Hats Off To Mr. Darling!

imageGrowing up in Euclid, Ohio really provided a sense of community. Our row of brick duplex homes were so close together that you could hear the goings-on of most family conversations or squabbles.

One late afternoon as I came home for my classes in junior high, I was approached by my next-door neighbor, Mr. Darling. He was retired and took up painting pictures as a hobby. He asked me if I would like to follow him into his house to see his paintings . I said yes and he led me down the stairwell to the basement.

I know what you’re thinking. An old man invites a young kid down his basement to see his pictures. Yeah right, he’s probably up to no good. Well that wasn’t the case. You see this was 1968 and you could usually trust your neighbors to do the right thing by you.

After he poured me a soda pop at the basement bar, Mr. Darling proceeded to pull out a stack of canvas panels from a cardboard box. To my surprise the paintings depicted images of naked African women. He explained that since he didn’t have access to models he used the next best thing; Photos from National Geographic magazines. I was impressed by his technique and he also showed me paintings of African landscapes and food markets in his collection.

Fast forward to 1973. Mr. Darling passed away that year and soon afterward I received a phone call from his wife. “I would like to give you my husband’s art supplies. Can you find a use for them?” Of course I said yes and she handed me a wooden box filled with tubes of oil paint, brushes and some canvas paper. I knew nothing about working in oil paint so the following week I rounded up some instructional books from the public library.

In my bedroom I set up a still life with an orange candle, a Hemingway novel and a Picasso statue. That picture was the first of many to come. Hats off to Mr. Darling!





Posted in Portrait of the Artist.


  1. Enjoyed your story Irvin, I have an opening this coming this Friday 5-9pm @ Waterloo Article Gallery ( Walk ,) your Invited . I like to talk Art with you over lunch when you have some time Irvin. S.F

    • Thanks Samuel. Let’s try to get together sometime next week if possible. I’m in the studio Monday, Wednesday and Friday’s most weeks. Let me know what might be good for you. If my schedule allows it I will try to come on Friday. Thanks Samuel.

  2. Go luck with your new blog, Irwin! I enjoyed it. I didn’t think Mr. Darling was go dirty on you. I had an elderly neighbor who showed me stamps. He, too, was aboveboard.

    • Yes, there were always good people in this world and there still are. But in recent years we’ve been given The message that we can’t trust those we may have trusted in the past. I think most of this comes through the media.

  3. I loved this blog piece. It brought back memories of Mr. Darling wearing his wire-rim glasses, Mrs. Darling with her hair net, and of course their Boston terrier, Buddy. How great to be able to trace the beginnings of your life as an artist to your next-door neighbor!

    • Yes Sara. Your descriptions brought them back vividly to me. I remember looking out my bedroom window and seeing them sipping their drinks through the evening. Kind and pleasant neighbors. I miss all the interaction we had with others in our neighborhood.

  4. Nice story; very interesting to learn of your earliest inspiration. Your first work is very good. It was meant to be! What a great talent!

  5. Irwin, what an inspiring story. I’m sad I don’t remember the Darlings, but I have many good memories of growing up in our neighborhood. You and your family included. Love your website and talent. Such a gift.

    • Thanks for the lovely comment Judy. I too have so many pleasant memories of our neighborhood. Enough to last a lifetime it seems.

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