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'Canvasing' the neighborhood

By Megan Workman

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Mark Workman typically draws portraits of celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, Al Pacino and Paul Newman.

Elvis Presley is his favorite to draw. He has the most interesting eyes, Workman said.

Workman, of Charleston, gives his drawings away to his family and friends as gifts. During one Christmas, he handed out 15 pieces of his own artwork to those closest to him.

On Nov. 1, Workman gave away another painting, but this time he presented the mural to an entire community.

Workman won an art contest hosted by Carroll Terrace, a high-rise apartment complex for the elderly on Charleston's East End.

When Carroll Terrace renovated one of its reading rooms, Susie Halstead knew something had to be done about the blank wall behind the new black couches in the room.

Halstead is the senior service coordinator for the Charleston-Kanawha Housing Authority, which oversees Carroll Terrace.

"It's a real pretty room you can take a family to if someone is visiting or you just want to sit down and read in a quiet place," Halstead said. "It was my idea for a wall mural but we didn't have a budget."

So they set out to find a volunteer to paint the mural.

Halstead and Shanda Brandon, property manager at Carroll Terrace, wanted a gazebo in the mural like the one that sits outside the apartments next to the community garden. A fountain was a must, too, Halstead said.

"Shanda and I talked about what we wanted: a gazebo, fountains, and people sitting outside because Carroll Terrace has beautiful grounds," Halstead said. "We wanted it to be peaceful. We wanted people to go in the room, sit down, and enjoy the painting."

After seeing Workman's black-and-white sketch with their requests, Halstead said he was chosen as the artist.

The Charleston-Kanawha Housing Authority provided Workman with a 4-foot-by-8-foot piece of plywood as his canvas, as well as pencils, primer and painting supplies.

The artwork-to-be sat on his kitchen table for two months as he painted blue and purple flowers, a large tree full of green leaves, and a fountain emitting blue streams of water.

Workman said he likes the atmosphere in his mural. He enjoys the thought of the sound of the water and the smell of the flowers.

The sage green and pistol gray colors in the painting are also on the walls in the renovated room at Carroll Terrace, he said.

While Workman said he stuck to the ideas of Halstead and Brandon, he wanted to add more people to the scene, in addition to the two women who sit in the gazebo.

But the Orchard Manor resident said he is proud to give the community on the other side of town a piece of his art.

"I liked doing something for the people of Carroll Terrace," Workman said. "It's the idea of giving back. Orchard Manor has provided me a place to raise my children and I appreciate everything housing has done for me."

On Nov. 1, the Charleston-Kanawha Housing Authority unveiled Workman's mural for the first time in the renovated room.

At a "meet the artist" party, a Carroll Terrace resident even told Workman the mural was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen, he said.

For Workman, who said he felt "really good" about finishing the mural, the painting is another accomplished piece of art.

"This mural is a part of me and my creativity," he said.

To see more of Workman's drawings, visit http://www.facebook.com/markworkman.artgallery.

Reach Megan Workman at megan.workman@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.


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