Classically Trained Artist Brings His Talents to Latest Downtown Mural

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Local artist Patrick Cunningham puts his classical training to work this summer painting a 40-by-90-foot mural at Karicole Plaza in downtown Hot Springs at 620 Central Ave.

The permanent painting, which depicts a woman’s face against an abstract background, will cover the entire back wall of the historic building that houses the US Post Office.

As a classically trained artist who has painted all over the world, Cunningham’s works can be found in places such as Cuba, California as well as Hot Springs, where he was called upon to paint ceiling murals. at The Vault, as well as paintings and sculptures at The Reserve and some area churches.

Originally from Southern California, he and his wife now call Hot Springs home and exhibit regularly at the Legacy Fine Art Gallery. Starting with the mural in early May, he said he plans to complete it by July 31 using the Verdaccio method, which is an underpainting technique originating with Italian muralists of the Renaissance.

“One of my favorite painters was Titian (an Italian Renaissance painter who was considered the most important member of the 16th century Venetian school) and I enjoy studying old enamels,” he said. “I’m really into chemistry. A lot of art and painting is the chemistry of your material. So I did a lot of portraits using the Verdaccio technique.”

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The face of the painting, he noted, was inspired by a painting by Titian, while the rest of the painting includes a variety of styles, including that of Gustav Klimt, a 19th-century Austrian painter and prominent member of the Secession. Viennese. movement. Verdaccio, he noted, goes back to verde, or the color green. His use of the technique stems from his studies in Italy of the fresco technique. Michelangelo used Verdaccio undercoat in his Sistine Chapel frescoes.

“I use a kind of – Flemish painters call it a dead color – and that’s the underpainting of portraiture where you like a very greenish gray flesh tone and then you put color on top of it. And then you get that, that sort of balances out the color of the flesh and gives it a three-dimensional quality,” he said.

Along with the three-dimensional quality look, the mural will use the original brickwork in some areas and will also feature gold leaf in some areas of the mural. Much of the work so far has involved him repairing brick mortar while inside a bucket elevator.

“I spent maybe three weeks getting ready for the other painters to, you know, work on the surface,” he said. “And then on the face, I only spent a few weeks.”

The face section is painted in a different location on slabs weighing approximately 80 pounds each which will then be transferred to Karicole Plaza and mounted on the building for the rest of the mural to be completed. The face, he noted, will have strips of fur, which will first be attached to the building.

“They’re kind of like studs in a building every 16 inches…because the surface of the building is a bit wavy, so you get that, and then those furrings will be screwed with special screws to the surface, to the brick and to the mortar and then we will hoist these large sections of paints and these will be screwed with the gun on the furrings and then touched up, ”he said.

He said they can hopefully get a machine to hoist two or three men into a bucket to secure the slabs to the building.

Cunningham, who studied mural design in France and fresco techniques in Italy, was commissioned to complete the project by Thomas Nagen.

“I’ve known Thomas Nagen for some time and his partner Debbie, and over a year ago I did a painting very similar to this concept,” he said. “I did a painting of this and they bought it, and then they came to me and said, ‘Hey, can you do a mural of this 30 by 40 painting? And so we started the process of how it would happen, you know, like the stucco texture and how we were going to do it and everything, and it went from there. It sort of evolved and I had a good input from Thomas — adding the seashells and different subjects.”

The experience of working on the project has been fun but also challenging, he said, admitting the challenge is what makes it all the more enjoyable.

“I love diving into a project and researching the materials, you know. Let’s say for example, like The Reserve last year: I did a life-size sculpture of Joseph for the Nativity scene. So I was reading about the Great Wall of China and these scientists had chipped off some of the mortar and they are amazed at how strong the Great Wall of China is. And their Chinese secret ingredient, I found out, was sticky rice,” he said. .

“So I actually came up with my own formula for the statue, I’m using sticky rice and Portland cement and diatomaceous earth and all of that formula and I made cement-like clay to sculpt it . But it’s kind of like solving problems as you go and most of the time solving problems is just crafting, attaching the part to the building and stuff like that.”

Patrick Cunningham points to the tattoos on the arm of the late Anthony Bourdain, whose portrait he painted. He said that although he painted many portraits throughout his more than 40-year career, he had never painted one with tattoos. – Photo by Donald Cross from The Sentinel-Record
Photo Patrick Cunningham recovers parts of the painting which will be hung on the fresco. – Photo by Donald Cross from The Sentinel-Record
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