Hallowell Mural: Paint Test

This is a color study of one of the figures who might go in the mural, but more importantly, he is my paint and canvas test to see how the materials will hold up on the wall.

The method I am using for this mural was developed by the Philadelphia Mural Arts program, for their, literally, thousands of exterior murals.

It is called the Polytap Method, or sometimes the parachute cloth method,. It uses a super tough non-woven fabric called Polytab. And when you paint on it with exterior rated acrylic paints is creates an indestructible surface.

I painted this sample to test it anyway, because it is always good to run your own tests of materials you use.

This sample has been out in sun, rain and subjected to freezing temps. And I have been abusing the canvas too–wrenching it around to make sure the paint holds up.

Looks just wonderful. This mural will be up for decades without even a blemish.

priming the mural canvas

Priming the canvas

Yesterday, Jen, ever faithful and super talented mural assistant, started priming my mural canvas at the Firehouse studio.

This is not canvas in the normal ‘artist’ canvas sense. This material is super tough, Polytab, which is a non-woven synthetic fabric—tough as nails⁠—or rather, tough as a wall.

For primer we are using top of the line, super grip primer—recommended by the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program for just this kind of project.

These two sections are essentially one third of the canvas for the entire mural, which is 23 x 28 feet.

video about building the mural temp easel.

Building mural “easel”

I put together this little video time-lapse of our mural efforts yesterday—Jen and I built the temporary wall/easel in the old Hallowell Firehouse–this is the wall that will hold the mural canvas while I work this summer on the Hallowell Mural Project.

Well, actually this wall only holds about one third of the entire mural–but it is plenty of canvas to work on at one time. We will hang 10 x 23 feet of canvas at a time.

Some parts of the mural will have to be drawn out with all the canvas together so we might lay it out temporarily on a huge floor and mark in key areas that span the full size of the mural. If we do, I’ll takes some pics to show you what I mean.

Summer Comes Slow This Year

Summer Comes Slow This Year
For Bev Bevilacqua

Thick coastal grove of pine,
limbs twisted, entwined.
close kin branches, needles warp and weft,
failing, sieve like, send their resin scent.

Endless sea breath,
holds their perfume tells,
rent from futile needled clutches,
salt and bay and juniper, as well.

Yes, I see them cling there
their roots up on that edge
edge of grove
or edge of sea

Ledges peeled to granite bone,
My path today, not quite,
not quite land and not quite sea
with forest fringe and seaweed cloak

Summer comes slow this year,
the season when heaven
just touches
just touches, just brushes by the earth.

Dahlias and apple trees
Salt, sand and sea breeze,
I’d have wished he could
have just one more, just one.

Strange, near a century of summers
a century, he’s been walking here
enjoying, seeing, hearing here
scenting saltpinebay and juniper

Smells of land near sea
Today, a deep sea whiff is snagged
belched by waves, rolling big,
from far.

Summer comes slow this year,
seems reluctant this year,
walking slower than years passed.

Or maybe, she came early,
for just a day,
touched down lightly
and took my friend away.

I lost my friend this week.
My friend, my friend
a friend of many days
I could wish he had just one,
just one more
just one more summer here, with us

But maybe, yes, perhaps,
I’ll think she came and took him,
he’s with her
one long summer by the sea.

He seemed happy, when he went.

Firehouse Studio

Exciting day, we started building the mural studio.

Yesterday, finally, Jen and I moved all the fascinating stuff in my new, temporary, Firehouse Mural Studio. The City of Hallowell has allowed me to work in the large second floor room in the old Firehouse. This gives me an 11 x 30+ foot wall to work on large sections of the mural at once. This is going to be wonderful—much bigger than the 10 x 10 foot largest space in my regular studio.

That wall on the second floor was lined with many glass display cases of fascinating old firehouse paraphernalia—and a lot of it heavy. In days of old they built things well. So, with permission from local historians and City powers that be, Jen and I carefully moved everything well away from the “mural” wall. It was a bit of work. But now everything is tucked safely away—ensuring that no Firehouses shall be harmed in the production of this mural.

After moving all the Firehouse stuff, we weren’t tired or anything…nope.

Last night we took a trip to the lumber yard and bought all the supplies for the temporary “mural easel”. Basically, plywood, 12 foot 2 x 4’s, screws and lots of plastic and canvas drop cloths. Today Jen and I will be over at the Firehouse building an 11 x 24 foot temporary plywood wall/easel. This will be free standing—with padded feet to protect the nice floor—and go against the large wall space we cleared yesterday.

Then I will be able to mount my mural canvas on this temporary plywood wall/easel and begin the next months of work on large areas of the Hallowell Mural.

It is an exciting day seeing the Hallowell Mural Project get to this phase—huge new mural easels are very enticing things.

Hallowell Mural, studies

Sam Webber, Hallowell Historian

This mural will have over 70 figures, some contemporary, some historical. I have been nailing down poses, stances, finding nuance in the gestures I want. This starts with sketches and scribbles in the drawings pad and moves on to more finished drawings.

I am arranging with models to pose for some people, as stand ins for historic figures. Some people are, of course, around now so I am just drawing them as they are.

Steve Vellani

For some of the historical figures I have been finding old paintings or vintage photographs to use as reference. And some of the people who will be in the mural have decedents still living here. Where possible I am having these relations pose for their distant relatives.

mural sketch

Hallowell Mural 2019

mural sketch
A comp sketch from a month or more ago–the design has evolved since.

This year and a half since I started working on the big Hallowell Mural Project, I have learned much about our town on the river, many fascinating bits and pieces of our history, parts of the various stories that have made our community. I have drawn dozens upon dozens of scenes and people, ships, granite carvers, mill workers, and still drawing. Bigs scenes and little.

I’ve been off the public mural radar for several weeks. Had to finish a few jobs—to keep the bills paid—and a couple of personal things knocked me back bit.

And in the meantime, on my sketch pad I have been weaving all the disparate bits of Hallowell together. We didn’t just show up here in this 21st century on the river. Our town is the result of these centuries of journey, step by step by step to get us here as a kind, talented and welcoming community.

This is the story I am building into the mural—what got us here. I am a bit behind where I had hoped but it is only in the interest of having this be the best possible mural I can create.

I am starting this mural daily blog on my website to keep you all apprised of progress. The next 2 months will be the fascinating time as the 800 square feet of wall come together. Cheers.

Carnival mural, final

Jack and I finished the Carnival Mural, 14 x 28 ft. Here is the final full mural and some details. Enjoy.

Carny Mural – another update

Yesterday, we scarfed on a second piece of canvas to lay in the top 4 feet of the sky…a 14 x 28 foot arched mural. And I scrubbed in the first of the hot air balloon stuff going partly on the lower canvas part above. Painted basket on lower canvas, charcoal scribble on the bottom edge of the upper canvas….figures just scribbled in so far.

Carny Mural-update

Jack and I have been on a serious push the last couple of weeks to get the Carnival Mural for Washington D.C. finished–due to hang on March 2. Here are some updates of progress.

mural sketch

Hallowell Mural Project

Created using the Donation Thermometer plugin https://wordpress.org/plugins/donation-thermometer/.$28,000Raised $14,530 towards the $28,000 target.$14,530Raised $14,530 towards the $28,000 target.52% A 750 square foot mural for downtown Hallowell. Fundraising is going well for the project…about halfway to our goal to get this mural done. Here is a link to our Indiegogo Mural Campaign–just one source of funding: Hallowell Mural Project–You can contribute here.

James Matthews, enslaved man finds refuge in Hallowell.

—a color study for one figure in the Hallowell Mural. acrylic on panel, 24 x 18—

In the ongoing Hallowell Mural research, Sam Webber, our grand historian, introduced me to the story of James Matthews—a man from South Carolina, born into slavery in 1808, who eventually escaped, making his way north to finally find refuge in Hallowell.

In 1838, in the Advocate for Freedom – a Hallowell-based abolitionist publication,  Matthews told of his days of enslavement, in an account entitled Recollections of Slavery by a Runaway Slave,  a story that spread nationally and became important to the abolitionist movement. You can read more here:


Hallowell has been a haven or sanctuary for many over the years and I felt the chapter of James Matthew’s life was important to include in the story of our town.

This is an early color study as I develop the idea of how he will be woven into the tapestry of the mural, how best to represent him, his physical type, pose and setting. Here I envision him first making his way to Hallowell through the northern forest.

Matthews had a troubled life, even after his escape from slavery. However, when he died in June of 1888, people of Hallowell raised funds so he could be buried in the main cemetery. You can see his grave there today.

You can support the mural project here:


Celebrity Mural

Work continues on, what, for now, we are calling the Celebrity Mural, because if includes the likes of Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, Ellen Degeneris, Marilyn Monroe..a cast of over 30 people of note.

This is acrylic on canvas, about 8 x 34 feet. Oh did I mention, Lincoln, Maya Angelou, Samuel L Jackson, Princess Diana…the list goes on.

This is a collaborative mural project with artist John Gable.

drawing studies | Hallowell Mural

Currently working on studies and design for another mural.  This will be a large almost 1000 square foot mural for downtown Hallowell, telling the story of this enchanting town where we live.  

Here are a just a handful of the hundreds of drawings I have been doing in developing this mural.  More to come.  And watch for the IndieGogo campaign that will help fund the mural.

Carnival Mural

New 2 Mural Project with John Gable.

Currently Jack Gable and I are collaborating on a 2 mural project for a venue out of Maine.  Here are some detail images of the work-in-progress.  

Jack and I are splitting the work, literally trading brushes back and forth as needed.  After years of working solo, working side by side with another talented artist is just too much fun.

I will post more images as this mural develops and as we really dig into the second mural.

Pride Weekend

A Poster for the first Pride Weekend Celebrations in Hallowell, Maine.

Hallowell Fireman Saves Superman

Fireman Saves Superman

This is a poster design for the Jesse Tozier Fundraiser to help Jesse when he donates a kidney to Scott Baker.

Greeting Card Shop

My wife Jen Greta Cart has started an online greeting card shop with her very popular paintings at JenGretaCart.com.  Her work is beautiful, a combination of real and fantasy, magic and quietly normal all adding up to a lovely charm.

She has been painting for many years and has quite a following of patrons.  And now her cards can be found in many brick and mortar card shops around Maine as well.

detail from mural in Augusta Capital Judicial Center

Hallowell History Mural

The history mural has begun!

I am designing and painting a new history mural for my home town of Hallowell, Maine.  This is going to be 38 x 30 feet on an exterior wall at the north entrance to town.  Chris Vallee has donated the north wall of his real estate building on 89 Water St.

The mural will tell the history of Hallowell, from the founding in the mid 1700’s onward.  Our town built ships, cut timber, carved granite from our hills for great buildings and monuments of the young nation and had a thriving mill industry, making everything from sandpaper to shoes—all this I will paint into our mural.  Important early settlers, native tribes of pre-western history, key townspeople, stone carvers—all will find a place in the mural.

The wall will be a multifaccetted scene of the many years interwoven into one design.

Focus on the Arts

Hallowell is building a future in the Arts, so I will push the paint into the vision for our future as a mid Maine arts center.

We will starting a crowd funding campaign to help fund the mural.  This will pay materials and supplies—and pay me for the many months of work involved.  I will be researching the key points of history, working with Sam Webber and other local historians.  I have begun the early stage of design and will be posting images as the project develops.

Drop me a note if you have things to include—or if you would like to contribute to the project.  Here are some of my other recent murals:  Kennebec at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta, Maine; City of Ships in Bath, Maine; and Entertainers, Beyond the Sea, a mural for a private residence in Hallowell,

feet studies

Feet, feet and more feet.  Drawing this lower extremity is fun.  Feet can be very expressive.  We are used to hand gestures in paintings but feet can be story tellers too.

I am working on a new dance painting where both, feet and hands, are very important.  When you are eager to start a new painting it is so tempting to just jump in as the idea rushes youlike a vacation romanceWhile this can yield some clever brushwork—well, and some true disasters as well—more often it is better to rehearse the parts, to dig in and find better and better ways to paint that initial flush of an idea.

I always figure if I have a good painting idea it is worth putting the work into the prep and refinement.  Most good ideas reward you for the efforts.

We always envision artists working in a frenzy of inspiration—and I guess we do, sometimes—but to achieve that spontaneous, seemingly effortless beauty of brushwork on the canvas it is necessary to rehearse, study, find the right lines, colors and forms—before you just start scrubbing around on the canvas.

(feet studies, 8×8 inches)