The Hello and Goodbye Mural: 20 Years Later
It was 1998, and our married lives had just begun. Although love was plentiful, money was certainly not. So when I was offered a commission to paint a 32-foot mural on the interior of a barbecue restaurant in Clinton, S.C., I gratefully accepted.
In four panels, painted on signboard with acrylics, I created a scene with a barn, a historic home that resembled a local landmark, three pigs and one Australian cattle dog. I did the work over a period of two-and-a-half weeks on days the restaurant was closed, traveling from Anderson, S.C. where we lived, to Clinton.
Last month, 20 years after the piece was installed, I met the restaurant owner once more, and this time, I came to take the mural down.
Mark Long was preparing to sell the building where Hickory Hills BBQ once served up tasty plates of the South’s best BBQ. He reached out to me and I was happy to help. After all, most murals I created back in those early days don’t survive. But I had designed this mural to be removed, and now that day had come.
Seeing the mural again after 20 years was a memory-soaked trip back in time. I remember getting the commission and then feeling really nervous. Could I pull it off? In 1998, I was building swimming pools (this was how I paid for college, too) and pulling out my paints at night, trying to figure out if I could fashion some sort of career in the arts.
I expected to view the mural through cynical eyes as I gazed upon it 20 years out. But it looked better than I remembered. I still felt a sense of pride in its execution, and that's saying a lot as I am my own worst critic.
Mark and I had decided to add plexiglass over the panels so no sticky BBQ hands touched the mural. Thankfully, this little addition had ensured the painting aged well.
Sign board panels are plywood with a paper cover. I had screwed each panel to the 2 x 4 supports and dabbed the screw head holes with putty. Then I painted over the putty. Now comically, I had to dig out dozens of putty holes so I could find the screws and remove the panels. This took some time.
As I worked to remove those panels (and cursed the younger me, who was waaaaay too thorough), I thought about how grateful I was to Mark for taking a chance on a new artist.
Now that I am a children's book author and illustrator, my work doesn't live in one place or one location. My deep desire is that kids everywhere have a chance to pick up books each day to read (or have books read to them). Sometimes, it will be one of my books. But not too long ago, my work existed on panels, in a restaurant where people ate and chatted, caught up and relaxed. Hello and goodbye, Hickory Hills BBQ mural. It was good to see you again.
And today, here's the mural again!
Thanks for stopping by my blog! My next children's book, I'm Fun, Too! (the first-ever Lego picture book) is coming out Aug. 28, 2018 (Scholastic). If you're local to Greenville, we're having a book party at Fiction Addiction Sept. 7, 2018 from 5 to 7 p.m. All are invited!