“Friends on a Shelf” Mural at the Friends of the OC Library Used Bookstore Finished

By Lucas Nickerson, TRAG’s very own muralist

Friends of Oregon City Library Used Book Store mural - bookshelves  with a girl sitting on one of the shelves reading a book and some animals framing the door of the bookstore

 “A muralist? Me? Not really.”, I told Lynda when she approached me with the idea of creating a piece to adorn the entrance of her bookstore. I’ve been wrong too often. After the dust has settled, and the varnish dried, I can finally be at ease with some of my insecurities at painting something so daunting. Would you believe that I thought it was possible, at the start, that I was afraid of heights? I opted to use a ladder because I wasn’t sure about the weather holding back the rain long enough for a few days of work at a time, so I’d have to be a guerrilla painter. When I first climbed to the top to test it out, a sudden fear gripped me. I can’t possibly do the whole thing up here on a twiny ladder! Was my thought, as I stood there, looking down. Wrong again! 

Doubt and insecurities are the plague of most artists, so overcoming my own ‘mind traps’ is something I’m learning to better cope with. No doubt, we’ve all overcome some personal barriers to get the job done. 

In the end, I am happy, humbled, and proud of the work I’ve done. I’m honored to have helped create some beauty for the community I was raised in. Creating a work that I hope my family is proud of is one of the sparks that drive me as an artist.  I hope I have also created a design that both captures the spirit of the responses from the community, and also one that showed a personal connection to the world of books. 

I hope the design of the mural gives the sense that not only is literature elevating to our understanding of the world and ourselves, but that it is a friendly, natural environment; full of wonderful friends of the wild. In an excerpt from a press release, I wrote: 

“The last few years have brought us more isolation than many of us are comfortable with, especially our children. While they may not be a true substitution for constant contact with friends and other people in our lives, a little gentle escapism offered by a book carries us smoothly many miles over any rough road. I am thankful every day that our little one knows how to read and is able to open her world a bit more with the help of her friends on a shelf.  

And so our title was ‘Friends on a Shelf’.  

To help fund the mural, we took sponsorship from the community. Each sponsor could pay to have a book spine personalized within reason. This was the most challenging aspect of the mural. Placing over 50 sponsors on randomly sized and various colors of books was no easy task. I knew that not every person would be thrilled to have their personalized book at the top of the shelf where it is harder to read. In the end, though, I believe the look created in the amount of time (and between rainy days) gives the sense of an old library with wonderful antique books- books with intriguing titles like, ‘Bob, I Want That’ and ‘The History of Love’. 

The work is a figurative mountain to me. A mountain I’ve climbed by going up and down a 20 foot ladder for days on end. A marathon climb with a deadline. I’ve finally reached the summit and the view’s not too bad!

I hope all who get a chance to drive or walk bye will take a look and maybe even enjoy it. I know at least 53 folks who will be squinting to read the titles, scanning for their own sponsorship on my shelf of dusty old books.

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