CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Some of the artists painting murals along Kanawha Boulevard are putting the public in the city's latest public art project -- literally.
Stop by, strike up a conversation. If you're lucky, your image might get permanently sealed on one of the 10 piers holding up Interstate 64 as it crosses the Kanawha River towards Fort Hill.
Charly Hamilton is a likely prospect. He's already promised to make fellow artist Jeff Pierson the first baseman in his Power Park panorama. But there are plenty of open spots available among the bleacher bums.
Hamilton and Pierson are among a trio of artists who also painted piers along Washington Street last summer in the first Peer to Pier mural project. Organizers from the city's Strong Neighborhoods Task Force hope to make it an annual event, or at least until all the piers between Washington Street and the Boulevard get painted.
As of last week, some artists had nearly finished their mural, while others had yet to begin.
Hamilton was transferring his design to the cylindrical pier using a grid system with the help of his wife, Rhoda. He had to stretch his original square painting to fit the 10- by 12-foot format of the pillar, so the infield diamond looks more like a tilted rectangle. He figures passing motorists won't notice the difference.
He's also willing to work around local impediments. When another mural artist, Ian Bode, told him he'd been tagged by a passing pigeon, Hamilton decided to paint a pigeon -- and some pigeon droppings -- at the top of a storm drainpipe that runs beside his pier.
At the opposite end of the row of piers, Spencer artist Rodney Harper was smearing bright green blotches on the front of his mural while his helpers, Steven Martin and Ronald Brown. He hoped to finish by the end of the week; he needed to get back to his tattoo shop, Horror Ink.
Harper said he decided to enter the mural competition several months ago after reading about the project in the Gazette.
"Being from Spencer we don't know Charleston," he said. "As kids, we would come on field trips down here, 'cause Charleston was the big city. It is the big city. We picked things [for our mural] that we remembered. It's to show a picture of Charleston from outside the area, Charleston as a whole."
The mural is dominated a large sternwheeler, steaming beneath the South Side Bridge toward the Capitol. Banners at top and bottom read "Charleston, W.Va." and "Heart of West Virginia."
Although he's run his tattoo shop for a dozen years or more, Harper's an old hand at murals. "We've done several around the Spencer area. I've been doing murals, sign painting since the late '90s. Then I got into tattoos. This is what actually paid for my tattooing. It's kind of like getting back to my roots."
While in Charleston, Harper camped out at Kanawha State Forest. "It's like a little vacation, even with all the traffic and noise. It's weird how you get used to it after awhile."
He used a variety of media -- house paint, acrylic and spray paint. "I think Ian [Bode, another mural artist] told us we were the first to use spray paint. We're going to use an airbrush to cut in white waves. When it's done it will look kind of like a tattoo -- a lot of contrasting colors, contrasty lines.
Harper may have gotten used to the constant traffic overhead, but he had a complaint about the holes in his concrete "canvas."
"We got kinda shafted. Those [piers] are pretty smooth. We got some plaster filler but ran out. It's hard to pull a straight line because of all the holes."