The View from Here

Appalachian Forest Museum Murals
July 7, 2011, 5:19 pm
Filed under: Art News

I have just begun a new mural project for the Appalachian Forest Museum (, housed in the former gift shop of the old Seven Caves tourist attraction. The good folks at the Highlands Sanctuary and Arc of Appalachia preserve system acquired the old Seven Caves property, and have returned it to its natural state by removing the concrete trails and lights. The gift shop building from the tourist attraction is being remodeled into the museum, an interpretive center for the preserve system. There will be a series of small (4′ x 8′) murals on panels between the artificial trunks of vanished forest giants. Geoff Mowery of northeastern Ohio completed the first four panels. I will be doing two; “Lost Treasures,” depicting plants and animals that have disappeared from our eastern forests either through extirpation or extinction, and “The Living Waters,” a cross-section of a forest stream, depicting the specialized animals that inhabit it.

After receiving the narrative and species list from the project administrator, Bruce Lombardo, I began a small B&W sketch.  The setting is a primeval Ohio forest, with American Chestnut trees, Scarlet oaks, Pignut Hickory, and other forest giants no longer seen in our Appalachia. Animals such as the Forest Bison, the Mountain Lion, and the Eastern Wolf prowl the forest, and a Shawnee hunting party stalk the bison.

The purpose of the sketch is to allow discussion of the composition and species depictions.  After the black and white sketch was approved, I moved the mural panels to my studio and began the painting. The first step was to transfer the sketch to the full-sized panel.

After the B&W sketch was inplace on the mural panel, it’s time to begin blocking in some color.

After the base colors in certain areas are in, I can began developing some bark textures with a sponge.

After sponging in a base for the bark texture, I can begin working out the details in the bark, to define the species of tree. Detailed leaves will be added later.

After finishing the basic texture of each species of tree, I’ll begin adding other details, such as moss and lichens. Herbaceous plants, smaller trees and seedlings, and the animals and humans in the image will appear later. The garish colors you see here will be muted and more natural looking as layers of color, light and shadow are built up.

Update, 7/31/11

Things are developing in the fall forest, as more saturated colors appear, and the trunks of the forest giants are detailed:

"Lost Treasures as of 7/31/11


The foreground plants and leaves are starting to appear, and there is now a Shawnee hunting party stalking Woodland bison:

"Lost Treasures" as of 8/5/11