Making a Mural: The John Glenn Mural

photo of the John Glenn mural during the digitization process

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When John Glenn began flying lessons at Harry Clever Field in 1941, he probably never dreamed that one day he would be a decorated war hero, touch the stars as a NASA astronaut, or become a Senator for the state of Ohio.

Recently, a mural, commissioned by Don Whittingham, was completed at the Harry Clever Field to honor and remember this remarkable man. Whittingham previously commissioned other notable projects throughout the city, including the Zeisberger mural in downtown New Philadelphia, Ohio.

The Creative Process

Local artists, Sarah Dugger and Jim Dawson were commissioned to design and complete the mural. We sat down with Sarah and Jim to find out what goes into a project like this, and the steps they took to memorialize a legend. Here is some insight into their creative process:

Prepping the Paint

Sarah spent weeks mixing paint in her studio before even starting the mural, and produced over 60 colors to use in the piece. 

Over 60 paint containers, all colors mixed by hand, to prep for the John Glenn mural.

Making the Structure

Sarah with Richard Gibbs and Neil Gibbs – construction crew that made the mural structure.

Sarah with the construction crew that built the structure used for the mural.

Sketching & Composition

To start with, Sarah sketched a composition of the mural, then created a scale painting of the piece. Here’s a look at the development of her design.

Digital Realization

Jim Dawson then digitized the design based on Sarah’s scale composition in Adobe Illustrator.

Digitized version of Sarah's john Glenn mural sketches.

Design Becomes Reality

Using a projector, the design was projected onto the blank structure, and the physical mural process began.

Next, Jim and Sarah used sharpies to trace the projected lines, which would later be filled with color. 

Mural structure with sharpie marker outlines of the design.

Once the lines were complete, color was added to each section, carefully evaluating and modifying as they went.

Special care was taken with the finer details of the face and clouds. Sarah used her earlier sketches, based off of a photo of John Glenn with his buddies from a flying lesson, to make sure it was as accurate as possible, while matching the style of the mural.

In the final days, artists Jim and Sarah added the last details to the space shuttle and landscape, then cleaned up the mural, fixing any lines and colors.

After discussing the process with the artists, we asked them a few questions.

What was your favorite part of the project?

Jim: Creating something that will be here after we’re gone, leaving a legacy for the city.

Sarah: The research was my favorite part, the research was fascinating and dictates my design.

Do you have any future projects planned?

Jim: We always have future projects, the next one I’m excited about is a sculpture at New Philadelphia Library, an adaptation of Stonehenge using books.

New Phila Guide are extremely grateful Sarah and Jim took the time to share the story behind the John Glenn Mural and provide us with an inside look at the making of a mural. You can find out more about these phenomenal local artists by following the links below. 

Get in touch with the artists

Sarah Dugger: www.sarahdugger.com or by phone 330-401-9629

Jim Dawson: www.synergysign.com or email [email protected], also on social media at facebook.com/synergysign and instagram @synergysign

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