Friday, July 02, 2010

The Muralists

A photo of the Inter-Urban Depot, now a shelter house at McColl Park in Woodward

Back in 1898, before most of us were even born, the Des Moines City Railway incorporated and became the Inter-Urban Railway.  It was tied in to the Des Moines street railway system and connected  some of the smaller rural communities to the city.  The Inter-Urban Trolley provided service to Woodward beginning in 1906 - also before we were born.  The Inter-Urban was the major form of transportation to the smaller rural communities in the area for several decades.  Service continued through the depression but ended in 1941 when improved roads and automobiles made it no longer necessary.
In 1951, five acres of land surrounding was given to the city for a park and the old depot, lovingly restored, serves as the shelter house.

If any of you are still with me after all that, you might be interested to know that my husband and I were commissioned to paint a mural of the trolley for the depot.  Not large as murals go, only 72 inches square, and we are able to do the work at home in our air conditioned studio. Instead of painting directly on the depot  wall, we are painting on a smooth wood panel which will be attached to  the wall when we are finished.  After looking at dozens of old photos of trolleys  my husband drew a sketch which we enlarged and projected onto the panel.  We had a couple of "false starts," designing and redesigning the thing as we went along  but finally came up with something that looks good  - at least to us - and is as accurate as we could make it.  Discovering all sorts of things as we go along. Like using blue painting tape to help us paint straight lines. Solves the endless cycle of painting - touching up - repainting...  Larry sits and studies train wheels until he sees them in his sleep. As far as the trolley itself goes, I know nothing and have no desire to know.  With the help of the blue tape, I can paint within the lines that Larry draws. But the background - landscape, skies, bushes, etc.  are mine. We like working together, although we do have somewhat different styles. It really bugs me, though, that when I work, the paint goes everywhere - on my clothes, on the floor, in my hair, on my face, on the dog  - while he could paint all day wearing his best clothes and they would still be clean enough to go out to dinner. Is that fair???

Today I began painting the train conductor, loosely based on a very old black and white photo. Loved the handlebar mustache, but did run into trouble with the hat.  The poor man looked more like a member of the French Foreign Legion  than he did an agent for the Des Moines Railway System.  Back to the drawing board!

I will not show you the whole thing until it is finished. Right now it is at its "ugly stage." In fact it has been pretty much at that stage all along, but I am confident it will look like something someday. Soon, I hope.  My husband likes to sneak up on me and take pictures of me working. It is a horrible thing to do to a poor, unsuspecting artist, but I am unable to defend myself against the relentless camera stalker.
I did find one relatively harmless photo. My hand only. working on the sky.

Hope you all have a happy Fourth of July holiday week end!  And please say a prayer for those brave men and women who serve to protect us and our freedoms.


Lee said...

I think it would be absolutely fabulous to work along side a husband artist. My husband and I work well together building and designing furniture, rooms etc. so I can relate. This sounds like an extremely fun project, I can't wait to see it finished, I love anything to do with history.

Della, I am very messy with paint too,what can you do? I finally bought a smock... or button down the front dress from a thrift store, to keep from having to replace my clothes every time I paint. My apron just didn't cover enough of me.

I will anticipate the conclusion of your mural. Have a lovely 4th!

dellartist said...

Thanks Lee. Aprons don't do it for me either. I tried using a smock, but was mocked for my smock because it looked like a housecoat from the '50's and '60's. Now I just have "designated painting clothes" which work fine as long as I can remember to change them. I am glad to know I am not the only painter who really gets into her work!

V Bridges Hoyt said...

This looks like so much fun and challenging at the same time. The clouds are terrific and the little piece of the trolley really makes me want to see more. That's a lovely picture of the old depot, too!

I am notorious also for getting paint all over me and everywhere else. I have ruined more pairs of blue jeans and t-shirts and now have about three designated sets of painting clothes. Still, I will forget to change if a brainstorm hits me while in my better jeans. Such is the life of an artist.

dellartist said...

You too, Nita? I always thought we must be related!

V Bridges Hoyt said...

Probably! Ha! I would love to have coffee one morning. Want to meet me half way between at a coffee shop in southern Missouri or northern Arkansas?

Sniffles and Smiles said...

On peril of his life would my husband photograph me while I was painting!!!! ROFL...So excited to see the finished product, Della!!! I'm sure it will be spectacular!!

I have an oil cloth apron...that covers the whole of me...Oil cloth is wonderful as it is so easy to clean...and it saves me tremendous trouble...paint is necessarily messy, don't you think?

I wanted you to know that I'm going offline for a few weeks (I've scheduled posts at my blog for the interim), but I'm gone... looking for my fickle muse who stormed off a week ago...;-) Thought I'd grab a little R & R while I'm at it!!! But you will continue to be in my thoughts and prayers...and ALWAYS, you are a treasured friend!!!

Hope you have a wonderful 4th of July!!See you when I get back from my rest!! Love you much!!! Janine XOXO

dellartist said...

Nita, that sounds like a plan... If I ever finish this blame thing so I can get out of the house.

Janine, I will miss you terribly, but I understand how it is when your muse takes off. I hope you have a nice, restful time and that you and your muse get together and return with all kinds of energy. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

Vera Dennen said...

So excited to see the finished product, Della!!! How long to go as yet? Did not know you knew 'Sniffles and Smiles', Della. Just met her myself! LOL!

dellartist said...

Thanks, Vera, I don't know how long, but we do have a deadline. The last weekend of the month. Unless I am completely embarrassed by the finished product, I will post a photo of it.
Yes, I know Sniffles and Smiles, she is a very sweet and very talented lady.

Graceful Moments said...

Della, what a great project! I would love to do a painting project with my husband but he doesn't paint...not even walls if he can help it. We do often work together on DIY projects and do well with that. I too am a messy painter. I said in a post not long ago that I am not as messy when painting canvases as porches, but that was a bit of a whopper! I have tried lab coats, aprons, smocks, etc. to no avail. At one point I don't think I owned anything that did not have at least a speck of paint on it. I now wear scrubs. I have four pairs of navy blue scrubs that were my office uniform when I worked for a doctor. They are cool, comfortable, inexpensive and I really don't care if I get paint on them. Guess what! I have become much less messy since I started wearing them. I have absolutely no idea why!
I can't wait to see the finished project. I am sure it will be wonderful. I have always wanted to paint a mural.
Missing our Janine a bit...hope she finds that muse and gets lots of R&R. Blessings ♥ Vicki

dellartist said...

I hadn't thought of scrubs, Vicki! That is a good idea.

Today I had to sit on the floor while working on the mural, and I made the mistake of laying my palette down beside me. Button, our little poodle ran right through my paint. He wound up with a blue foot and we had tiny blue footprints all over the floor. He was so cute and didn't have a clue what had happened or why he had to have a foot bath.