The artists stooped, stretched and sat along the wall as they carefully mixed paint colors and filled in details of a Venetian canal.
Artists from the Gallery on the Square on Main Street in Gainesville positioned themselves along a large mural at Cosa Nostra Italian Kitchen on Monday morning. The restaurant is in the same building as the gallery.
The artists have spent three days a week for the last month painting the scene on the 24-foot-by-7-foot wall inside the newly opened restaurant’s Venice-inspired dining room.
Artists Paula Hoffman and Joyce Hornor also painted another, smaller mural of oak wine casks inside the main dining room of the restaurant before starting on the large scene.
Hoffman sat on her knees painting several large boats in the mural’s foreground while fellow artists Ruth Money, Carmen Stolorena and Patti Russell applied color to the water and buildings next to it.
The mural depicts the Rialto Bridge over the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy, one of the historic city’s most recognized bridges. The artists tape reference photos of views from the city near the area they’re painting.
“We are working from many different photographs,” Russell said. “We have a basic design, picking windows off of one (photo) and boats from another and combining it to make a unique picture that’s still recognizable as Venice.”
Hoffman said the artists took extra care to create the feeling of depth in the long wall and used chalk, tape and string to perfect the perspective.
“These old buildings go every which way, if you don’t get your perspective right the whole thing is off,” Money said.
Having so many people working on the same piece of art together isn’t without its challenges, too.
“We all think we know enough to come over here and mix the color that (someone) mixed yesterday, but it doesn’t always work that way,” Russell said, as she swept a freshly mixed shade of blue over the water. “I’ll have to say ‘What did you use to make that color’ and get some help that way. We just have to tweak it. We can look at it and know which parts which ones of us painted, but we hope when we get through it will be so cohesive that you won’t be able to tell.”
Hoffman explained the collaboration of artists works well for the painting because each person brings her own strengths. Hoffman describes herself as a “big detail person,” and boats are among her favorite subjects to paint. Russell said she prefers to use a scrumbling technique on the buildings to make them appear older. Scrumbling involves layering paint on top of paint.
“We just come in, in the morning and say ‘Um, do I feel like painting buildings or water’ and we just go with it because we have so much to do,” Russell said.
The artists said they have enjoyed working on the mural alongside one another.
“The work we do normally is usually very solitary,” Russell said. “We each paint in our own home studios or upstairs in the gallery. It’s very solitary and very quiet. But here it’s a collaborative effort.”
Money said she has enjoyed watching the project come together and is excited to see the final product.
“It’s original. You can get wallpaper with a Venice scene on it and tack it up,” Money said. “This is original, involving many, many hours of work.”
“There’s not another like it in the world,” Russell said. “We couldn’t reproduce this. If we started to do another Venice wall at another place, it would never look the same.”
The artists expect the mural to be complete by April.
Hoffman put down her palate, pulled herself up to her feet and dusted off her jeans.
“The hardest part is getting on the floor to paint down low or standing on the stool to reach the sky,” Hoffman said, laughing.