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CENTRALIA MURAL PROJECT
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Carol Thompson was specifically requested as the artist to paint the farm scene mural.  She was provided a small black and white photo of the scene that the mural committee wanted painted on the side of the Fox Theatre in Centralia, Washington.  From that photograph, a proportional oil painting was completed by Carol and approved by the mural committee.  A new adventure was now underway for this enthusiastic artist.

For more on this subject see the Web eZine "How Do You Paint A Mural"  June 15, 2001 Issue


The tools to paint a mural The tools to paint a mural

The Centralia murals project provided a unique and rewarding experience for Carol.  She had done several monumental seascapes and was thrilled to accept the challenge of painting an outdoor mural of this magnitude.  The mural committee provided a photograph,  the paint, (outdoor latex house paint),  the scaffolding,  and paid Carol a stipend for her work.  The photograph she worked from was a nineteenth century (1860's)  black and white snapshot of a Centralia area farm.  The artist made an enlarged drawing of it on a canvas, 20 inches by 30 inches,  which she then painted in oil, for the committee's approval. 

Climbing Up

Carol's routine was to arrive as early as possible (sometimes 7:00 a.m.), load brushes, paint, stir sticks, and rags into a bucket and climb the scaffolding to the level she had left off the previous day.  She would then hoist the bucket up to the platform where she was to resume the art work.  Since the painting progressed at different rates at different levels, the artist and her husband would have to move the planking up or down to reach the next area to be worked.  At 3:00 p.m., or later (earlier on swelteringly hot days) the work would be done for the day and the tools lowered and put away.

Climbing Up
The artist and her tools The artist and her tools

Sometimes standing, (mostly sitting) Carol mixed colors directly on the wall to match the original painting,  keeping the one pint cans of paint readily available.  At the highest level, there were no side braces to for hand rails, so a double row of platform planks was laid for her benefit and safety. ( In retrospect, the project should not have been done without a safety harness.)  Never-the-less, Carol is nimble and agile and did quite well with the tools and scaffolding available at the time.
 

Painter and painting

The original oil painting, with grid, and shrink wrapped for protection, was always at hand to be referred to for color, scale and detail. A grid was also marked off on the wall.  To check perspective and accuracy, Carol would climb down the scaffolding and cross the street to view it. When the mural was completed the original oil was framed and donated to the City of Centralia Murals Project Committee.  The artist completed the mural in about six weeks time.  It can still be seen on the south side of the Fox Theater in Centralia, Washington.

Painter and painting
The artist at work The artist at work

Carol began the mural about the middle of May when the weather was generally warm and sunny.   Showers would come up from time to time which caused momentary delays.  On rainy days, (there were a couple)  the artist stayed home and mentally worked the project.  One day, a team of photographers and a reporter from a Seattle television station came to do an interview as she worked.  They, too, climbed the scaffolding, and seemed to really enjoy the challenge.
 

Looking down from midway

As the mural neared completion, the details were checked and rechecked to be true to the original.   The difficulty of painting on a brick wall was that the horizontal and vertical lines of the brick distracted from the diagonal lines of the barn roof and sides.  Details of the figures, trees, and haywagon had to be accurate when viewed from afar. 
 

Looking down from midway
The size and scale of the mural The size and scale of the mural

From the photograph, the artist painted the colored oil painting approved by the committee.  It was determined that the mural should be 20 feet by 32 feet, starting 15 feet up from street level. The original was 20 inches by 30 inches, or, 1 inch equals 1 foot.  (To balance the placement on the wall, the final piece was stretched slightly to be 32 feet wide, which did not detract from the composition or design.)  The scaffolding was removed in July, and a "meet the artist" gathering was planned by the city. 

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© 2002 Carol Thompson