, and as I also observe the real natural landscapes which I discover on my wilderness explorations, my paintings serve notice of what the great American landscape used to look like all across America.
Ernest A. Kilman is the painting guide, taking you on a journey back to Nature through the medium of oil landscape paintings. Born on December 30, 1952, and widely known as Ernie Kilman, he leads a dual life, as an established American landscape painter, and as a professional outdoorsman, providing river outfitter services and guide services. He prefers a canoe as his vessel of transportation into the wilderness regions, where he sets up his plein air easel, and uses impressionistic realism to capture the essence of the grand natural American landscape. He sees his works as nostalgic transports guiding you to an ancient time, when people first gazed upon natural scenes, untouched by human development.
He compares his canoe to a time machine, providing an entry back into the old American landscapes. The canoe is an environmentally friendly way to take his materials deep into thickly wooded areas, to what he calls “the last beautiful spots.” Sometimes he stays for a week at a time, drawing and painting every day. By living with the wilderness, looking at the subject matter, breathing the air, smelling the aromas and hearing the bird songs, the whole natural environment goes through all of his senses and spill out through his brushes, painting scenes little different from how they might have looked to an explorer from long ago.
Ernest always loved to draw; as far back as he can remember. He grew up living in ten different States and the District of Columbia. This exposed him to a wide variety of landscapes: Maine, Florida, New Mexico and everything in between. He spent most of his summers in the Arkansas Ozarks. He credits the Boy Scouts and his father, a career Navy officer who grew up in Arkansas, with introducing him to the outdoor life. They instilled in him an appreciation for Nature through camping adventures all over the United States. The inspiration for his art stars with what he calls “the big room,” the natural environment, and our emotional connection to it.
Over the years, he developed numerous techniques in his composition to guide the eye of the viewer into and through his paintings. He wants the viewer to experience a sense of being in the places he paints and to have an appreciation for the importance that a natural landscape really has in contemporary times. He is a self-taught observer first and then a painter. He works through an accumulation and rearrangement of visual observations and memories together with his imagination.
Kilman spent many years studying and experimenting with Dutch and Flemish glazing techniques. The greatest influences on his work come from the Hudson River School, with artists such as Albert Bierstadt, John Kensett, Thomas Cole, Asher B. Durand, Thomas Moran, and Fredrick Church. These painters influenced Kilman’s specialty of bringing together the mood of the natural landscape with the sky. As he paints, he spends most of his time creating an emotional connection of tranquility, expressed in the use of color and luminous effects to evoke a sense of looking through the air at the landscapes. He creates this sense of feeling, particularly his warm lighting and expansive skies, by using transparent glazes and aerial perspective.
Kilman has sold over 2,000 paintings. During one 14 year period, he painted 80-100 works a year, spending 60-100 days a year on various river usually in the Ozark Mountains.
His career as an artist includes teaching workshops and seminars about plein air painting, using the old masters’ glazing techniques. He taught a total of over 3,000 students from more than 5 states. He also co-organized a two week painting workshop in Eureka Springs, Arkansas with Dalheart Windberg as the instructor.
Kilman had earlier studied with Windberg at a plein air workshop in Goliad Texas. Before Kilman began to sell his works, he studied at a workshop with David Stair in Judsonia Arkansas. Other than these two workshops, Kilman advanced in his career as a professional painter solely through his own study and experimentation. He read books studying the old masters’ painting mediums. He wanted for his work to be archival quality so that his work will last as long as possible. As he studied the methods of old masters, he learned to paint with a limited palette, mixing all his colors from the primary roots. That taught him about color theory, because he had to make his own colors. The premixed colors never seemed to match colors he saw in the natural settings.
Kilman’s body of works hands in private collections world-wide. As local examples in Arkansas, the Batesville Federal Savings and Loan has a 4 x 12 foot mural depicting the chronological history of the second oldest town in Arkansas. Other bank collections in Arkansas include: a collection of 12paintings for the Bank of Fayetteville; The Bank of Eureka Springs, now called Cornerstone has 7 paintings; Community First Bank of Eureka Springs has 5 paintings; Community First Bank of Berryville has 12 paintings; and First National Bank of Berryville, Eureka Branch has 1 large painting.
Kilman worked on three restoration projects, restoring two murals in Eureka Springs, and one mural in Harrison, all three originally painted by Lewis Friend, a W.P.A mural artist.
Kilman served as a judge for a dozen or so art competitions at various pales in Arkansas. He won the People’s Choice Award for Best of Show at the Grand Prairie Festival of the Arts in Stuttgart Arkansas. He also won the Governor’s Award for the Arts, Craft and Design Fair in Little Rock, Arkansas, for a painting depicting the Iron Clad ship Arkansas.
Kilman owned and co-owned numerous art galleries through the years where he hung his works for sale. He first partnered with Jerry Yarnell to open The Wilderness Gallery in Taos, New Mexico, (1978-79). Jerry Yarnell is currently well known for his public television program called Yarnell’s School of Fine Art. Kilman also hung his work at galleries in Eureka Springs including: Ernest Kilman Studio Gallery of Fine Art; Heritage Gallery; KRRL Gallery; and Satori Arts Temple. His work is currently at Eureka Springs Gallery of Fine Art.