It’s late September and we’re all heading to our closets to pull out sweaters. Restaurants are adding items like pumpkin ravioli to their menus but there’s one summer activity that I never tuck away until next year; ocean gazing and salt air breathing. My cousins who live in Montana say that they don’t know exactly where they are unless they can see the mountains as reference. I would say the same about the Atlantic Ocean.
The restaurant pictured here with our seascape mural was just days away from opening their doors so I made the trek to the North Shore to photograph our work. On the road back home I pulled over to an amazing
vista of the sea and crashing waves, got out of the car and inhaled deeply. It would be my food for the soul for the coming few weeks.
I had gone up to Beverly Farms, Massachusetts, early in the summer to scope out West Beach which was to be the subject matter of a seascape mural to be painted in the restaurant formerly known as Cygnet. It is one of the sweetest beach coves in the Commonwealth and a fifteen-minute walk from the restaurant. I took a memory card full of pictures, went home, pieced them together and designed the composition.
The beach scene was not quite in full swing then, so when we returned to actually paint the mural in mid-August the feel of the quaint coastal New England town was quite different. This is the month of humidity and temps in the 90’s, when no one returns emails because if they have any sense they have left work and gone to a place with cool ocean breezes. While both summer and permanent residents buzzed by the “closed for renovation” sign in their flip flops, we dug into our mural painting commission as part of Cygnet’s (now called Dal Mare) major redesign and renovation.
We set up camp inside the restaurant while electricians, carpenters and painters were having at it. Walls had already been torn down, new walls put up, and vintage bead board was being re-located, re-surfaced, and re-stained. It was hot and sticky outside and not much different inside. It sounds chaotic, and it was, but it also provided a nice energetic buzz to riff off of. If not for the noise and occasional toxic fumes of construction sites like this one, I’d have to say I actually love it. This project was made that much better because of the supportive construction company, Ascent Building, and the talented and really nice designer, David Ekizian, who never doubted the great results to come even through the “ugly stages”.
One day my brother Ed wandered into the restaurant after remembering that it was my birthday the day before. What a guy! He surprised me with a box of chocolates which I shared with the other contractors and David, the chocoholic designer. I felt like a townie, who has relatives and friends around every corner. It turns out he used to frequent the establishment back in the day when it was called Casey’s.
There were a couple days somewhere in the middle of painting the mural when Karen, Chris and I stood back and examined the entire 18 feet width to encounter a sea of non-harmonious elements. The clouds were too pink, the foreground tree looked anemic, and the shoreline waves were too small. We were out of painterly solutions. This is what we fondly refer to as the ugly stage. All the lights were on but nobody was home, and the floors were not vacuumed. This might not sound like an ideal part of the process, but it was actually a good sign, because it meant that we were at the problem solving stage. Although there was a big mess to clean up before the painting started to make music, we were on the way.
We worked on, layering in highlights and shadows and painted until our feet hurt. When the basics were in we began the chess game of bringing it home. Eventually our seascape mural was wrestled to the ground and it started to sing. I re-painted the Hudson River School-like clouds. We finally cracked the mystery of the reflective qualities of wet sand. A warm, late afternoon glow was washed onto the foreground rocks. And we finished 10 days after starting.
Every maker falls a little in love with their creation so on the last day we spent a good ½ hour staring affectionately at the painting. Or maybe it was forty-five minutes. Luckily Beverly, Massachusetts is only an eighty-minute drive from home so I’ll be able to visit the mural from time to time and enjoy the beautiful atmosphere and food. Without waxing too poetic I’ll simply say that it was a thrill and a privilege to create this mural.