Something different is being added to downtown Vandalia – life-sized works of arts are appearing on various buildings.
The colorful, paintings appear three dimensional, and although the subjects are dressed in Victorian-style clothing, their faces may seem very familiar.
That is because the artist often is inspired by the faces of his friends, family and acquaintances.
The paintings have a touch of reality about them, such as the little boy and his dog on the east wall of Gaby’s Gift Shop, the little girl playing with her doll on the front of Vandalia City Hall, and the policeman doffing his hat to the Victorian lady on the front of the Vandalia Public Safety Building.
There is also a painting of a man riding a bicycle at Wiseguys and a couple sitting at a table on the east wall of Givens’ Meat Shop.
Meet the artist, Kevin Schaal
Kevin Schaal, the artist, explained how the unique street art came to Vandalia.
“I met with the Main Street people a few years ago and told them what I would like to do, and about eight months later, I heard from them and they wanted me to work up some ‘thumbnails,’ some ideas for them,” Schaal said.
After determining what he wants to paint, he starts to work. He has family and people he knows pose in the positions he will re-create in the paintings, snaps their picture and refers to the photos to capture the right body language as he paints.
“Once they pose for me, I go on the computer and draw an outline. I go on Internet and find the Victorian style clothes,” he said.
Once Schaal has the design and outline he wants, he draws the outline on a 4-foot-by-8-foot piece of sheet metal, and it’s taken to P & G Machine and Tool Shop to be cut out.
When he gets the cut-out back, he cleans it, primes it and paints it, then finishes off with a sealer. “The company guarantees the paint for seven years,” he said.
“I don’t take the credit for attaching them to the buildings. I give it to Bret Brosman,” Schaal said.
An interesting touch to his street murals is that he personalizes the paintings with the faces of his friends and family.
“Chuck Harris was the guy for my inspiration, with his big, bushy mustache, for the mural at the police station (Public Service Building).”
The young lady and the little girl sitting on the bench in the city hall mural are his daughters, teen-ager Savannah and young Guinivere. “I aged Savannah about 10 years, though,” he said, “because I didn’t want a 16-year-old sitting there without her mother.”
A Natural Gift
Schaal’s interest in art began when he was very young, and grew throughout the years.
At one point, he decided he wanted to be a comic book artist, drawing the comic strips.
“I got hired to do comic book art, like Super Heroes, Spiderman and stuff like that. But that didn’t go so well.
“I was 25, and I just hadn’t gone to school yet to study art. I was supposed to be drawing Iraqi tanks, Iraqui soldiers, villains and demons, and I had nothing for references,” he said.
“There wasn’t the Internet yet, and I would have to go to the library to look at this stuff … and it was a mess,” he said.
“After that, I decided I’d better go to school. I learned a lot there, especially about the computer,” he said.
After he graduated from the St. Louis Community College, he went to work full-time, so his wife, Lori, could complete registered nurse’s training.
Lori works at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis, and he is sometimes “Mr. Mom,” until her shift is over.
He is very gifted in portraits, capturing the expressions of the facial features, especially the eyes. He enjoys giving bereaved families portraits of their beloved child who has died. He also paints indoor murals and landscapes.
He also makes keepsake videos of weddings and other functions, along with his regular employment at Lomac’s.
At age 44, Schaal has no big changes planned in his life. “I just enjoy doing what I do,” he said. And so do the viewers of his unique works of art.