Mural artists offer behind-the-scenes details
Daily Globe Staff Reporter
SHELBY — When Joel and Wendy Morrow discuss the large historic-themed Shelby mural they created outside the Marvin Memorial Library, they emphasize the amount of preparation and planning that went into the creation.

Discussions on the project actually began three years ago among library officials ahead of the mural planning itself that began two years ago prior to the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic, which delayed the mural’s start.

Details were shared during the artists’ presentation prior to the official dedication on Aug. 30. Work began in May.

The mural is 310 square feet -- 31 feet long and 10 feet high. Its time period is around 1900. It features 29 people and a cat. The front of the mural features figures that are about 5 feet tall.

“This first question: ‘How do you get the art on the wall?’” Joel Morrow said. “If anybody stopped by at the very, very beginning, you probably had to walk up real close to see all of the pencil marks. We did draw everything with pencils at the beginning.”

During the process, masking tape was used. “Once we had all of this part painted, it becomes a little problematic to just whip out a pencil or a paintbrush and start sketching to see if this looks OK here,” he said.

“We’ve taken to using blue masking type, like painter’s tape, and just kind of sketch with the tape so we don’t damage what is already there, and we can walk 100 feet away and see if it looks like it is going to be in the right spot,” he added.

He calls that “sketching without ruining.”

Wendy Morrow showed the mural blueprint and mural binder. "This is the research that we did for this mural," she said in displaying the large binder.

She spoke of the blueprint and its process. “You can see there is a lot math on it,” she said. “Lots of letters, lots of numbers. The mathematical part of it was pretty intense.”

As part of the planning process and many months of research and discussion, they also interviewed Marvin Memorial staff to see what they were interested in seeing on the mural. Highlights included a patriotic theme and featuring the original facade of what now is the library, Daniel Marvin and Carrie Marvin (Daniel Marvin purchased the historic house, which became the library, and Carrie Marvin was the head of the Shelby reading room in 1897.

The mural also shows a Shelby Bicycle Company bike. Historical records also were included as part of the process.

“There was a lot of communication back and forth,” he said. “It doesn’t just kind of happen on its own in this case because it’s representative of something — real people and real things and kind of the spirit that is part of his community. Some murals will be a pre-painted image or something,” he added. “This is more of a collaborative kind of discussion to pay homage to some things from Shelby.”

The pandemic delay led to more changes in the design.

“Over the pandemic, she redesigned half the mural and added about 10 more people,” Joel Morrow said light-heartedly of his wife.

Once the project began, exterior paint was used, a water-based acrylic. Then a protective coating was added to the mural after its completion.

“It should last a really, really long time,” Joel Morrow said.

Joel Morrow thanked community members for their interest in the project that highlights Shelby in the early 1900s.

“That is part of the thing that helps encourage us and drives us in these projects,” Joel Morrow said.

“Throughout the three-month process of doing this, people stopping by, going to the library, people who were just curious, employees,” he said. “A lot of people kind of become part of the fabric of the project like this.”

"That's a really cool thing to do this in a public space rather than in a studio," he said. "It kind of pulls the curtain back...You get to be part of the process, and we really enjoy that aspect of it for sure."

The Morrows also created the Castamba Theater mural along Main Street in downtown Shelby in 2019 and two murals at the American Legion in Shelby. They got their start in 2001 while studying under Professor John Thrasher at Ohio State University-Mansfield. As they started out, they served as art assistants on the Johnny Appleseed historical mural project in downtown Mansfield.

In remarks at the artists’ presentation, Marvin Memorial Library Director Kathy Webb expressed joy in “sharing a new artwork with our community.”

“We started this project, in the talking stages, three years ago, in the planning stages two years ago, and then, what do you know, COVID happened, plus some other factors in the meantime,” she said. “As a result, the initial plan was completely redone and became what it is today.”