Artist excels at finding beauty

Earl Lehman, artist in residence at Salt Springs State Park, demonstrates plein aire painting with an Adult School class meeting at the park Friday. PHOTO BY PAT FARNELLI

Earl Lehman, artist in residence at Salt Springs State Park, demonstrates plein aire painting with an Adult School class meeting at the park Friday. PHOTO BY PAT FARNELLI

Earl W. Lehman is an accomplished, renowned, prolific artist who works hard and has an abundance of paintings to show for it. His studio, however, is a work in progress.
Lehman says that he is bilingual, since he does both representational and non-objective. His works, which include landscapes and abstracts, will be on display near Lawton during the Artists Open House Weekend tour on Columbus Day Weekend.
For the past 15 years, Lehman has been living and painting in his rented home studio in Jessup, Lackawanna County. In the meantime, he has been building another studio in Susquehanna County, and the proceeds from any sales of his work during the tour will go directly into the construction of the studio/residence in Lawton.
The foundation of the structure was locked into a hill, and the “glass box” of a studio was constructed upon it. A second floor has been added and is still being completed, hopefully before winter, he says.
Lehman’s acclaimed landscape paintings will be on display, as well as abstract or non-objective pieces. Those looking for art to display will find Lehman works in many sizes, from four-inch by four-inch pieces to large paintings that are eight foot by eight or 12 feet in dimension.
Lehman says that he has wanted to be an artist since he was five years old. His father was building a house, and a neighbor invited the family into his home. It was there the young Lehman saw an artist’s studio for the first time and knew that was what he wanted to do.
But when he graduated from high school, his parents refused to allow him to go to college to study art. He had been working and saving since ninth grade, so he went to LaSalle University, then an all-boys college in Philadelphia, for a year with the money he had saved.
He did not declare a major, but took all of the art courses he could. He then enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1964 and served in the Philippines as a communications specialist.
“I volunteered to go to Viet Nam because I thought it was the right thing to do,” he said. “I served about 155 days there, because they needed someone who could do what I was trained to do. I had top secret clearances and could send messages, usually about bombings.
“My job was, when the enemy was upon us, to destroy all of the equipment before they reached us, which was basically a death sentence. But then they kept me, kept finding reasons to keep me there. It was horrible. When I finally got the hell out of there, back to the Philippines, I felt very lucky to have gotten out alive.”
After another stint in the Philippines, Lehman was transferred to Washington, D.C., “to do the same job, but from a distance.”
While Lehman was in Viet Nam, his father purchased some property in Susquehanna County which has become the family homestead, now shared with his siblings.
“My dad asked me if I wanted to buy some land in Lawton, which I did, by mail, from Viet Nam.”
As a returned veteran, Lehman was at a loss on what to do. He took some community college courses, and an instructor suggested that he apply to art school on the G.I. Bill. He was accepted at Kutztown University and took as many art courses as the G.I. Bill would pay for. Lehman graduated in four and a half years, Summa Cum Laude, with a degree in Fine Arts.
He worked for Rodale Press’s book division as a writer for a year, then “borrowed $30,000 and came up here and built a house with that money in Lawton. I lost that to my ex-wife but am building another six or seven miles away. It’s a great spot, so beautiful here.”
When he built the stone walls around the house, he put a lot of legacy into them. “There’s history in that wall. The wall, has fossils and bricks and other ephemera built into it.”
As a professional artist, Lehman has conducted many residencies at schools and art programs throughout Pennsylvania and New York. He prepared exhibitions at the Sordoni Art Gallery at Wilkes University for 15 years A rostered artist with the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts’ Arts in Education program since 1989, Lehman has taught throughout the Commonwealth at the elementary, middle high school, university, and adult education levels.
A long-time participant in the Arts Alive program as a painting instructor, he also currently serves as a member of the training team for new artists and teachers throughout NEIU 19. Lehman was recognized for his outstanding teaching practices and named NEIU 19’s Artist of the Year in 2001.
Lehman‚Äôs art expresses a passion for home, earth, and an equally intimate connection to humanity and the culture we have inadvertently caused to materialize. He says, “I’m a painter and I love what I do! My enthusiasm for my calling is not lost on young minds and they quickly follow suit. I’ve never asked to teach, but teaching came to me.”
More information about Lehman, as well as images of his art work, can be seen on his website http://www.earlwlehman.com/

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