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We recently have seen some happy press in our local news paper.  We have always known that The Cotton Company is a host for lots of interesting people to bring their business to life in Wake Forest – and now the big city decided to take notice.  The following is an article about long term Resident Artist Dick Larsen and his journey in this life as an artist.

Thank you for reading…

Saturday, Jan. 07, 2012

From ads to pets: a painter’s journey by Alex Granados

You know Wake Forest painter Dick Larsen. You don’t realize it, but you do. Remember that 1970s Tootsie Pop ad that asks how many licks it takes to get to the center? That’s Dick Larsen’s work. Larsen, 68, spent years in advertising, but if you met him today, you wouldn’t know it. In fact, you’d probably be coming to him with a photo of a pet, maybe a dog, and requesting a portrait. That’s his specialty these days: painting pets. Have a special dog? Maybe a cat? Heck, even a gerbil or rattlesnake? You can bring it down to Dick Larsen’s studio at The Cotton Company in Wake Forest and get him to duplicate its likeness in paint.

What started off with one random request has become a full-time business. Larsen spent years creating ads before ending up in North Carolina in the early 1990s. He’d always wanted to be a painter, but the realities of life led him to advertising. “I had to go make some real money and support my family,” he said. But in Raleigh, his wife had a job with an ad firm, and Larsen, fresh off a five-year stint at a Florida ad company, decided to devote himself to painting. His work used to be more eclectic, but a few years back, someone asked him to paint a pet and everything changed. “People really are hung up on their pets and they really enjoy having them around,” he said. “It’s a market all by itself.” Soon other people were requesting pet portraits, and six years ago, Larsen decided to dedicate himself to reproducing their favorite furry friends. The ratio of dog to cat requests is about 10 to 1. And when I mentioned a gerbil and rattlesnake before, I wasn’t just making that up. He’s done both at one time or another.

Go to his studio and you’ll see for yourself that his business is doing well. He sits at the easel studiously brushing away, surrounded all the while by an audience of painted dogs captive on canvas. Larsen’s successful new life almost came to an end four months ago. He woke up one morning and realized he couldn’t see out of his right eye. After a visit to a few medical professionals, Larsen discovered that he’d had a stroke in one eye. It blinded it permanently, but left his other eye basically unharmed. Still, Larsen wasn’t sure he could continue painting. He was determined to try. “It took a while to just get used to the fact that I’m not going to see anymore out of this eye,” he said. “Then I said, ‘Somehow, I have to figure out how to paint.’ ” He started back slowly, changing up his method and using tools, such as a magnifying glass, to help. Aware that his handicap might change the quality of the finished work, Larsen offered customers a money-back guarantee. If they weren’t satisfied, no charges applied. But Larsen’s talent is undiminished. His paintings still enthrall customers, and business is still coming through the door. Though Larsen realized the business potential in painting pets, he said he gets creative fulfillment from his work as well. “You get these animals with their feelings and sentiment and all this kind of stuff – it’s just entertaining to bring them out and make them smile,” he said. I’ve got an adopted 11-year-old Golden Retriever that talks to me when nobody’s looking. Maybe it’s time to take her to see Larsen.

Alex Granados writes about people, places and traditions in North Raleigh and beyond. Contact him at agranadoster@gmail.com.

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