Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
Q STREET, ARCATA – First it was part of the Gilardoni Dairy, then, for a brief period in the 1980s, it became The Country Store. During its latter assignment, the old barn on Q Street sported rustic tchotchkes, knickknacks, curios and a fanciful mural depicting the very pastoral setting which it inhabited.
That mural has long since flaked away, but now, Cypress Grove Chevre (CGC) is commissioning an artist to restore it.
After an internal search, CGC posted a request for proposals online. That resulted in 50 or so downloads of the requirements package, according to CGC Marketing Director Jason Baxter, but few responses.
Fortunately, one of the respondents turned out to be an artist whose mural experience and skill set makes him, arguably, the ideal person for the job.
Artist Lucas Thornton was mentored by famed Humboldt muralist Duane Flatmo. Thornton was required to submit a complete workplan, which has already been approved, and preliminary sketch of the final mural, which was submitted this week.
Thornton, who is clearly relishing the challenge, is approaching the project in a systematic fashion. That begins with treating the extremely distressed surface to prepare it to receive paint.
First, he’ll go over it with a wire brush and sandpaper to remove all the flaking paint. He’ll then prime it with a “raw sienna”-hued transparent undercoating, which will impart a temporary, sepia-like tone.
The undercoat will also protect the paint from the acidic redwood upon which it rests. "I'm pretty sure that's why it hasn't fared so well," Thornton said. "You need a barrier."
Next will be a chalk sketch of the outlines of the final mural. That will be based on a number of images he collected from all around the Arcata Bottom. “I drove every single road, taking pictures of houses, barns, fields, goats, cows and horses,” he said.
Those images were pieced together in Photoshop to create the draft image he will work from to create the final mural.
Thornton’s new mural will be an homage to the original, done by an unknown artist, but will be truer to the scenery of the actual Bottoms. “Some of the landscape [in the old mural] is more imaginary,” he said. “This time around, I’d like to create a more realistic rendition of local scenery.”
A longer-lasting one, too. Thornton will use the latest, mural-specific Novacolor acrylic paints. “I want to make sure it will withstand the test of time,” he said.
The project presents a lot of challenges. Thornton will have to ridge the wet weather and apply paint only on days when it's warm enough to dry. Still, he hopes to complete the Cypress Grove mural in a month’s time.
“I really enjoy bringing murals back to life,” Thornton said. “It’s my purpose and calling.”