Tank Beautification

Original propane tank
Original propane tank look

Remove an Eye Sore

My propane tank needs some tank beautification! Seriously, this is the propane tank that I see when I look out my kitchen window. I asked Pete if we can move it and he just laughs. Really, it seems out of place in our natural forest landscaping. It is just one of those things that really bugs me.

As an artist, I can change that, so this project begins. First I get a water hose out there and spray the tank down. With a bucket of warm water and TSP (trisodium phosphate) and a green kitchen scrubber, I get to work. Over the years, layers of pitch from the pine have accumulated a thick layer from the trees alongside it. That combined with lots of mildew have created a gross thick layer of icky stuff on the tank. Good-old TSP is a powerful cleaner that easily removes all the coodies on any surface needing paint. Make sure you read the label before you use it though because it is not a nice chemical if you handle it incorrectly.

clean propane tank
Clean propane tank

Looks quite different clean doesn’t it? I go back into the studio to come up with a drawing to get things right.

tank as a canvas area
Tank as a canvas area
design and paints
design & paints

I am wanting to put the American flag flowing in the wind on the tank. Starting with the blue background for the stars on the far left with the stripes going over the rest of the tank at an angle.

chaulk lines on tank
Chaulk lines on tank

I know it isn’t that easy to see but, I use blue chalk to layout areas on the tank for the different colors. Then I quickly paint a rough underpainting of the design on the tank.

undercoating of design
Undercoating of design

I walk back up to the house and let it dry overnight.

walk away look

Finishing Details on the Mural


Adding finishing details and final touches to this winter scene interior mural at 49 Degrees North Ski Resort in Chewelah Washington. My scaffold gets packed up and I use the ladders to work on the last parts of this project. With my smallest brushes, I paint, then backup to see how the whole wall looks to me. This little step-back-and-look habit, always really helps me to change my perspective making it possible to see things I do not notice when I am close to the wall. After repositioning myself, I usually see missing items better.


Watch Out

Mountaintops in the winter can easily become an addictive thing. This whole project is quite an enjoyable one for me as I am painting from my own memories on the hill. There is absolutely nothing like spending the day speeding down a powdery hill feeling the cold wind kissing your face. Your eyes take in some of the best views on the planet as your heart races similar to being on a rollercoaster. If you have not tried skiing yet, don’t miss out on this wonderful experience in your life. You may find that winter will become your favorite time of year!

I tell you the truth, skiing is just about as much fun as you can have without breaking any laws.


Finishing Touches

I carefully add scattered groups of detail in larch and birch between the evergreens bringing a little realism into the whole impressionistic view. Stepping back, lets me notice that I am missing majestic tamarack trees both in the background and upfront. Next, some shrubbery is added at the tree bases using a rigger brush with dark browns and then adding snow on some of them. Some of the closest snow mounds receive a stroke of white to finish them up.


Standing back to get a better look, another missing ingredient comes to mind. I can’t forget to add little clumps of snow resting on the branches of the trees. If you knew our family, you’d know why that snow is important! Especially Patrick, who is known for sharing those clumps of snow with unsuspecting fellows on the slope. Okay, remember now that payback is the patient dude!

Wall “A” is a twenty-foot-long space and all details are complete now.

Finished 49 Mural Wall A first half Finished 49 Mural Wall A second half

Wall “B” is a forty-foot wide wall in three sections, having 2 columns and a doorway in it. It also has a rather large storage cabinet built into the corner behind the cash register. It was kind of tricky to figure out where to put the finishing details and not cause confusion or competition with the door or columns, and use of the benches. People tend to hang out and examine the details in a mural, so I try not to interfere with the business by drawing attention to the placement of details to areas away from traffic patterns if possible.

finished 49 Mural Wall B1 Finished 49 Mural Wall B2 Finished 49 Mural Wall B3

Wall “C” is now finished as the shortest twelve-foot wall that divides the nursery from the children’s club. The cash register counter is on the right where parents check-in with their children dropping them off for lessons on the hill.



When you are all finished with something, then you are “all pau” with it in Hawaii. This is simply a scrap of trivia information for those of you who enjoy collecting those little bits of trivia. I can’t wait to start skiing this season! Hope you can come up to 49 Degrees North to see the mural and let me know what you think. Time to pray for snow everyone!

Finishing a Mural

One Step at a Time

Finishing a mural involves painting, cleaning up, and changing colors to do it again. Persistence pays off in this line of work, and so does good planning. Remember, taking time to plan for less cleanup makes the process of painting a large mural much easier. I paint the entire length of the surface over and over until I’m done. Simple tools are what I use, like a handy “paint can lid” pallet with large pools of the color on it. It is easy to hold in one hand as I use it to mix paints on my brush. Most importantly, if I run low on a  color, it is easy to go back and dip in the bucket to quickly refill and continue. I grab my brushes and paint anything I run across on the wall using that group of colors.

“B” is the longest wall being 40 feet long (400 sf), and Wall “C” is 12 feet (120 sf).

wall B treelineWhen I put the frosty trees in, I also put in more of the white on the mountain tops at the same time. Catching all the things using whatever color I am working with.

wall B treeline 3I see a real good separation after the green and gray treelines on the horizon are rendered.

wall B treeline 4Adding the trunks with dark shadows on the closest evergreens to give a deeper feel to their shadows.

Day is Finished

max 1

When I am wanting to get a mural finished, I get kind of lost in my painting and lose track of time. The job site supervisor is telling me it is time to get home as he sings me a howling song. It is really good for me to have this kind of buddy around because he makes me take breaks and walk around with him. He never lets me eat lunch alone. If I get lost in my work Max will bring me back down to reality. Dogs are some of the best people! If you would like to see more of this fantastic dude check out this link.

max 2 max 3

Mural Painting Prep


Mural painting prep involves communication then coordination. The surface preparation, priming, painting and any modification to structure or trim has to be planned and executed at convenient times around the painting. This mural for the 49 Degrees North Ski Resort Kids Room is just beginning.

Mural prep left wall
Mural prep left wall

Lots of Workers

The talented carpenter dude came in and redesigned the benches adding more bench area and more cubby’s for the kids to use. A pro is always the best choice! This change makes the area more usable for the instructors and their students as they meet and get ready to go out on the hill each day.

Mural Prep

Others numerous trade workers spent hours priming and painting and repairing the walls, beams, and columns. I did not have to do this work for this room, this time. I have spent countless hours doing the priming and painting of other areas up at the resort before I could add my artistic flair to the surface. Honestly, getting a room ready for a mural to be painted can take much longer to do than the actual painting of the mural. Maybe, that is because I tend to paint in a more driven mode than most. I can start at sunrise and forget to stop at dusk if Max isn’t around to let me know it is time to stop.

Mural prep back wall
Mural prep back wall

It is time to come on in and get to work. I take paints, drop cloths, a small scaffold, ladders, buckets, brushes and my lunch box to get set up. Here is the background all primed and painted in medium gray before I begin.

Max, job supervisor
Max, job supervisor

This is Max, my helper or supervisor, always available to help me or remind me to take a break and give him a walk. 🙂 He helps me to go home on time too.


Mural Talk

existing mural
existing mural

Mural talk is how we figure out what to paint to truly improve an area? I am usually told specifically what to paint by clients but that is not always the case. It is my job to listen attentively and make sure I understand exactly what is wanted. Then it is up to me to make sure I am capable of providing high-quality illustrations of those ideas. It is a blessing to be able to make creative suggestions that are helpful because I have learned a lot about this kind of work over the years. Using this experience, I am usually able to incorporate the changes of function they are desiring.


Management on the hill has decided to retire the cartoon characters, who have done their job faithfully for years now. They say that the nursery has the majority of the daycare and infants in their own area. So, the kids with older kids in the mix do not seem to fit with the bright animal characters on the walls anymore.

Allison, who works with the kids, gave us an example of clip art to follow as we discussed the new mural. Visual information is the most helpful kind to have when trying to communicate what is wanted artistically. A picture leaves me guessing less.

Allisons Idea for the mural

Allisons Idea for the mural


It does take more than just mural talks to start getting things done. A new look altogether requires a clean-up and patch job on all the surfaces. The walls and beams, along with any other items needing repair. While discussing color schemes, a more subtle and natural scheme of colors is chosen. Using a limited pallet of grays and natural forest colors for trim along with beams and columns all one color (black) should bring a better cohesive feel to the whole area.

I will share step-by-step articles showing how this process progresses.

Make Mural Plans

Ben Short met with me to make mural plans for a new upgrade at 49 Degrees North Chewelah Basin Ski Resort.  A lot of time is spent during the summers getting everything ready for the winter season. This ski resort is a place I love to spend time at, in both summer and winter. What most people don’t realize is how beautiful this location is all summer long too. I bet that the wildlife in the area enjoy summer when they have a lot fewer people to worry about there.Children's Area Before

I go up on the mountain to meet with Ben and talk about doing a mural for the Children’s Area. Murals are another form of big and beautiful fun painting for the artistic spirit. For years, there have been bright red benches along the walls with great cartoon characters above the benches. The bright theme was great but now they want to provide a more mature decor for the older youngsters (teens) to relate to. Because they are the next generation on the hill of up-and-coming extreme riders and race champs.

before back wall
before back wall

Here are some before pictures of their walls, benches, and cartoon characters before the upgrade.

before left wall
before left wall
before entry wall
before entry wall
before signup checkin
before signup checkin