Like many other self-taught artists, Arning was introduced to art by a member of the helping professions, in this case a teacher employed by the hospital. Arning's style springs directly from his first contact with art. In 1964 the teacher offered him wax crayons, paper, and coloring books, whose flat restricted forms shaped his visual sense. His ability to master more complex arrangements of figures, colors, and patterns grew rapidly, as did his repertoire of materials and images. The first images appear to have been autobiographical, but he later took inspiration from newspaper stories and magazine photos, advertisements, and other popular material, as he began to work in oil pastels, which he used to create a soft, glowing, almost floating quality to his shapes.
After release from the hospital, Arning spent the next decade in a nursing home, where he continued to work, turning his room into a studio, often producing a drawing a day, and gaining a significant local reputation. In 1973, however, he was asked to leave the nursing home because of his refusal to abide by its rules. After he went to live with his widowed sister, he ceased drawing altogether. "That's hard work," he remarked. A long-established creative and physical equilibrium had been disturbed, and Arning was never able to recover it.
Courtesy of Ricco/Maresca