EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was written in response to a reader-submitted request through Open Source, a platform where readers can ask Richland Source’s newsroom to write about an event or get a question answered.
MANSFIELD — It can’t be easy painting a 390-square foot mural with four turkeys serving as art critics — especially when it’s on the side of a barn and you’re two dozen feet off the ground.
That’s exactly the challenge Mansfield artist Robin Shoup Wilson faced this summer while creating a massive tribute to Ohio on the side of a barn near Lodi, Ohio.
The 56-year-old Wilson, whose work can be seen throughout Mansfield, is used to working high in the air on scaffolding. But the hens from a nearby farm were a whole new experience.
“I’m not sure what they were saying, but they did ‘gobble’ a lot,” Wilson said with a laugh.
“It was just weird. I would get there 8:30, 9 in the morning and out of nowhere comes these four female white turkeys. They stayed with me until I left at like 3 p.m.,” said Wilson, who participated in the “Luminous City” public artwork along Diamond Street in Mansfield in November.
Wilson, who finished the project July 6, was hired by barn owner Ron Theiss, who wanted a tribute to the Buckeye state on the side of the barn.
Theiss had hired Wilson on two previous farm-related paintings. He reached out to her again for the big barn work.
“He was really pleased with work I had done for him before before,” Wilson said.
“Then he comes to me and says, ‘I have this crazy idea. I want a mural of the state of Ohio on the side of my barn. I want all the landmarks and the history of things that have been invented here.’ “
Wilson, who was born in Shelby and grew up in Bellville, said she learned about Ohio history as Theiss researched the elements he wanted to include, a list that continued to grow.
“Before you knew it, we had more than 30 images that were going to on this mural,” Wilson said. “He laid out in general how he wanted it and I spent a month traveling up to his location.
“It took 12 or 13 trips to complete it,” she said.
Once Wilson had the massive outline of the state complete, she could begin to include all of the items Theiss wanted in the artwork.
Several of those statewide symbols were on the outside of the map, including the Ohio flag, a white-tail deer, a carnation (the state flower), a cardinal (the state bird), the state seal and of course, a Buckeye flower.
With Lake Erie at the top and the Ohio River swirling at the bottom, Wilson then began to paint the smaller symbols inside in their approximate geographic location, including a carousel in Mansfield.
It was not an easy selection for the Richland County seat, according to Wilson, who said sites such as the former Ohio State Reformatory, where “Shawshank Redemption” was filmed, and Kingwood Center Gardens were also possibilities.
“How do you narrow it down to just one?” she asked.
“We talked about Mansfield and there’s so many different things that you can include. So we had to narrow it down. And he thought of the carousel. That was what he had in mind for Mansfield.”
Other items around the state included a lightbulb in Milan for Thomas Edison; a football in Canton, home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame; the Marblehead lighthouse; the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland; waterfalls in Hocking Hills; a man on the moon for Neil Armstrong in Wapakoneta; a ‘Block O’ for Ohio State in Columbus; the Wright Brothers airplane in Dayton; and many more.
Ron Theiss commissioned Robin Shoup Wilson’s tribute to Ohio on the side of a barn he owns north of Lodi, Ohio.
Theiss has invited the public to view the massive artwork by venturing out to see the work, which is off Ohio 83 (Avon Lake Road) in Spencer, Ohio.
The address is 5689 Avon Lake Road, Spencer, Ohio.
“(Theiss) actually got up there and put blue painters tape where he wanted everything, which was very helpful. And then I actually laid it out. We had printouts of images for me to kind of use as a guide.
“But I didn’t use any stencils. Everything’s freehand,” Wilson said.
If you are interested in commissioning artwork by Robin Shoup Wilson, you may contact her at 419-651-6459 or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Learn more her artwork on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/myartworx and on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/artbyrobinw/
“Stencils are very helpful for a lot of artists. Some artists only paint by stencils. With stencils, you would take heavy paper and cut it out and then spray paint it or paint it with a brush.
“That’s just not something I do. I’ve never been one to do that. I like the free hand. I like the look and I like to know that, ‘Yeah, I did that,'” Wilson said.
Wilson, who aid said she began drawing pictures when she was 2, never had formal art training.
“I guess I was born with it, maybe. I did have some great art teachers through high school. I did take a few college classes, but I don’t have a degree. Everything else, I taught myself. I just learned from experience,” Wilson said.
The turkeys near Lodi eventually approved of her presence — and her art.
“They’re farm turkeys. Apparently they treat them more as pets. I’m not sure. They wouldn’t let me touch them, but they would come up close to me.
“Once, I sat down in the yard, taking a break, and they would circle me and they would just walk around me and walk around me and I’m like, ‘Ron, this is the weirdest thing ever. I’m like, what is happening?’
“I did have one try to sit on my lap when I was talking to Ron and the neighbor. I’m still sitting on the ground. I wasn’t paying attention to what the turkeys were doing.
“The one liked me more than the rest. And the next thing I know she just hops onto my lap,” Wilson said.