John Koehler creates his head-turning art on an iPad. Image courtesy of the artist.

Va. Beach Digital Artist’s Exhibit Benefits Lynnhaven River

In his book Works of Art, John Koehler explains that he was born with the ability to “see things and put them down on paper.” His digital creations burst with wonderful colors and imagination—and it’s all accomplished on an iPad. Starting this weekend, you will be able to see his works in a new exhibit in Virginia Beach, Va.

First to notice his abilities, of course, was his mother. His school teachers noticed as well, and moved him from the beginning art class to be with the more advanced young artists. Teachers even purchased some of his early pen and ink drawings. In the early 1990s, Koehler bought a digital camera and began creating with digital photo editing software. The ability to replace backgrounds or turn someone into an animal fascinated Koehler. He had used a variety of artistic mediums before, but was drawn to digital because of  “the ease of manipulation and the ability to alter things quickly on the move. If you screw up an oil painting you may have to start over. With digital art you simply undo and go back.”

In 2010, Apple released its first iPad. Using a program called Brushes, Koehler was able to literally finger paint on the screen. Koehler took his digital photos and gave them an incredible boost in color and creativity. In 2018, Apple’s release of the iPad Pro, with its higher resolution screen and ability to use a digital pencil, opened even more doors for his creativity. He began doing portraits, and received additional inspiration from the family dog and the abundant wildlife in coastal Virginia. In addition to dogs and wildlife, he categorizes his other works as Dreamscapes, Honorific Nudes, Angels and Humans, and Mermaids and Sprites.   

His keen eyes were not just good at creating art. Koehler had excellent hand-eye coordination, and somehow got into throwing boomerangs. He was so good he started creating his own boomerangs, and even won the 1991 world championship in Perth, Australia! In 2002, he coached the U.S. Boomerang team to win the world championship in Germany.

Not sure if he could make a living as an artist or boomerang athlete, Koehler worked as a graphics designer in commercial advertising for 12 years. In 1994, he thought the time was right to move to Virginia Beach and open his own studio.  

Koehler’s wife suggested he create images of wildlife and sea life for Lynnhaven River NOW, a local environmental group that is working to restore the Lynnhaven River. His first piece was a crab.  He now has about 75 creations that will be on display beginning this weekend. His works are displayed as Giclee archival canvas prints and are framed in black. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Lynnhaven River NOW, as well as The World Wildlife Fund, Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Virginia Beach SPCA. 

The gallery is at 3705 Shore Drive, Va. Beach, VA 23455.  The exhibit opens June 18 during a special evening preview. No end date has been scheduled. You can find out more at koehlerartworks.com.  

-Kendall Osborne