Larrie King

Professor + Fine Artist

Larrie King got his start in design while studying at Northwestern State University in Louisianna on a marching band scholarship. After graduation he stayed on to complete his first master’s degree and teach design classes.

Larrie moved to Kent to attend Kent State’s School of Visual Communication Design graduate program. He became the graduate assistant for Glyphix, a student staffed design agency, and after graduation he was hired to stay as a professor and director of Glyphix. "I had a specific goal of working in a program like Glyphix—teaching but also running a business at the same time. I think they saw how enthusiastic I was about it and the kind of growth that I thought it could have and they trusted me with that.”

Between teaching and design, it may seem like Larrie has a lot on his plate, but we’ve only scratched the surface. Larrie is also a fine artist and the owner of a small business, Sparrow Haus. We visited Larrie at his home and talked about the variety of roles he fills and what brought him back to painting after a five year hiatus.
Public Utility: Walk us through a “normal” day.

Larrie: It varies. There are days where I have to sew 150 zippered pouches and then there are days where I've been working on paintings for a show. In between that I teach, attend meetings, and things like that. I usually get up around 5:00am and sew or paint because it’s when I feel the most energetic. Around 2:00 is when I started to kind of wind down and the rest of the evening I usually spend answering emails, grading, and checking in with students on design projects.

PU: Outside of teaching at Glyphix, what is design’s role in your life?

L: I'm utilizing a lot of my design skill as I’m painting and as I'm sewing and working with fabrics. I’m always actively working on some kind of design project and doing some kind of design research—so that doesn't even feel like something I think about anymore, it's just always there.


“I want my home to be a place where creativity and optimism are a part of my ecosystem.”

PU: What do you like about your space? Why do you choose to work at home?

L: I like working at home because I can wake up at 5:00am and not bother anybody. Sometimes inspiration strikes at random moments and it's nice to already be here with the things I need in order to create. I think working at home is a natural fit for me because I want my home to be a place where creativity and optimism are a part of my ecosystem.


PU: Where does the name Sparrow Haus originate?

 L: I like to paint sparrows a lot. They're so common, but they represent this consistency and simple quality of life. They’re always nearby and that's a comfort to me.

 PU: Describe Sparrow Haus.

L: Sparrow House is a brand that produces handmade elements for life. Accessories for your home, things you use on a daily basis, things you gift to people or buy to make yourself happy. Sometimes it's doing a painting, sometimes it's cross stitching a pillow, sometimes it's quilting a blanket. I like to be able to have all of those options open as I move into working more as a fine artist.

Painting has always been there and having my exhibition last summer at the downtown gallery opened that all back up. I had taken almost a five year hiatus from painting and really just needed the impetus to do it. I got out a lot of ideas I've had over the years, but it also allowed me to explore some new ones. Now I want to keep that ball rolling by exhibiting more and trying new things.

PU: Where do you find inspiration for the variety of things you work on?

 L: I have this fondness for ephemera and the idea that something is beautiful at one time and then fades or gets tarnished, but maybe you can still see a glimpse of beauty there. I take elements from other people's lives—things they've left behind, things I find in thrift stores—and try to give them new purpose. I'm really fond of the work of Robert Rauschenberg. He'd walk around the streets and pick up things that people left behind and then collage them into a painting or a three-dimensional piece. There’s rebirth in the idea that something was never really gone and can be a part of something new and that's maybe a metaphor for how I hope my life will go, that it leaves something beautiful, useful, or admirable behind.

 PU: What do you usually listen to while you paint?

 L: I've discovered these YouTube channels where they play a lot of chill hop music, which is something I hadn't heard before. There are also some artists I listen to a lot like Son Lux and Joanna Newsom. A lot of times music is a huge influence on what I'm painting.


PU: Do you choose music to create a specific feeling in your work or do you let it happen organically?

 L: Sometimes I start a painting based on a song, not necessarily having anything to do with the lyrics or the subject matter, but just the way the music makes me feel. I typically name my paintings for songs or phrases within songs. When I started painting I would utilize a lot of cliché, darker emotions—longing, loneliness—to access whatever energy I needed to produce a painting. I don't use that same kind of sadness anymore and I’m learning that my translation of these things doesn't have to be dark and depressing. Learning how to deal with those emotions and not lock them away over time has helped me access them better. I can put those emotions into the piece and let them live there and it's much healthier.

 PU: What has changed that’s allowed for that?

 L: I'm thinking more conceptually, in the future rather than in the past. I’m letting the paintings do their own thing—having less control—which is maybe an overarching issue for me. If I have less control over what's happening on the canvas I'm finding that I really like the results of that.


“I have this fondness for ephemera and the idea that something is beautiful at one time and then fades or gets tarnished, but maybe you can still see a glimpse of beauty there.”


“If I have less control over what's happening on the canvas I'm finding that I really like the results of that.”

PU: Who are you currently inspired by?

 L: I am currently not inspired by alot visually although I still have the same visual inspirations that I did before; Anselm Keifer, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns. But, sometimes I'll do these medical drawings, like this piece in memory of my dog who passed. I'm not sure why lungs represent death for me, but maybe just the end of breath. That’s kind of part of what happens when I paint—I’ll find these symbols that maybe I don't even understand yet and people will translate them on their own. People pick up on things that you don't expect or they prescribe meaning to things that didn't mean much to you or meant something totally different.


PU: Do you welcome people assigning their own meaning to your paintings?

L: Absolutely, I think it's fantastic. I've never had someone translate a painting into a version of it that I didn't find just as important as whatever my version was. There's a process in letting go of the work that I think is really important. I love all the work because I put love into it as I'm working, but eventually you have to say this is no longer mine. That kind of disconnect allows you to be open-minded to the way that people interpret it.


“There's a process in letting go of the work that I think is really important.”

PU: What is your favorite thing to do in Kent?

 L: I've recently discovered the bowling alley just down the street—it’s awesome! I love walking on the Portage Hike and Bike trail. It's beautiful and serene and quiet. And just being on campus. I think we have a very beautiful campus and I really love being part of the university. I love the tulips in downtown Kent. That was a huge surprise the first time I saw those and every year it's just like, “Yay, the tulips are coming back!”

I’m also on the design committee for Main Street Kent. Kent is invested in not only promoting the arts and different cultures to the downtown area, but just making it a beautiful experience for everybody, so getting to have a voice in that is really fun for me. 

PU: How do you feel art is useful to your community?

L: Access to the arts can greatly impact the way that someone sees themselves and their future. The town I grew up in was really small and we didn't have a gallery until I was well into high school. I knew that I wanted to be an artist, but I didn't know what that meant. Once I moved and started seeing spaces where art was welcome and different kinds of art that I'd never seen before, it made what I thought I could do become this big, bright, endless thing.

I think it works for people who are not artists, for people who want to be creative. I think it's a way to take something that you don't understand entirely—maybe it's something that you feel instead of something that you see—and carry that with you into the work you do, the families you raise, and the spirit that you bring into everything in your life.

Art is a very vital, important part of what we do. This is the way that some of us tell stories and tell who we are. As an educator I feel like it's my job to make sure people have access to art and as an artist, I have a desire to share my perspective about what is beautiful and necessary and helpful. If someone else can connect to that, that's the reward for me.

You can find Larrie's work at or visit his shop at