Saturday, November 27, 1999

Art on the rocks


Barbara Klocke brings stones to life with animal images

BY MIKE PULFER
The Cincinnati Enquirer

painted rocks
Barbara Klocke's painted rocks sell for $80-$200.
| ZOOM |
        Down by the riverside, Barbara Klocke sees wild animals where the rest of us see water and rocks. With the help of her husband, Jim, she hauls the rocks home, cleans them and paints them so we all can see.

        Elephants, giraffes, lions, leopards, monkeys, owls and ducks. If you have another animal dear to your heart, she'll do that, too. Cats are popular. One collector requested a pig ... and got it.

        Mrs. Klocke, 59, who has painted and drawn since she was a child, first experimented with rock painting last summer. She thought it would be a good project for her and her 7-year-old granddaughter, Cassie Bonz.

        Quickly, they learned the intricate art was best suited for adults.

        “After I did the first one, I was hooked,” Mrs. Klocke says.

        Samples of her work — 75 pieces so far — are on display at Closson's, downtown, and Verbarg's, Kenwood. Price range: $80-$200. Weight range: 5 to 25 pounds.

        The right rock, she says, is crucial.

        “She takes a rock, sets it down, turns it until she sees an animal,” her husband says. “She'll see a rock and say, "That's a tiger.' ”

        “Something will draw my attention,” she says. “I found my best rocks that way.”

        Her paintings, in most cases, have been of people. The rocks seemed to lend themselves to animals.

        “It appeals to me,” she says of the medium. “This has so many possibilities and so much personality ... and challenge.”

        From the consumer's point of view, “I think the realism is part of the appeal,” says interior designer Suzanne Bischoff, with Nancy Ross Interi ors in Hyde Park.

        She bought one of Mrs. Klocke's rocks for her mother, Virginia Bay, who had worked for years with cheetah expert Cathryn Hilker, director of the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden's cat ambassador program.

        “It was two cheetahs on a rock,” Ms. Bischoff says. “I was pleased with the way they were placed on the rock, and it was just very realistic.

        “My mother is very particular about the faces of cheetahs (and how they are depicted), and she thought these were well done.”

        Except for smoothing out some porous rocks with filler, she says the rocks, lugged home from the Little Miami River at Milford, “are not altered in any way, shape or form.”

        Some rocks are just not suitable for painting, Mrs. Klocke says, pointing to a pile of rejects in the couple's back yard in Madison Place.

        Mr. and Mrs. Klocke believe she is the only artist of her kind in the region.

        “I wasn't familiar with animal anatomy,” she says. “I had to go buy some books.”

        She continues to refine the technique she developed, one that involves layering and shading colors with artist brushes for lifelike detail. She starts her designs, working in a small upstairs studio in her house, with a pencil sketch on the rock surface and completes it with an acrylic coating to protect finished images.

        Her work has been compared to that of nature artist John Ruthven. “What amazes me is that people want to hold them,” she says of her animals. “You'll see them rub them and pet them, like they were real.”

        Information, call 271-1932.

       



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