Every morning as he started work on the “Greetings from Decatur” mural on the east side of the square, Greenwood artist Rick Duwe took time for prayer.
“I’d lay my hand on that wall and say, ‘God, paint this mural through my hands,’” Duwe said, adding: “‘and let everybody like it, especially Mark Moran.’”
Moran, a local real estate developer, commissioned the mural as part of a larger effort to beautify downtown using local talent. The mural is on a wall next to a 12-foot tall steel sculpture of two suspended dice by Bridgeport designers Jake and Daniel Hayhurst and Kris Hibbitts on property shared by a recently resurfaced parking lot.
For Duwe, a longtime Wise County resident, the mural is a way to preserve the historical identity of a quickly-growing community.
“I think it’s inevitable the Metroplex is coming our way,” he said. “To have something creative for the town is fun for the town and people. It’s interesting and good.”
Duwe said the mural is based on a similar painting in Austin, which is styled after a series of postcards from the 1930s.
“Mark told me he wanted it like the one they have in Austin,” he said. “I said, ‘Well I haven’t seen that.’ So I Googled it.”
The two scoped out the wall for the prospective mural, deciding on 12 by 27 feet. The dimensions were later increased to 14 by 32 to better fill the wall.
After the initial planning session, Duwe drew several sketches of the mural, eventually graduating to a painted prototype.
“This painting was geared toward 12 by 27 [feet],” he said. “So when it went bigger, I had to redraw the whole thing to make it fit.”
Duwe then projected a transparent outline of his mural onto the wall to trace. From there, he said the process of shading the mural was simple. Duwe’s son, Dave, assisted in filling in the lines.
“It was sort of like a coloring book,” he said. “Austin’s mural is very simple. Mark told me he wasn’t looking for detail.”
Also like the Austin art, a local landmark is portrayed in each of the letters of the town’s name. Decatur’s seven letters include depictions of the Waggoner Mansion, a scene from the Chisholm Trail cattle drive, the Woody cabin, the Wise County courthouse, the petrified wood gas station and the Wise County Heritage Museum, which formerly housed the Decatur Baptist College. Duwe said he and Moran brainstormed a list of recognizable landmarks to include in the mural.
“We’ve lived in Greenwood for 31 years, so I kind of had an idea of what was iconic for the town,” Duwe said.
“The ‘R’ has, as Austin’s has, a Texas flag on the last letter,” he said. “It was just something to fill in that space. We couldn’t think of another strong landmark that’s easy to recognize.”
Recently, Duwe said he’s focused more on painting nature and landscapes, but he’s also painted murals for Slidell and Chico school districts.
“I’m more of a realistic-type painter,” he said. “And it’s hard for me to do something in a graphic-illustrated way. When it comes to the mural, I thought I wanted to put down the values – the darks and the lights. So that’s what makes things look real is you have the proper shades of color in the shadows and in the sunlight. I told Mark, I said, ‘I want it to be not just good, but special.’”
Before he started painting, Duwe said he worked with Moran to add a cement and fiberglass layer over the wall’s original brickwork to make a better canvas for the mural.
After the painting was finished, he said he added white paint to several areas to offset the mural’s more aggressive colors.
“I did put some washes on that blue. I might have covered it twice,” he said. “That faded it out some. I faded the reds, maybe even the dice, too because it subdued them.”
The end result took around three gallons of paint and about four weeks to complete. Like the prayer he said before each day’s work, the finished product is straightforward and effective.
“It was the idea to keep it simple,” he said. “You’ve got a lot of background color, and as long as you can keep your lines fairly straight around your letters, it’s simple to do. God gave me a lot of good weather to do that.”