Fall 2008: Beauty in the ordinary
Monroe artist David Larkens has spent a lifetime coaxing mood and atmosphere into the muted tones of a watercolor world.
I believe an artist must experience the painting before the first brush stroke is applied.”
That’s the philosophy of noted Monroe artist David Larkins. But it’s the viewers of his finished work who truly “experience” his paintings as they are drawn into the moods, scenes and places displayed in his art.
Larkins, 53, has been painting since age 7. His “day job” is in CAD (computer-assisted design) facility/graphics at NEAPCO, a Belleville auto products firm. But his passion has always been painting. Collectors of his work reside throughout the United States, Japan and Europe.
“The achievement I’m probably most proud of was when I was awarded Signature Membership status in the National Watercolor Society in 2003,” Larkins says. “It’s a very prestigious thing . . . it’s a goal I’d worked toward for years. It allows me to use the initials ‘NWS’ after my name when signing my paintings.”
Larkins and his work also have been featured in The Artist’s Magazine, a national trade publication. His paintings have been in various solo and group exhibitions throughout Michigan and Ohio. One of his newest paintings, “Lost Boys Calling,” will be featured in the 90th Annual Toledo Area Artists Exhibition, which will run Oct. 26 through Jan. 4 at the Toledo Museum of Art.
Much of the inspiration for Larkins’ work comes from places around Michigan, including Monroe. One such example is “Spring Passage,” which depicts an idyllic view of the water, trees and walking bridge in Sterling State Park.
But another favorite source of inspiration is Maine, where Larkins and his wife, Laura, vacation regularly. The coastline, the lobster boats, the rugged docks, even the seagulls show up frequently in his work.
Landscapes and views of old buildings are the most common subjects of his paintings. Even in these scenes, though, he’ll include what he calls a “heartbeat” in the painting, usually a small dog or cat.
“My style is described as ‘abstract realism,’ and my strength is found in the composition,” he explains. “I’m drawn to diverse subject matter that challenges the viewer to see the abstraction in the ordinary.”
Larkins looks at life with an artist’s eye, and when he sees a building or scene that inspires him, he pulls out his camera.
“Even before the first brushstroke is applied, I visualize the end result by looking at the many types of photos I’ve taken of the subject,” he says. “By absorbing the textures and remembering the initial impression and mood of that moment in time, I re-create the emotions and atmosphere and coax the painting into reality.”
He’ll usually spend four to six weeks on each painting. His choice of medium (watercolor or acrylic) depends primarily on the subject of his paintings but also on the “feel” and detail he wants to achieve. He sells both originals and prints of his work, the prints created by a New York art printmaking firm.
Larkins works from a first-floor home studio bathed in light from an expansive picture window. He and Laura, married 27 years, designed their Frenchtown Township home. The abundance of windows and the open, airy feel make the house a perfect backdrop for art displays.
In fact, Larkins’ entire home serves as a gallery, with originals and prints of his paintings adorning almost every room. The grounds of their home are also a work of art, with extensive landscaping that the Larkinses did themselves.
The house sits on a beautifully wooded three acres, which is certified as a natural wildlife habitat.
Larkins cites several key people as being instrumental in his success. “I began my artistic career at the age of 7,” Larkins said. “My parents saw my talent and interest in drawing, and Bob Kutscher, the art teacher at Monroe High School then, lived across the street from us. So, I began taking private painting lessons from him.” After high school, Larkins went to Monroe County Community College and took art classes taught by art professors Gary Wilson and Ted Vassar.
Larkins and Laura have passed on their love of art to their son Chance, a senior at the University of Toledo, who wants to teach art history.
Paintings can by viewed and purchased online at this website:www.absolutearts.com/portfolios/d/david-larkins. His work is available at trend 440. Visitors to his home gallery and studio may make an appointment by calling 734.242.0845.