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Murals, murals, and more murals | 1st Street gets in on the act yet again

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Barbara Council Burney stops her work momentarily for this photo op. She can’t stop for long though. The heat of the day is not friendly to muralists.

By GEORGE CUSTER/Editor/The Herald  —  Murals are always an enhancement to a city’s ambiance. None, more so, than around Oakridge. The exterior of Sacred Spiral Gift Shop, located at 48319 E. 1st Street, just received a picturesque landscape mirroring the national forest that surrounds Oakridge.

I asked Barbara Council Burney, the artist for the project about the mural.

GEORGE: Who commissioned the work?

BARBARA: Gary and Anna Courtright, the owners of the building. The idea came from Kieth Robinson, who owns the property next door that the pub is in. Kieth approached me late last summer about a mural there, which then grew to include the building next door for one large cohesive mural. But the pub building needs a few repairs first so maybe that will be a future addition. Gary and Anna still wanted to proceed with their half of the mural, which I’m so grateful for!

GEORGE: Was there input into the design or did you just do a rough for approval?

I definitely allow and encourage input from any client I’m working with. The theme we were aiming for was “old growth forest”, so from there I came up with a few composition sketches. We discussed what elements we liked, and which ones could be stronger, and then I would improve the design from there until we were all feeling pretty excited about it. Gary and Anna were very supportive and positive throughout the whole process.

GEORGE: Where do you get your inspirations from?

Most of my inspiration comes from the beauty of the natural world, especially the incredible landscape that we get to live in here. I really wanted to try to capture the greatness of the big old growth Doug Fir trees, which makes me feel so small and awestruck. That element of the mural started out quite humble, but the size of the tree kept growing with each revision. I took my sketchbook out into the woods a few times to draw from life; standing beneath those trees with 6′-8′ diameters made me realize that we had to go big or it wouldn’t make sense. I also really like the pillows of moss that form on the branches of the maple trees. And of course, the iconic sword ferns of the Pacific Northwest. As for the colors, we chose a theme inspired by the sunset/sunrise. A true-to-life colour palette wasn’t very exciting against the gray wall. I tried a grayscale theme too, but it was pretty spooky looking. The sunset theme was actually an accident – the colors I just happened to use in an early sketch – but we liked it best in the end.
I showed the design to Sacred Spiral store owner Bree, who requested a crow or raven. Anna really likes birds too, so I painted 5 local species into the mural, including a raven.

GEORGE: What kind of paints do you use? I assume they’re special.

BARBARA: High grade exterior acrylic paint with good light-fast ratings.

GEORGE: About how many murals have you done over the years?

BARBARA: I’ve only done about 6 but would love to do more.

GEORGE: How did the current weather affect your working conditions?

BARBARA: I got started a little late, but that’s ok. I was ready to go pretty early Monday morning, but the rain made me wait until the afternoon. It took me nearly 6 hours to get the chalk grid on the wall and draw the design. It rained that night too, which was not in the forecast when I started, so I was awake at 4am worrying that I’d have a mess to clean up and have to redraw the whole thing. Much to my relief, nothing had melted away, but I had to wait for the rain to stop on Tuesday as well. I also gave the wall some time to dry in the sun. The next few days were hot and sunny, which I just love. The sun dries the paint really fast, so my mixing containers kept getting too thick and forming skins on the surface – very messy.
Thank you to everyone who made sure I was wearing sunscreen and staying hydrated along the way!

GEORGE: Do you have any other murals planned in the near future?

BARBARA: I will be painting a mural with Oakridge Elementary School students as part of their summer camps in July, which will be hung in their remodeled gymnasium next year. I have a few other potential murals planned but no contracts have been signed yet, so they are only tentative.

GEORGE: It’s nice work that all of our readers need to come and see! Thanks.

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