This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.

Continued From Page 33 <<<

Above: The Rivermarket piece, with its portrayal of the hustle and bus- tle of downtown Little Rock, warranted a color treatment from the artist. Right: The pen and ink drawing of the Powhaten Courthouse hangs in the main lobby at AAC headquarters and garners much attention from visitors.

dozens of rapidograph pens in his hand. He starts with a photograph. Most of them are ones he has taken or found, unless it is an old, out-of-focus one like the sweeping view of Little Rock’s Second Street in 1896 that he was asked not long ago to replicate for a local architect. Ten placing a piece of drafting vellum over the photograph, he makes a rough sketch of its main components, which he then blows up to the final size he wants and traces it onto that size of vellum. On that piece of vellum — he occasionally sub- stitutes bond paper and, now and then, canvas — he then painstakingly begins sketching in the details in pen and ink that will give it the rich perspective, authenticity and texture that are his signature. If he decides the piece merits color, he does that in watercolor

or acrylic layers with a paintbrush. “Ten I go back with more pen and ink and touch it up, so to

speak,” he said, speaking in particular about his famous print of the Rivermarket bustling with people and bicycles and delivery trucks and little kids, which is in one AAC staffer’s office. In the Executive Assistant Jeanne Hunt’s office is a print of the only work the association ever commissioned from DeSpain. It is a pen and ink of the association headquarters, which true to form, he did without sparing a detail — including the little bird that was hopping around the lawn the day he photographed it. When Pruitt retired in 2006, the AAC board of directors presented her with the original of that sketch in tribute to her choice to bring DeSpain into their consciousness and his work into this workplace. In such a busy office, you might think people would hardly

give the wall art a second glance. But somehow DeSpain’s works keep drawing attention and awe. When Eddie Jones succeeded Pruitt as executive director in 2007, one of the first things he did was acquire more DeSpains.

34 “I am not an artist, but I really enjoy good art,” Jones said.

“And I feel that his works add an element of history to this building. Tey capture and exude realism, but many also exude a bit of nostalgia.” And so during Jones’ seven years at the helm, the association

purchased another half dozen DeSpains, including the large pen and ink of the 1888 Powhatten Courthouse displayed promi- nently in the main lobby; the 1912 Pulaski County Courthouse; the 1877 Capital Hotel; and the Arkansas State Capital, com- pleted in 1915.

Tose additions turned out to be providential, since the year

after Jones stepped down, the board launched yet another head- quarters expansion and renovation, adding 5,000 more square feet — and even more wall space. When that latest renovation was complete, Kim Nash, a risk management claims adjuster, recalls how everyone who wanted a DeSpain in their office had to raise to claim one, and she quickly grabbed the vibrant Rivermarket scene. Te details beguiled her, she says. “Every time I look at it, and I do so all the time, I discover something different, someone else on a bicycle or carrying something or another delivery I hadn’t noticed,” she said. And that was his fun, DeSpain said. His obsession has taken a physical toll — a problem vertebra in his neck and severe shoulder pain after too many hours of such work as coloring a sky with pale-blue pencil lines a mil- limeter apart. But he will never stop. Tis is who he is. “I do this for myself, strictly for myself,” he says. “Because as an artist you have to do what suits you. Like I really enjoyed going down to the Rivermarket with my sketch pad those days and observing all of the people and activity there and imagining all the details I could include.”


Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52