Prints By Richard C. DeSpain

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Richard C. DeSpain

Richard C. DeSpain has been paying attention to details his entire life.  DeSpain is a well-known artist in Arkansas and surrounding states, and he is looking to expand his following to include a national and international audience.  DeSpain retired at the end of 2003 after 30-plus years from the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service where he served as a draftsman and artist. 


Born in Marked Tree, Arkansas, Richard’s first art lessons were at the local YMCA in Blytheville, drawing fruit and vegetables on a table.  He liked to draw a comic book hero named “Hot-Stuff”, a red devil character.  Later, in junior high school he started drawing local homes and selling them to the owners.  He also enjoyed drawing airplanes.  He later studied drafting and computer-aided drafting at vocational-technical colleges in Arkansas. 


Growing up in Arkansas, he lived in several towns, and after graduating from high school, Richard spent two years in the U.S. Army as a medic in Landstuhl, Germany (1967-68).  While on tour of duty, he spent his off-hours sightseeing and sketching local landmarks.  He carried around several sketch books to get his impressions down on paper.  His favorite places to draw were a run-down castle, a graveyard in the center of town, and a rock tower near the army barracks.  The rock tower was run by a German gentleman who sold soft drinks and beer to visiting tourists.  Hanging out drawing the details of the rock tower and watching people was a good way to spend several hours of down time.


After his army days, Richard moved to Little Rock and started drawing homes in the Quapaw district.  The first home he drew was the Villa Marre (the home was shown in the opening credits of the TV show Designing Women).  He printed 100 black and white copies of the house to sell and his interest to draw homes began again.


A resident of North Little Rock, Richard lives with his wife, Gail, and their two sons, Paul and Noah.  According to Richard, his family “puts up” with his passion for drawing, as there are always pieces of his work in various stages of completion scattered about his art room (often spilling over into the hall and den).  Richard’s favorite subjects are probably the Old Mill and anything military.  Pugh’s Mill was built in North Little Rock about 1933 and was featured in Gone With the Wind.  Richard has drawn more renditions of the Old Mill than any other image.  Military works are also a passion of Richard’s.  He not only enjoys the challenge of capturing the detail of various military aircraft and service personnel, but he also is pleased by the reaction of his enthusiastic and passionate customers who purchase the military prints.


It’s All About Details


Richard’s specialty is his ability to capture the finest detail in his work.  Often one will see a DeSpain print and think it is a photograph, until closer inspection reveals hours upon hours of fine pen strokes that form a finished work of black and white pen and ink.  The artist arms himself with hundreds of specialty pens of varying tip thickness and hardness in order to create the necessary detail in his work.  He may also reach for his special glasses that will magnify his vision three to four times to assist in capturing the finest detail. 


Ever wondered how an idea becomes a finished piece of art?  When Richard gets an idea for a new picture, he loads up his cameras and heads for a photo shoot, often taking several rolls of pictures.  From the photos he selects his favorite view and has it enlarged.  Then he draws a rough sketch from the photo and enlarges the rough pen sketch usually to about 24 x 36 inches on vellum paper.  He then places a larger sheet of drafting vellum over the rough sketch and tapes it in place.  It then takes three weeks to three months of detailed drawing to complete the piece of work.  From here it goes to the printer for copies that Richard will individually sign and number.  After numbering the finished prints, sometimes Richard will draw a small, original sketch or remarque at the bottom of the print.  This remarque is either related to the larger print or a personalization from Richard to the recipient.


If Richard wants to create a color version of the finished product, he will take a black and white copy and slowly layer watercolor and/or pen color on top of it.  This usually takes another three weeks or so.  It is amazing to see how the same drawing takes on a completely different character once it is meticulously blanketed with color.  The finished product will then go to the printer for a color negative and color prints. 


We hope you enjoy browsing the selection of prints.  Don’t hesitate to e-mail us if you don’t see prints you are interested in, or if you have suggestions for new subjects that you would like Richard to draw.  Also, check the home page so you can fill out our survey and register to win a free print.

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