Larry Carver, building designer by day and painter by spare moments, fuels his creative spirit by capturing nature and his surroundings.
As a 9-year-old growing up in Jefferson City, Larry Carver picked up his first comic book, roped in not by the stories but by the colorful images throughout. The artwork from those comic books, especially the cover art of Creepy and Eerie magazines, ignited a passion for drawing and art that has only grown stronger through the years.
Today, a sketchbook filled with yellowed pages of drawings is still in his possession, a reminder of an upbringing that fostered artistic expression and of a little boy who had a natural talent for and love of drawing.
“My mom was a stay-at-home mom who was always working with her hands,” Carver says. “I learned from her. I started off inking, then watercolor, oil, pastels and then got into acrylics during high school.”
Although he has spent the past 19 years working as a building designer for the Missouri Department of Transportation, if he isn’t mowing the grass or clearing snow, he spends his free time painting with acrylics in his home studio. According to Carver, the storage room with few windows is modest but works for him.
“I use my dad’s old stepladder and rig it up with plywood and clamps so I can adjust the height of my paintings with the steps of the ladder,” Carver says. “It’s at least 60 years old, so it’s gotten its use.”
Although Carver has never had formal art training outside of the classes he took at Jefferson City High School, he is a student of art who continually strives to improve his own techniques. Using YouTube as his teacher, he says he studies all the time, watching other accomplished artists paint to pick up tips for what to do and what not to do with his own paintings.
Carver says he hopes to devote more time to his painting following his retirement, which is a few years away. For now, he’s able to complete four to five paintings each year. An average painting takes anywhere from 60 to 80 hours, not including the weeks of research and planning that precede the initial paintbrush strokes.
“I paint a lot of endangered species and enjoy Missouri birds, Americana around Missouri and old barns, but I like to branch out,” Carver says. “A friend’s wife just died, and he wants me to paint a portrait, so after my current painting, I will venture into portraits. I give meaning to what I paint, and there is a story behind every painting.”
An avid outdoorsman, Carver’s love of animals is captured in much of his work. Over the years, his painting style has evolved along with the composition of his paintings. Although a painting in his younger years might have featured a bird, one of his more recent paintings told an elaborate story of a knobbed hornbill surrounded by plants native to Central America with a Mayan wall in the background.
Although Carver says he loves the outdoors, and his paintings often capture various aspects of nature, he is quick to point out that trees are not his strong suit.
“I love trees, but I’m a terrible tree painter,” he says. “I love fall, yet painting fall trees is really hard. That’s my goal: to make a really good fall picture.”
As current president of the Jefferson City Arts Club, Carver also sits on the board at Capital Arts and is a signature member of the Missouri Watercolor Society. His paintings can be found on display around the state at places such as the Springfield Airport, Missouri Driver’s License Bureau and Hawthorn Bank in Jefferson City.
Although Carver says he will focus more effort on marketing his artwork after retirement, he has still had success selling his work. Originals sell anywhere from $1,000 to $1,200, while prints, which are the same size as the original pieces, sell for $75 to $100.
“I think everyone needs a hobby,” Carver says. “It gives you something to do. I knew I would retire one day and didn’t want to sit around. It’s a good thing to keep your mind going, improve hand-eye coordination and open up another part of your brain.”