Sunday, March 29, 2015

Ding Darling inspires us!

We had a special visitor to my class, Watercolor Pencil Introduction: Botany through Art, at the NaplesBotanical Garden.  He brought treasures that we might experience once in our lives: the original sketchbooks of Jay “Ding” Darling, up close and personal.  You can see a video of this visit, as well as comments from three of us, below!  Be sure to full-screen the video to see the sketchbooks better (the little square bracket icon on the bottom bar far right is for full-screen.  Press ESC on your keypad to return to the small size at any time).

Samuel Koltinsky, owner and Executive Producer of Marvo Entertainment Group LLC came to share his experiences along a path of discovery that started with the production of a documentary video “America’s Darling: The Story of Jay N. ‘Ding’ Darling.” 

Starting with a brief biographical sketch of Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling, he next showed us a video short clip about the creation of the first Duck Stamp.  From there he led us on a tour of Ding’s behind-the-scenes work: small sketchbooks, studies, handmade greeting cards, travel scrapbooks/sketchbooks, and more. 

The sketchbooks are unique.  Ding appeared to sketch everywhere he went, on cruises, in restaurants, during vacations.  There is a series of wave studies in one of his small sketchbooks (surely no larger than 4 x 6 inches) that caught everyone’s eye.  He began with very simple lines, trying to capture the water’s movement.  Several drawings later – there it is!  A perfect capture!  One feels the roll of the ocean, the mist of salt air across the face… all in a few pencil lines…

Field sketchbooks and studies are fascinating because to me they reflect the hand of the artist more than any other artworks they create.  From the paint splatters to tentative lines to decisive pencil strokes to the first splash of rain drops – it’s all there.  These marks tell an amazing story of their own.  As artists and sketchers ourselves, we relate to the stories they tell.  We relate to the artist behind them.

Those of us who live in Southwest Florida are familiar with the name Ding Darling because of the J. N. "Ding" DarlingNational Wildlife Refuge on nearby Sanibel Island.  My connection with Ding is through childhood memories of his cartoons.  Growing up in Iowa, those cartoons were a familiar sight: a book on the coffee table, a reprint in the paper, an illustration in a magazine.  Although his heyday was a generation or two ahead of mine, his influence persisted. 

Ding enjoyed a long career at the Des Moines Register as an editorial cartoonist, and his work was known world-wide.  He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1924 and 1943.  His cartoon artwork commented on cultural and historical events of the time, and promoted the idea of environmental conservation to the masses.  Although he passed away in 1962, his legacy left an imprint on anyone from Iowa with an interest in nature, wildlife, and conservation.

If you’ve never heard of Ding Darling, do some exploring.  He was a renaissance man for his times: a cartoonist, a fine artist, a conservation pioneer, a metal and wood-worker.  He worked at the Federal level, appointed as the Chief of the Bureau of Biological Survey.  During his administration, three million acres of public land were set aside as wildlife refuges, the first network of game refuges.  Ding founded the NationalWildlife Federation, the largest grassroots conservation organization in our country.

Darling had a winter home in Florida on Captiva Island for many years, a stilt home he designed himself.  The Sanibel National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island was later officially renamed and dedicated to him.

Thank you, Sam, for bringing Ding Darling to life for us, and thank you for the unique opportunity to see his sketchbooks in an intimate setting!  We all have a new appreciation for this man, and for seeing the world through his eyes.  As artists of all levels, we connect to the stories he tells through his pencil, pen, and brush.

Video clip above courtesy of Samuel Koltinsky, MarvoEntertainment Group LLC.

For more exploring:

 Eleven thousand cartoons are currently represented in this collection, which also features selected audio recordings of Darling’s dictation – a chance survival documenting his voice, vigor, and attitudes.

This spectacular 6,300 acre nature preserve is home to over 200 species of birds, alligators, mangrove forests, and more.  Named one of the top ten birding spots in this nation, the refuge is one of the most visited in the nation, with almost a million visitors annually.

DingDarling Wildlife Society, Friends of the Refuge