Featured Folk Artist - Blacktop


Blacktop (Ken Gentle)
Alabama native Ken Gentle is a self-taught artist who began painting as a way of sharing his experiences of growing up in the South. In his multi-media paintings he uses water colors, chimney soot, enamels, and acrylics which typically start with a base of "black tar" on wood or cardboard (hence the moniker “Blacktop"). His style of using a mixture of found objects further complements the stories he tells.

My paintings and drawings are a process of storytelling - bringing and invoking the past and spirits into people and environments. They are also about a way of life, about the struggle of life and the events that have changed our lives. I focus on contemporary social and political issues which include the complexities of relationships. Rural southern scenes of people at work, old houses, churches, baptisms and the struggles of everyday life are my favorite subjects. I have a passion for telling the stories of growing up in the south where the simple pleasures of life are important and cherished."

My Process:

The process begins with a wood panel or cardboard; next I apply a thin layer of a tar mixture to the surface; a color tinted sealer (my mixture) is then applied next I apply the background color. When the surface has dried for a period of time I rough in the subject matter with several homemade tools. Next I apply the various levels of paint to surface; then remove some paint by scratching the color away so the black tar will show through. Once the painting is completed I apply a clear sealer. (The process has been heat tested to several hundred degrees with no affect on the painting.) For obvious reasons I cannot share the chemical combinations that I use to obtain my end product.