Unlock The Sorrel Mule With A Pencil
The "Land Of Opportunity" mural
measures 35 feet wide and 20 feet tall.
I remember my father telling me not to show this to
My sketch of a mule looked more like a dog. This is where
A drawing with colored pencils on my desk at home.
It is 1997 and owner Don Lock has given me permission to
paint a mural
sketch on the south side of his property, the Lock Steel
located one block east of downtown Carrollton, near
This mural measures 35 feet wide and 20 feet tall. The
is that of a farmer cutting a furrow behind a sorrel mule.
Here are the
of that mule.
"How is a mule
different from a horse?" I asked
my wife native to Missouri. She told me about the bigger
it would be a pencil that unlocked the Sorrel Mule.
At the City library I found black
photos of mules at State Fairs.
There were frontal shots, the head, neck, chest, and front
shots. I borrowed a photo from Bud Miles, who stood in the
photo as a
holding the reins to the big mules.
At my drawing
table, I drew
the mule right-side up and upside-down.
Often artists will work from an upside-down image as a way
on the lights and darks, without having to think about
After several days of drawing,
my wife walked in to the drawing room and saw the
"That is a mule!" she declared. "You got it."
After I had this
image, I had to
re-work it so that it looked like the mule was
coming down a hill towards you, bu also so you could
see its side
I looked at how the artist Thomas Hart Benton did it
I looked at book illustrations about harnesses for
plows. I even
an Amish farm north of Carrollton to draw a one-mule
thought a farmer
walked easily behind a plow. But I found out it
would have been
because the ground was rough. It often had tree
roots and rocks
that needed to be removed by hand. It took
everything the farmer
steady the plow with his arm muscles. If you look
closely at the
mural you will
see the farmer pushing and gripping the plow
Once I had the mule coming toward
I figured out its coloring.
Again, I looked at book illustrations others had
rust color of a sorrel mule, and then how it might
sunlight hitting one
side and the other side in shadow.
(See the notation scribbled beside the study?
page 325 from a resource book at the
Using colored pencils
to shade with, this is the final mule study I
when I painted the mural.
put the mural image up on the
outside wall, the wall needed to be scraped clean
of loose paint
chips, dirt, and
brick dust. Then, the whole wall was coated with an
primer with a
sprayer, which was re-filled often. And that paint
needed to go
strainer or grid, so that the paint could go easily
After two coats of primer paint had dried, a
assembled, with a
step ladder on top and an overhead projector on top
of that. The
had empty milk jugs filled with water slung on its
to weight down the ladder and make it stable. The
30 or 40 feet
away from the wall. A long long ladder leaned
against the wall.
when it was dark, a transparency (like the mule
above) was put
overhead projector which was pointed towards the
wall. I climbed
the long long
ladder up up up and traced that mule image onto the
wall with a
black magic marker.
I would reach as far as I could with my arms, then
lift the ladder with my arms, move the ladder over
a bit, climb
back up up up,
and draw the image so more with the marker, until
image was traced
on to the wall.
The mural was made up of MANY images.
This is the rough colored sketch
of the wagon
team and the house builders above.
Every image was studied and
books at the library. The drawings
other illustrators had made
helped me ALOT. I
learned how to draw wagon wheels,
a team of oxen, tree stumps, the
building of a
log cabin, and how workers moved
the logs up into the house. Much
homework. Lots of drawing and re-drawing.
This is the "wagon team" transparency.
This was put up on the
projector another night and drawn onto the
wall with a black marker. The man chopping wood in
came from a
painting I had found in a book. After all the
images had been
drawn on the wall,
I had to do detailed studies of each image. The
The garden vegetables. And where did I find
vegetables to sketch?
time at the Amish farm sketching their garden.
Cabbage, beets, and onions have a certain
shape and color.
More homework to do.
Another book at the library had
on foot. This is the color study I used to paint
travelers on the wall.
Hand-mixed oil-based enamel paint was
the wall mural. Every color
was mixed from white, black, red, blue, and yellow.
Curtis Bish explained
to me how it could be done. But there came that
momment of truth
when I poured
yellow into black hoping it would turn "green."
Guess what? It
DID turn green.
Mixed colors were poured into empty two liter pop
empty milk jugs.
This wall mural had over 200 hours put into it. I
began in August
in December of 1997.
This mural says something
about the city of
Land Of Opportunity.
My pencil would come in
handy when I
designed "classes" for the
Business College in Chillicothe.
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