GARLAND — After dipping a brush into a bucket of gray paint Tuesday morning, artist Robert Hall painted steps leading to the Brooks Brothers building.
“They want me to call it the Garland Shirt Company, Brooks Brothers and Fleetline,” Hall said while referencing the history of the facility which employs hundreds of people. “I’m going to put all three names on the building.”
With each stroke of his brush, Hall is bringing a mural to life for the town of Garland. The purpose is to celebrate the local heritage and to reflect the town’s past, present and future. During an August meeting, Garland Commissioners approved the design next to the Sampson County Sheriff’s Annex, near Rotary Park. The project is being created through the town’s North Carolina Small Towns Economic Prosperity Program (NC STEP).
“It’s going pretty good other than some of the rain,” Hall said regarding his third week of work.
But recently, sunny days allowed Hall to paint a bright blue sky with fluffy white clouds, a green landscape and two pioneers — Dr. Amos Johnson and his aide, Henry Lee “Buddy” Treadwell, who are labeled as “medical trailblazers” for their innovation of the physician assistant concept. Their faces were originally created by a freehand sketch.
“I have to touch them up,” Hall said. “Usually they’re taller than I am. Normally you would use a projector to make the faces that large. When you’re up on a board, you don’t have any walking room to stand back and look at your proportions.”
NC STEP Facilitator Mary Brown said she’s pleased about the progress of the mural and receiving permission from the commission to proceed with the project. A dedication ceremony is in the works for the mural later in the fall.
“We felt the individuals in particular have earned the honor,” Brown said regarding the medical professionals who created the assistant system in the small town of Garland. “We just wanted people to know about Garland as much as possible.”
Brown said she was pleased to have Hall in the community and alluded to how she’s a fan of his art.
“I do appreciate what he’s done and I enjoy his work,” Brown said.
Hall began his journey into the world of art at a young age, when he was old enough to hold a pencil.
“I’ve been doing it all my life,” he said about his work. “It’s basically a gift from God that I had. At the time, I didn’t know it. At the time, I thought everybody drew.”
As a youth in elementary school, he recalled moments when his peers would stop playing with toys to watch him create artwork. He didn’t think much of it at the time, but years later it became his passion throughout life. Hall has completed projects in downtown Clinton, Kenansville and churches throughout North Carolina.
“I’ve done so many of them, I can just about do them blindfolded,” Hall said about the church murals.
Along with murals, Hall has also produced sculptures, woodcarvings, children’s books and greeting cards. Hall is preparing to showcase his art at the North Carolina State Fair, scheduled for October. He has attended the event for more than 30 years.
“Personally, I probably talked to over 1,000 people in that show,” Hall said about presenting his work and educating people from all over the world.
But before then, Hall will talk to many onlookers walking around town or passing through town. As Hall continued to paint, a van stopped on 701 Highway and complimented him for his work.
“Good job,” the motorist said loudly with a smile to Hall.
“They’ll stop right in the middle of the road,” Hall said after talking to the observers, before they made their way down the street. For town leaders and members of the community, that’s the purpose of the mural — for visitors to stop and see what Garland is all about, where it’s been and where it’s going.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.