Monday, September 15, 2014

Artist paints Bennett carriage mural with shades of gray

By CLINTON DICK, Herald Staff Writer | 6/28/2013

Two problems stared Scott Braden in the face before the Ottawa artist began painting his mural depicting the B.D. Bennett ice horse-drawn carriage.

The first was determining the carriage’s original colors by examining a black and white photo of the vehicle, enlarged in high resolution. The iconic Ottawa business, Bennett Creamery, was to be depicted on one of four panels Braden has been commissioned to paint for the Ottawa Main Street Association. The panels are expected to form a giant mural that will hang over Edward E. Haley Community Park, 320 S. Main St., Ottawa.

Two problems stared Scott Braden in the face before the Ottawa artist began painting his mural depicting the B.D. Bennett ice horse-drawn carriage.

The first was determining the carriage’s original colors by examining a black and white photo of the vehicle, enlarged in high resolution. The iconic Ottawa business, Bennett Creamery, was to be depicted on one of four panels Braden has been commissioned to paint for the Ottawa Main Street Association. The panels are expected to form a giant mural that will hang over Edward E. Haley Community Park, 320 S. Main St., Ottawa.

“The challenge was getting the color,” Braden said. “I took all my colors that I had in my primary kit and laid them out on a sheet of paper and copied the paper in black and white.”

From there, Braden matched the levels on the gray, color-blotched paper with the black and white photo. The photo, along with several others Braden is using for his interchangeable mural project, are scans courtesy of the Franklin County Historical Society. All of Braden’s murals depict a scene of Ottawa history.

The original photo of the B.D. Bennett ice carriage did not specify where in Ottawa the photo was taken. Instead of painting the background the photo depicted, Braden decided instead to depict a scene more familiar to Ottawans. He painted the carriage at the entrance to Ottawa’s Forest Park.

This brought a second problem, he said. Braden did not know how to scale the carriage according to the park entrance around it, he said.

“I struggled with it for a couple of weeks,” Braden said. “I made some phone calls and everyone was full of information, but not the information I needed,” he said. “I asked some guys about the horses to see if I could use them as a way to scale the painting. They said [a horse’s height] was measured in ‘hands,’ and that was Greek to me.”

Braden finally found useful information when he researched wagon wheels and found that wheels varied in size until about 1900 when they became more standardized. From his research, he was able to conclude that the back wheel of the carriage in the original photo was 56 inches tall.

“I had no idea how to do this, but I had to get it right,” Braden said. “I wanted to be as accurate as possible.”

Working out the solution involved Braden photographing a pole with measurements marked on it — and sticking upward out of a milk jug for stability — near the stone pillars at the entrance of Forest Park.

“I took five or six photos all at once and put the jug in different spots,” Braden said. “I wanted to capture it coming around the corner in Forest Park.”

One photo came out perfect for Braden’s needs, he said, and he used the markings on the pole to determine where the top of the wheel would be if the carriage came around the corner close to the stone pillar entrance of the park. That allowed Braden to scale the entire carriage accurately in the mural, he said.

“The scale of the ice (carriage) was based on the size of the wheel,” Braden said. “I went with the wheel because it was the only thing solid in the picture that I could use to scale.”

The mural is the first of five to six interchangeable murals that Braden is painting for the $14,000 Haley Park mural project. Braden said he hopes to be done with all of his paintings by the end of the year. Becci Shisler, Ottawa Main Street Association program director, recently told Ottawa city commissioners the organization still needed to raise about $6,000 to complete the project.

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