Tag Archives: pennsylvania
Since I started my blog, David Larned has been one of the people I wanted to interview most. Dave and I finally connected recently and spent a few hours at his home in Pennsylvania talking about everything from his life as a painter, his obsession with doing work on his property on his tractor to his new found love for the tradition of hunting.
Interviewing someone you know well can be slightly intimidating because you want to do a good job of representing all of the areas of their life you think highly of. You want to be sure the readers can capture the depth and character of the person. Having known Dave since grade school, I’ve always been impressed by his focus and dedication to painting. Even back then, he always knew painting was his passion. He has done an amazing job of following his dreams and creating a name for himself.
This first post will focus on Dave’s painting career. Next week, we will feature Dave’s hobbies and life on the farm (AKA ‘the farmette’). It’s not often that you find two gifted artists who are married, work in the same studio (divided by one wall, but share a door) and live on the property where they work. If you’d like to read about Dave’s accomplished wife and dear friend of mine, we did a post on Sarah Lamb several months ago.
Q&A with Artist, David Larned:
When did you discover your love and talent for painting?
I suppose I have loved painting since I first picked up a brush as a child. As for talent, it was more that I was better at painting than say derivatives or Kafka. By default, it was obvious what I should pursue.
It seemed like in high school you knew exactly what your passion was and continued on that path throughout college. Did you ever consider any other careers along the way?
Occasionally, I am tempted to be a heavy machine operator. There is nothing like moving earth with a bulldozer. But it’s really the same thing as painting. The dirt is your pigment and the dozer your brush. You are composing and reforming a space for visual pleasure. Plus, they’re just awesome.
Where did you do your undergraduate studies and what was your degree?
By the grace of god, the University of Pennsylvania acquiesced to giving me a BFA.
Did you get a graduate degree or a attend a formal painting program post-college?
Yes, at the Florence Academy of Art. Although, at the time it was a non-degree granting institution. Nonetheless, it was the most important school in my education. Without the FAA, I would not be doing what I do. I was very lucky to find the right program.
When you were just beginning your career, which were some of your favorite artists?
Wyeth, of course is inescapable in this part of the world and even today I will return to his work. Sometimes out of nostalgia for my early years of learning to paint which were so full of wonder and excitement and frustration. After Wyeth, probably came the old masters like Van Dyck, Velazquez, and Rembrandt. Later, the 19th century academic painters like John Singer Sargent became hugely important to what I believe good painting is.
Are there different artists you admire and follow today that are different from when you were just starting out?
My artistic heroes or ancestors are always evolving. But rather than dropping old favorites, I am usually adding new ones. Most every painter has some aspect to admire.
Knowing how busy you are with commissions, how do you space your schedule?
I try to do it very roughly. I finish approximately 1.5 paintings a month. Most commissions are not emergencies so there can be some shuffling of spaces if a certain project has a strict deadline.
How far out are you booked for portraits at the moment?
About two years.
One of the most unique things about you and Sarah is that you both work on set schedules. Can you explain how you approach your workday?
Like Bankers. In at 8 out at 4. It’s really based around good light in the studio. In the winter, the light falls off a little earlier, but who complains about leaving work early?
When you are working with a client, how does the process flow to reach the finished product? Is there a time-frame you try to work in per portrait?
I try to keep the process organic. Even if I am not literally painting on it I am thinking about it or trying out in my mind different solutions. It’s a long process from the time someone decides they want a portrait to delivery. We meet and discuss the concept. The details come later. Once the brush hits the canvas, it may take a couple months to finish depending on the scale and complexity of the image. Then it dries for a month, gets varnished, photographed, and framed. It’s definitely not immediate gratification. But once its done, you have created something that will live on way past our lifetime. In fact, the first oil paintings appear around the early 1500′s and those portraits look as fresh today as when they were done. So hopefully, it’s worth the wait.
In some of your paintings, the backgrounds are as detailed and interesting as your subjects. Do people typically specify what they would like to include or do you make suggestions?
Sometimes people specify and others want the artist to make all the decisions.
Who are some framers that you like to work with?
I almost exclusively work with Howie Scott at Rag & Gilt. Her frames are incredible works of art in themselves. It’s a treat to see one’s work get fitted into one of her frames. It elevates the painting.
Do you like to be involved with selecting the location where client’s painting will hang in their homes or businesses and how they should be lit?
I like to make sure they have the painting displayed as well as possible. But we move our paintings around at home, so I don’t really believe there is a single space for a painting. And again, these are things that get passed down through generations so the painting will never only be in one place. It will have many homes. A good light is essential.
Are there certain subjects that are more challenging to portray (i.e. adults, children, animals)?
No. If you hold yourself to the highest visual standards a brick is as complex and demanding to paint as a person. The difference is the brick does not have an opinion.
Do you like to do a blend of real life sittings and photographs when working on your portraits?
I try to be open to whatever makes the best painting in the end. And that is different for each project. The best part of using a photograph (aside from staying still) is that the client has a definite idea of what the painting will look like.
Would you say it is easier or more difficult to paint people you know well versus new acquaintances?
Tough question. Technically, they should be the same. However, the better you know someone the more multifaceted his or her personality becomes. How do you just paint one image to represent the whole of them?
Portraiture is sort of an old fashioned art form. Do you find that our generation overlooks the significance of this or is it still thriving?
Happily, the tradition is thriving. Aside from being works of art they are historical documents. A lot of the people I paint have grown up in homes with portraits of relatives on the walls. I am not sure the clients realize it, but their portrait is not really for themselves. It is for their future generations. There is an unbroken culture of having portraits painted that stretches back to the cavemen. I don’t think it’s going anywhere.
You were mentioning that you typically paint for 30 minutes then take a break. I would imagine when you are painting for an entire day that the balance stick (forgot what you called it) helps keep your hand steady. Can you give me a little historic background on it?
It’s called a Mahl Stick. You rest one end on the edge of the canvas and then rest your painting hand on the stick, which allows you to be much more steady and therefore articulate. Artists have used them since the Renaissance. In fact, large canvas’ being worked on by an entire workshop would have multiple sticks suspended from the top of the painting and the artists could move from one to the next depending on what area they were addressing. I am told surgeons use something similar to stabilize their operating hand for particularly delicate incisions.
What are some of your hobbies? Hunting seems to be one that you enjoy and make time for. Having spent time with you hunting, I get the sense you truly appreciate the history and traditional aspects of this gentleman’s sport. Can you elaborate on this?
Yes, shooting is becoming an obsession. The appeal is strangely similar to painting. It’s a learned visual skill. There is technique to be developed and mastered. It also is about a quest for perfection, which like painting is impossible. Unfortunately I am drawn to unattainable things. My other hobby would have to be the restoration of our farmette. It was originally a cattle farm. Fixing the place up is an education in architecture, horticulture, American history (and English) and patience.
What is the significance of the case that holds all of your CDs in your studio and what kind of music do you like to listen to while painting?
I am an organized person, probably to a fault. I had too many CD racks so at some point I decided to build one huge one. Fortunately by the time it filled up my music started to be stored on iTunes. I listen to all kind of things. What I choose depends on my mood – or more specifically what mood I want to be in. If I feel sluggish, I drop the classical and put on BB King. If I feel depressed, I turn off Nick Drake and put on Beirut or She and Him. The one thing I can’t do is Jazz. It’s too syncopated and interesting that I can’t concentrate on what I am doing. Pink Floyd has been on pretty constant rotation since I bought my first CDs as a kid.
I noticed the many clay pigeons around your studio. As hunters know, the more you practice your gun mount the better shot you’ll be. Do you practice often in your studio? I am ashamed to admit I do. It’s pretty nerdy when Sarah walks in and catches me aiming at the wall when I should be painting. But I have seen the benefits of a consistent and accurate mount already. It’s a long road and a good mount is the beginning.
The portrait of the artist getting ready to paint his subject fills a large space in your studio. You mentioned that it captures an artist studying his subject. What thoughts typically go through your head when you are getting ready to start on a new portrait?
The same mix of apprehension and excitement anyone has when they begin a new project of any sort. There is the fear of not knowing how it will come out balanced by the rush of possibility and hope. They are good poles that if you are aware of each keep the painting centered.
Something you love about painting is that artists today still use similar brushes and techniques as the masters from the past. Can you expand on that?
It’s as low tech of a profession as any I know. You are spreading around colored dirt with hairy sticks. The materials have not changed at all in 500 years. Vermeer had the same tools as I. That doesn’t say much for my paintings.
Your palette is the same palette you’ve used since your studies in Florence. Do you have other traditions that you stick to?
My smock is the same too. Don’t worry, it has been washed. Eyeglasses are a new addition to my kit. After 35 years, things started to get fuzzy.
For those of you who have never heard of Croquet Golf before, let this be your introduction to an activity you can enjoy for many years to come! It’s tough to describe it just as a sport because it really is more than that. Croquet Golf adds a great dynamic to parties or family gatherings because of its versatility along with the entertainment value (you’ll get a feel for what I mean after seeing the pictures below!)
We are thrilled to share Bill Dugdale’s new business venture, Nine Holes Anywhere with our readers! Bill’s website just went live today and it looks great! It gives the reader a perspective of the game of Croquet Golf that is simple and definitive. Here, you can learn the ins & outs of the game and while you’re there, order anything from a custom Croquet Golf set designed and manufactured in his Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania shop to a set of croquet golf flag-pins, individually equipped with bottle openers…how convenient! What a great gift for the holidays!
Q & A with Bill Dugdale of Nine Holes Anywhere:
Who started Croquet Golf?
My father and uncle created Croquet Golf in 1969. My uncle Geordie Laird made the first mallets strong enough to handle the full golf swing.
Since your dad and uncle play croquet golf, I’m assuming you started playing fairly young? I’m sure it was a fun bonding experience learning from them and their cronies.
Unfortunately, my uncle Geordie was killed in a car accident when I was very young, so I never got to play croquet golf with him. I remember him well though and remember watching him with tools and thinking he could make anything. Croquet Golf is and has been a great vehicle for bonding. I remember all the kids following the men around and playing our first rounds. Last spring we had three generations playing in the Founders Tournament at my house. It was such a special day. It definitely hit me then how much other families would love this game if they had the equipment.
Tell me a little about the sport… (e.g. the course, how many per team, a few rules…)
Croquet Golf is more like traditional golf than traditional croquet, but the portability of the sets and durability of the mallets allow you to play in your own yard, in the park, on the beach, etc… AND there are no greens fees. A Nine Holes Anywhere set comes with everything a foursome would need to play 9 holes. I like to set up my courses with all par 3s. A typical hole can be 20-75 yards in length depending on the terrain. I also like to create interesting obstacles like avoiding a fox den or teeing off atop a hay bail. A friend’s course recently had a chute that launched the ball toward the pin if hit just right.
Having watched several Croquet Golf tournaments/rounds, my first observation is that it’s all about camaraderie, fun competition, enjoying the outdoors and having a few cocktails. How do you sum up the Croquet Golf experience?
Croquet Golf is a true gentlemen’s game. It is just challenging enough to keep a competitor interested but also basic enough for men, women, and children to play and have fun. I would sum up Croquet Golf as a classic good time. Nine holes with friends only takes about 45 minutes. I can play during my 1 year old’s nap with a monitor on my belt and get a miniature version of the experience I would have taking 5 hours to play 18 holes of golf. It’s quality conversation and total entertainment. I love both games but Croquet Golf fits nicely into my life while traditional golf can be harder to carve time for. And it doesn’t anger the wife.
When did you come up with idea to start Nine Holes Anywhere?
I have been making Croquet Golf mallets for years now but we didn’t get serious until Spring of 2011 after our second son was born. Forty players RSVP’d our June tournament and I couldn’t make mallets fast enough. Interest in the game hit a tipping point and we decided to do the website. I will always think of Nine Holes Anywhere and Croquet Golf as my hobby but it would be amazing to bring the pure joy of the game to people everywhere.
You’ve also created a glow-in-the-dark ball for night play. How is that new endeavor going?
This is of course, top-secret….but the prototype glow ball is awesome! My friends and I will be teeing off with the new glow balls every weekend next summer after the kids go to bed. I will be sure to get these manufactured ASAP so everyone can get a set by February or March.
How long does it take to make a Croquet Golf set and what items are in it? What is the price?
I try to design the mallets to be as beautiful as possible and therefore have never timed myself precisely. A Nine Holes Anywhere Croquet Golf set is $750.00 and comes with 4 handmade mallets, 6 balls, 9 patented flag-pins (with bottle openers on top) and instructions all in an embroidered canvas bag. Each set is numbered in the order produced and marked with a brass tag.
What future events will Nine Holes Anywhere be hosting?
I will continue to host the Founders Tournament and my Spring and Fall social tournaments but I am getting requests to help with events elsewhere. I would also like to start hosting charity events soon. I honestly don’t know what to expect, but I am certain people love the game. Please check out the website and forward the link to everyone you know! And thanks for your interest Bree!
Last month, I spent a few hours with talented author, photographer, lecturer and horticultural consultant Rick Darke at his home in Landenberg, Pennsylvania. He introduced me to his world filled with passion for horticulture, landscape design/ethics, garden art, photography, travel and much more. Not only is his work fascinating, his worldly accomplishments are altogether inspiring.
This post focuses on the ‘Meadow Metropolis,’ a piece of art he created in his backyard from old sash vents from the conservatory at Longwood Gardens, where he worked for twenty years. Please enjoy Rick’s narrative on his career and his diverse interests.
Rick Darke on his career and the ‘Meadow Metropolis’:
I never imagined a career working with landscapes and gardens. I’ve always been fascinated by machine design, and thought mechanical engineering would be the ideal way to work at something I loved. I nearly went to General Motors Institute but chose instead to enroll as an engineering student at the University of Delaware because it offered a more varied environment. That was a fortunate decision, because I quickly realized that there wasn’t enough art in the engineering curriculum. I changed majors, wandering through art and cultural geography before settling on botany and plant science as the best fit. I was lucky to join the Longwood Gardens staff fresh out of school in 1977, first as Assistant Taxonomist and then as Curator of Plants. My twenty years at Longwood proved to be an extraordinary education about people, places, and plants. As Curator, I contributed to the concept and planting design of new gardens including Peirce’s Woods, the Silver Garden, the Cascade Garden, and the Mediterranean Garden. My role in plant exploration and introduction literally took me around the world, with trips to diverse places including Japan, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, and the Canary Islands. The more I traveled, the more I realized I was most intrigued by how human culture shapes landscapes, and by the inherent stories that are evident to keen observers.
It’s been nearly fourteen years since I launched my independent practice with a focus on landscape ethics, photography and contextual design. In that time, I’ve been fortunate to have a number of books published on landscape design, which have found an international audience, and some have been translated into other languages. An active speaking schedule has continued to offer glimpses into communities and landscapes around the world, and this, and the books have in turn lead to involvement in a wide range of design projects including botanic gardens, parks, transportation corridors, and residential landscapes. The camera plays an ever-increasing role in all of this. After taking more than seventy five thousand 35mm slides, I switched in 1999 from film to digital photography and now enjoy taking pictures and using them in my work more than ever before.
One of the greatest gifts of my line of work is that it constantly enriches my perspective on what makes landscapes truly livable, and I’m able to use this knowledge at home in the garden that my wife and co-hort(iculturist) Melinda Zoehrer and I have been making together for almost two decades. Situated at the edge of the White Clay Creek Preserve, in Landenberg, a half mile from the Delaware state line, our 1.5 acre property is both our home and a living laboratory where we can try out our ideas in real-time 3-D. The garden is full of functional spaces including outdoor dining rooms, an outdoor shower, a stone fire circle, a small cabin with a tin roof for listening to the rain. But it also serves as a living theater in which we enjoy telling stories by means of plants with special provenance or found objects and other cultural artifacts.
One such story is an interweaving of my machine interests, childhood experiences in New York City, my Longwood Gardens association, and the notion of the landscape as a palimpsest (a parchment or entablature that has been written on many times, each time being imperfectly erased so that the previous writing is partly legible). As a child, my parents for years took me on birthday trips to the Museum of Natural History in New York, where I was equally awed by dinosaurs and skyscrapers. I learned years later that Longwood Gardens’ founder, Pierre S. du Pont was one of the financial major backers of my favorite, the Empire State Building. He maintained offices on the 80th floor, which survived the 1945 crash of a B-25 bomber relatively unscathed. Longwood’s main conservatory, built in 1919 by Mr. du Pont, was undergoing extensive renovation in the mid-90’s while I was still working at the gardens. This work included replacing the sash windows that vented the monitor atop the conservatory. More than seventy-five years of increasingly acid rain had taken their toll on the sashes, which were beautifully constructed of wood, hand-sheathed in copper, with glass arranged in repeating patterns of eight lights with diagonal cross muntins. After learning the old sash vents were destined to be recycled for their copper, I expressed an interest in acquiring a few as relics and was permitted to purchase a number of sections at scrap value. I brought them home and began experimenting with placing them in our garden. The ideal location quickly presented itself – a position at the edge of our small grassy meadow, where they could be viewed looking south from our glass-walled bedroom. I arranged sections of the sash in a ziggurat pattern evoking the set-back spire of New York City skyscrapers. Melinda took one look and christened it the ‘Meadow Metropolis’, a name that has endured, along with the sash, for the past fifteen years.
The soft-textured matrix of grasses is the perfect foil for the organized geometry of the Meadow Metropolis. The translucent grasses and the acid-rain-etched glass are regularly set aglow by the sun as it arcs east to west over our little meadow. The glass is illuminated in different patterns corresponding to seasonal variations in the sun’s angle, and experience has taught us to tell the time of year by these varied signatures. It’s delightfully dynamic in its celebration of small moments – those incidental keys to the universal. It is also the perfect prop for those visitors interested in stories. I believe the notions of renewal and recycling are at the heart of gardening. Tomorrow’s landscapes will always find life in each summer’s seeds and each autumn’s fading treasures. Authentic artifacts of experience are worthy of reconsideration in the places we make today, weaving together a pride in past accomplishment and novel insights into the present.
Maintaining my machine interests, I bought a 1938 Chevrolet pickup a few years ago with the intention of using it as garden art. It was a farm truck from southern Delaware that had been stored in a barn. It proved to be such a strong runner. I redid the brakes, carburetor, starter, and some wiring, replaced the wood in the bed and registered it as an antique. It is street legal and is used for local trips and appearances at the Hagley Car Show each September but still occasionally spends time in the garden, back by the Meadow Metropolis.
The truck contributes to the story of the ‘Meadow Metropolis’, since the truck was made by General Motors, Pierre du Pont was a GM board member in the 1930’s as well as being one of the principal financial supporters of the Empire State Building, and of course the sash pieces came from the Main Conservatory at Longwood, where I was on staff for twenty years. I began my college studies as a mechanical engineer, and was in final stage of interviews for General Motors Institute (a 5-year engineering program) when I decided at the very last minute to go to the University of Delaware instead. So, it really is one big circle.
As a life long U2 fan, I wanted to share some details from their 360° Tour. Seeing two shows from this tour was an awesome experience; first show was at Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ in September 2009 and the other in Philly, PA at the Lincoln Financial Field this past Thursday night.
At the Giants Stadium show in 2009, some friends and I waited overnight and through the next day up until the show so that we could partake in the mad dash into the stadium to attempt to get front row seats. We were successful and it was an unforgettable experience to be that close to the band and to see such an amazing show so up close and personal. For the Philly show, we had fantastic seats on the first tier above the floor level on the right side of their enormous stage. Seeing the brilliant set design from a distance is even more spectacular because you are able to see the full spectrum of such a massive production.
Just to give you a idea of the size of this tour, here are a few facts from Wikipedia:
The U2 360° stage has set a world record for the largest set design in concert history
Grossing more than 700 million dollars (for 111 shows world wide) in ticket sales, U2 360° is considered to be the highest grossing concert tour for 2009, 2010 and 2011. It is also the highest grossing tour in history.
Every single show over the last 2 years has been sold out and has broken many stadium capacity records around the world
As of June 2011, over more than 7 million tickets have been sold for this tour
The 360° tour crew consists of 137 touring production crew supplemented by over 120 hired locally.
Daily costs of the production are approximately $750,000
The steel structure is 167 feet tall
Requires 120 trucks to transport each of the 3 sets constructed to support the tour
Each of the three sets costs $33 million for a grand total of $99 million for all three sets
During the second North American leg, a recording of astronaut Mark Kelly during Space Shuttle Endeavour’s trip to the International Space Station is used to introduce the song ‘Beautiful Day’
Using lyrics from David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity‘, he dedicates it to his wife, U.S. Congress member Gabrielle Giffords. The representative, injured in the 2011 Tucson, AZ shooting and still in recovery at the time of the recording, had previously selected ‘Beautiful Day‘ as a wake-up call for Kelly during a previous shuttle mission.
At the conclusion of the tour, the intent is to leave the three structures in different parts of the globe and turn them into permanent concert venues
Full tour start and completion: June 30th, 2009 – July 30th, 2011
Please visit the Official U2 360° Tour website to learn more about their record breaking tour. Hopefully they won’t take too long of a break before their next tour!