Town’s history, character depicted in SHS mural
SNOHOMISH - Over the course of seven weeks, Sedro-Woolley artist Don Smith got to know students and faculty at Snohomish High School as he wove images of the town into a mural adorning the wall outside the school’s library.
The 60-by-10-foot mural depicts the history of Snohomish and its geography and features several familiar faces among its many and intricately painted characters such as Mayor Karen Guzak and Snohomish High Principal Beth Porter on her bicycle.
“My favorite part of the project was interacting with the students,” Smith said last week.
Smith is a longtime friend of librarian Volkert Volkersz, who helped arrange with vice principal Gordy Brockman to commission the project last April.
Smith, newly retired, spent more than 300 hours creating his masterpiece and he said he had near-constant encouragement from students passing by.
“Everyone that walked by had something wonderful to say,” Smith said. “The students are delightful. They’re polite and considerate of each other. I was pleasantly surprised at how nice the kids were.”
Smith spent weeks preparing for the project. He chartered a flight with aerial photographer John Scurlock to capture the geography of Snohomish and even kayaked up and down the Snohomish River to take his own pictures of the town.
He started painting Oct. 24 and called it complete Dec. 11.
One lucky student was chosen by Brockman to assist Smith as a sort of painter’s apprentice.
Nathen Wilkins was always carrying around artwork in his backpack and seemed to be the perfect choice.
“It was fun,” Wilkins said. “I enjoyed it. It was my first time working with paintbrushes.”
Wilkins, who said he wants to be a tattoo artist, said he learned a lot from Smith’s instruction.
“He’s very good at explaining shading,” Wilkins said. “I learned a lot about perspective and how you look at things if you were to lay it down on a grid.”
“He did a nice job of capturing that rocky shoreline,” Smith said of Wilkins, adding that he showed him how to paint the river’s reflective surface.
Volkersz said Smith was willing to stop his work to answer students’ questions, discuss art in general, or even take suggestions on items to add to the mural.
“He said it felt a bit like ‘performance art’ as he worked and talked,” Volkersz said.
Smith encourages people to take a “virtual tour” of the mural via the library’s Facebook page.
“You can’t just walk by in two minutes and see it all,” Smith said. “It’s got a lot in it, a lot of minutia details.”
Smith retired in late August as a graphic artist for Small Planet Foods (Cascadian Farms), a division of General Mills. He saw the company grow into the organic industry that it is today and designed the company’s first full color jam label in 1978.