LOGAN — Robert Kroeger wants to paint your barn. No, he isn’t going to show up at Hocking County farms with a couple of five-gallon buckets and a roller. Kroeger, who lives in Cincinnati, wants to create paintings of historic barns in the area, and the Hocking County Historical and Genealogical Society will be the beneficiary of his passion.
That passion was ignited about seven years ago when he and his wife were driving through Licking County. At an intersection, there was a small grey barn that clearly was old and was showing its age. Kroeger said that he heard a voice whisper inside his head saying, “You’re going to do this, write a story about this barn and do a painting”, and that’s it.
He went back the next day and got the initially reluctant owner to tell him the history of the barn and allow him to take some photographs of it.
The initial painting led to a desire to paint barns from all 88 counties in Ohio, to capture what he sees as an important part of Ohio history that is vanishing to age and decay. He’s visited about two dozen counties so far and is planning to be in Hocking County in March.
“I like barns built prior to 1930,” Kroeger said. “I like ones that maybe are on their last legs — sagging roofs, missing boards, tilting a bit. If the barn has a metal roof, that’s OK, but I don’t like metal siding.”
He’s a big fan of barns with slate roofs. He also wants to know as much about the history of the barn as possible (was it for livestock, a hay barn, etc.).
“If there’s a story behind the barn, that’s an added plus,” he said.
Kroeger, 71, is a bit of a Renaissance man. Dr. Kroeger was a dentist with a private practice in Cincinnati until he retired in 2010. He’s a marathon runner and avid golfer.
His interest in art started at a young age and came from his father, who earned a degree in fine art from Notre Dame and worked as a commercial artist in Youngstown.
Instead of a brush, Kroeger creates his barn painting with a palette knife, using the tool to maneuver large amounts of oil paint on the canvas.
“I like it thick,” he said, referring to the paint. “It’s a trade off between abstract which I don’t like, and detailed, which is like taking a picture. It’s difficult to get detail with a palette, but the trade off is I like the texture.”
He especially likes it when the paintings are displayed in a room with a lot of natural light, where the sun hits those layers of paint in different ways throughout the day. “It’s like getting a different painting all the time,” Kroeger said.
Kroeger photographs as many as a dozen sites in each county. He usually makes his visits in the spring or the fall and is scheduled to be visiting Hocking County in March.
“It is too hot in the summer, and if crops are up, you don’t get good views of the barn,” he said.
Kroeger has enlisted the help of Nyla Vollmer, board member, and volunteer at the Hocking County Historical and Genealogical Society to help him find local old barns to paint and photograph. For her efforts, Kroeger will do a palette knife painting demonstration at the Historical Society Museum and donate one of the paintings to the Society to auction off as a fundraiser.
“I was really excited when I learned of his work,” Vollmer said. “It’s unique and different from what we normally see and such a great topic. It should be a great learning experience, and we’re always looking for ways to raise money for the museum. It was a very generous offer to make.
“I can’t wait to see what barns we can find that’s out there, what is available, to see what catches his eye,” she continued. “We have already visited a few old barns this past fall and hope to find more and learn the history of them.”
“I’m just trying to save a little piece of Ohio history,” Kroeger said, “and working with the Historical Society seems a perfect match”.
To learn more about Kroeger’s work, visit http;//barnart.weebly.com/
To submit your old barn: Any owners interested in allowing Kroeger and Vollmer come photograph their barns for this project are encouraged to contact Nyla Vollmer by calling 740-385-2255 or emailing email@example.com