ESPYVILLE — Holding what appears to be a paint-can lid with dabs of different shades of paint in his hand, Gary Hartzell takes his place on a stairstep in the home of Tom and Charlotte Hermann.
His job is to paint a mural on the wall, leading from the first floor to the second.
Dressed in blue jeans and a T-shirt, Hartzell uses a fine artist’s brush, turns to the painting, does a few strokes with his brush, and a turtle has taken its place among the various scenes on the 27-foot mural.
Owner of the historic McQuiston manor, a Victorian home near Espyville, Hermann got the idea of having a historical mural done inside his home — something that would last for years to come.
After interviewing between five and eight out-of-town artists, Hermann was shopping in Zatsick’s Golden Dawn Store at Conneaut Lake one day. He admired a window mural and learned it had been done by a store employee. Hermann knew he had found his artist.
After painting for 26 days and 130 hours, Hartzell was putting on the finishing touches.
The mural depicts the history of the home and its people.
An arch leading into another room separates the mural wall. Hartzell created a weeping willow tree that flows over the 8-foot archway and into the rest of the mural.
In the front yard is a rock engraved “McQuiston’s Corners 1881” — the original homeowner.
“He got the rock perfect,” said Hermann, pointing out the different edges of the rock. Sheep are roaming across the road from the house, depicting sheep that McQuiston raised.
A waterfall looks real enough that to almost hear the rippling, said Hermann. In the water is a coy fish named Wilson — duplicating one that has its home in the front yard waterfall.
A couple dressed in Victorian clothing strolls in front of the Shenango United Presbyterian Church, the church the McQuiston family attended in the 1800s.
Hermann wanted a surprise for his wife. He had Hartzell paint a “Tom Loves Char” carved in the trunk of a tree. “I’m a romantic at heart,” he laughed. “I wanted something that would become a part of our history.”
It took his wife a few minutes to spot the surprise, but she was thrilled. “No one else will have one. It’s wonderful,” she said.
The stairway curves as it goes higher and the mural curves with it. A mill sits in the middle of the field with the flowing water nearby. “The first time I saw the grist mill it looked like a blob of brown paint,” said Hermann. He went away wondering what it was going to look like, only to return and be amazed. “It’s as realistic as can be.”
Hartzell paints free style, using photographs and other materials as a guide, including a pencil drawing of the original house made by one of the McQuiston daughters.
“The color of the home is perfectly matched,” said Hermann, awed with Hartzell’s expertise to capture that exact shade.
“Gary can really paint,” said Hermann. “He puts colors on the palette and comes up with the right colors.”
After graduating from Linesville High School, Hartzell studied art at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and does a lot of canvas painting.
“He’s got a lot of natural talent,” said Hermann .“When he went to Edinboro, he learned how to enhance it.”
Hartzell can’t explain how he can accomplish so much with a few strokes.
It’s not an easy task. The mural is 27 feet long with heights ranging from 10 up to 12 feet.
“It’s a challenge. You aren’t working on a square wall. The angles have a different pitch,” he said, explaining why he chose the mill’s location.
Hermann is happy with the final product, noting it’s much more than he ever could have imagined.
Jane Smith can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can watch:
Although the mural won’t be included in the show, the historic McQuiston Manor owned by Tom and Charlotte Hermann will be part of a television show on HGTV at 11 p.m. May 27.
The single-family residence is a previous winner of a Crawford County Historical Society Historic Preservation Award.
The show details how the home was restored.