ASHEBORO — When Larry Hoskins sold a painting for $2,500 at the Seagrove Artwalk recently, he knew all his efforts were paying off.
The painting, “Secret Place,” is a pastoral scene in Pennsylvania that caught his attention. Using a photograph, Hoskins labored on the work of realism for about three weeks, or up to 50 hours at the easel.
The 70-year-old said he was drawing sketches in high school and found it easy. But he didn’t start painting until 1982 after he viewed a show at the Randolph Arts Guild and thought to himself, “I think I can do that.”
But he found that painting wasn’t as easy as his high school sketching. “It took a while,” Hoskins said. “My first ones looked like a kid’s work.”
Meanwhile, Hoskins had started working at the Asheboro Police Department in 1976 but after eight years and with three children, he decided he couldn’t afford to provide for his family on a policeman’s salary and started driving long-distance trucks.
Unfortunately, driving all over the country took away his painting time for about 10 years. When he finally got back to his artwork, he taught himself, reading books to learn about composition, mixing paints and other tricks of the trade.
“I painted for a long time before I showed it to anybody,” Hoskins said. “I wanted to get it going.
“Study, practice, study, practice,” he said. “I’m still practicing. I wanted to paint photorealism. That takes so much time. I’m not where I want to be, but I will be. It takes a lot of patience.
“It’s hard not to rush it to see the final result. If I get weary I’ll stop, go back the next day and start over.”
Hoskins starts out on a work with a detailed pencil sketch on a grid. When the sketch is complete, he erases grid marks from areas where they would be noticeable. Then he paints the sketch, careful to “make sure it’s the right proportions.”
Asked who had inspired his style, Hoskins mentioned Bob Timberlake and Michael James Smith. “I caught on to (Timberlake). He was one of the first to influence me.”
Smith, an artist from the United Kingdom, posts videos on Youtube and Hoskins watches them to “look for techniques to add to my style.”
The time spent on a painting, he said, depends on the size of the canvas and how many layers are required. He said he can work 30 or 40 hours on a painting, or up to 50 hours such as with “Secret Place.”
Concentration is essential to produce quality art: “I’m only aware of what I’m doing,” he said, “with earbuds listening to music.”
Hoskins has begun posting paintings on social media and has sold them to people in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and New Jersey. “I did a snow scene on an 18-by-18 and posted it, and a lady in Tennessee bought it.”
He has sold prints for just two paintings, the old Dog & Suds drive-in restaurant on South Fayetteville Street and the Pisgah Covered Bridge in southwestern Randolph County. Those proved to be popular pieces.
Now Hoskins is doing commissioned work. He’s currently working on a painting for someone in Massachusetts.
In 2010, Hoskins had an accident that could have ended his painting career. He was using a weedeater when a piece of cord struck him in the left eye, slicing the cornea. A transplanted cornea was rejected by his body.
“Now I’m painting with one eye,” he said. “I can see light” with the left eye but he depends on the right eye and hopes for another transplant at some point.
“I’m able to paint just as well,” Hoskins said. “The accident didn’t slow me down a bit. It’s a talent God gave me and I intend to use it. I’d be lost without it.”
After retiring from trucks, Hoskins drove a school bus for a while. “I left that to paint full-time,” he said. “I’m making more money with painting.”
So what’s next on Hoskins' plate? “I’m going to start doing portraits,” he said. “I’ve had lots of requests.”