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A Child's Touch, and A Master's Art

By Grace Bertolino, Danielle Fox, Rochitha Nathan, Daniel Post-Jacobs


Painter David Ohlerking stands on the corner of 3rd and market, stooping to maintain a conversation with four year old Alex Herman as he slaps the brush against the side of Ohlerking's Ford Crown Victoria. People pause to observe the eccentric artist, his vibrantly colored car, and the small children waiting for a turn with the brush. Ohlerking, cigarette in one hand, paintbrush in the other, nonchalantly mixes colors on the makeshift palate built into the trunk of his car.


Easygoing and personable, Ohlerking is an oil painter born in Omaha, Nebraska. As a child he traveled the world with his parents, Christian missionaries. He received his first set of paints in second grade and since then he has been painting around the world. His travels around the world have influenced his work. He has picked up nuances from various artists and when he was in Indonesia, Ohlerking saw elements of Chinese art influence his own aesthetic today. He finally settled in Philadelphia where he travels around the city in his car, which he has turned into a mobile studio, painting the different scenes that catch his eye.


Ohlerking's laid-back personality draws people to his side, watching as he quickly paints a stores, models, and anything else that catches his eye in the city. Willing to share his story with whoever asks, be that storekeeper, tourist, or six year old child, Ohlerking is well known all throughout town, bringing a smile to the face of those who know his work. Friendly with most of the local store owners, David occasionally barters his work in return for anything from food to dental work.


Where ever he parks, small children are attracted to the vibrantly colored automobile. As he paints on his easel hidden behind his trunk, he gives any child who asks, a chance to paint what ever they want on his car. This iconoclastic take on a paint-job began one day as David was painting his local church, at a loss for how to keep the children occupied. "There was paint all over the car already, so I thought why not just let them paint it. So I gave them each a brush and they hit my car," says Ohlerking. Since then, whenever kids see his mobile mural, they know that other kids have painted it, so they ask to paint it as well. He says that, "it's a car no one's going to steal. I love the way it looks."


Ohlerking's art is a vibrant and new take on street art. Anywhere David's colorful caricature appear, eyes are drawn to the vivid renditions of the city's finest people and places. David Ohlerking will continue to travel around the city painting eye-catching sites, working out of the trunk of his car, and getting kids involved in his artwork.