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 Larry Pirnie  (1940 - )

About: Larry Pirnie


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Lived/Active: Montana/Iowa      Known for: cowboy genre-horses, wood relief

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Ad Code: 3
Larry Pirnie
from Auction House Records.
Stallion Round Up
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Waterloo, Iowa and growing up on a farm near Bettendorf, Iowa, Larry Pirnie became a sculptor and painter of abstract, highly colorful horses and cowboy figures.   His acrylic paintings are loose images in bright hues of western scenes and in size, quite often are large-scale horizontal or vertical, and give in-your-face impressions such as horses running across a room.

Pirnie says that illustrator Fred Harmon's comics, "Red Rider", have been his inspiration, and this interest has led him to collecting many Harmon-created comic books.  With his artwork, Pirnie has tried to bridge the gap between fantasy and reality, a goal formulated somewhat by seeing photographs of Harmon working on his ranch or creating cartoons at his drawing table.  In other words, he was a man grounded in reality creating action comics that stirred the imaginations of kids such as the young Pirney.

Pirnie also grew up working along side his father and his uncles, and the family was generally supportive of his interest in painting because there was already an artist in the family.  His father's, father---Pirnie's Swedish paternal grandfather--- was a leisure-time painter. 

Pirnie's high-school teacher, Don Posten, encouraged him all four years of school attendance to nurture his art talents.   However, he was much diverted by his interest in sports and attended a small liberal arts midwestern college on football and basketball scholarships.  But he was sidelined by a knee injury, which led him back to his art. 

A big encouragement was a visit with Norman Rockwell, whom he met as the next door neighbor of his dorm roommate, Steve Welch, when Pirnie was a guest at the Welch home in New York state.  Rockwell advised Pirnie that he needed more than talent for gaining public recognition as an artist and to do the following:  1) to enroll in a good school that offers a degree because door opening is not accomplished as easily by a certificate 2) to hang around successful artists as well as other professionals who are passionate about their careers 3) to avoid esoteric art circles, that is, people who just talked amongst themselves and do not reach beyond their group and  4) to go to New York and take advantage of the museums---some of the best education available.

Heeding this advice, Pirnie earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York.  After that, he married a home-town girl and then had a fifteen year career in commercial art.  He liked the work but wanted something more.  In 1978, he divorced and moved alone to a cabin with no phone in Big Fork, Montana.  (He showered at a nearby motel).  He spent two years sorting out his options and  experimenting with materials and subjects until he found his own vision.

In 1980, he married his second wife, Irene, whom he had met in Kalispell, and who became his agent and representative.  She was a widow with five children. 

In 1986, he began working in the style that became his signature, and "since then he has used brushes, squeeze bottles, paper, wood, cutouts, . . .and never fails to listen to the voice of the kid within." (18)  He paints almost exclusively in acrylic on canvas.

Sources include:
Myrna Zanetell, "The Joy of Painting", Art of the West, July/August 2003, p. 36
Michael Scott-Blair, "Larry Pirnie's World", Wildlife Art, May/June 2006, pp. 14-18

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