Larkin’s first memories of creating art involve a certain amount of vandalism in her bedroom....

Larkin’s first memories of creating art involve a certain amount of vandalism in her bedroom.

“My sisters and I would move our dresser out from the wall and draw on the wallpaper,” she said. “Then we’d push the dresser back. It sort of moved out from there; our mother wasn’t too happy about that.”

You can see some of Larkin’s later work today, on exhibit at the Redwood Falls Public Library until May 31.

Growing up on a farm near Renville was the perfect start to an art career for Dona Larkin.

“My whole family was artistic,” she said. “We were all self-taught. My parents all encouraged us ... oh, definitely!”

Larkin knew from the time she was a child she wanted to be an artist, “but I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to make any money from it.

While in high school in Renville, Larkin worked in a nursing home.

What was her long-term goal at that point in her life?

“I had no idea,” she laughed.

However, the nursing home provided her with her first clues that she could eventually support herself through her art.

“At the nursing home, residents and families would approach me to do paintings for them, and that’s how I got started.”

She also got help in the early days from friends.

“I didn’t have to find a gallery to show my work; my paintings were sold at a cafe owned by my friends.”

Larkin has been a full-time artist since graduating from art school in the Twin Cities in the early 1970s.

“I do commissions pretty much full-time now. There is quite a demand for commissioned art. I’m doing this full-time, and an booked out throughout the summer so far.

“Being a freelance artist, some years are busier than others. There have been some times when I’ve been looking at the want ads, thinking, ‘Maybe it’s time to get a regular job.’ And then some more orders always come in.

“I’m doing a historical painting for one of my neighbors, and one for an interior design studio in Willmar.”

Larkin generally orks from photographs she takes on her walks, or while traveling.

“I do the painting on my own, in my studio,” she said. “When I’m out on vacation, I’m so busy taking it all in I don’t have any time to paint.”

Larkin’s studio is a room of her farmhouse, “and when you run a business from your house, it sort of takes over,” she laughed.

“I’m pretty disciplined; you have to be. I go for my walk in the morning, then work in my studio Monday through Friday until about four or five p.m. That’s changed a bit though, since I babysit my grandkids one day a week.”

Many of Larkin’s commissions have come from institutions and organizations such as businesses and hospitals.

“I always try to work something local into each order,” she said.

As a child, most of Larkin’s drawings and paintings were of the animals in her life, especially horses.

“I still paint animals when I’m commissioned,” she said. “I do a lot of dog portraits these days.”

Larkin is also busy on a first for her — illustrating a childrens book.

“I was approached by a publisher. I’ll be doing about 30 illustrations, and I’ve been finding out it’s not easy!”

The slow years seem to be in the past now.

“I don’t promote myself much; word-of-mouth does it for me,” she said. “I’ve sold work in Europe and Canada, and all over the U.S.”

Married for over 40 years to Joe Larkin, Dona has two children and three grandchildren.