ELLINWOOD — The richness of the historical roots of Ellinwood blends with present life in the mural post card that artist Tim Conway is painting on the south wall of what is known as the Dick building at the corner of Main and Santa Fe in Ellinwood.
Conway and the Ellinwood Historical Society designed the mural with four very different concepts, which attract the eye as one drives by with its mix of colors.
Involving movement and requiring experimentation, the mural shows vast fields of golden wheat with an oil derrick and the herds of cattle that were once driven through the area to meet the train. The significance of the Santa Fe Trail to the population of the area also receives credit, as well as the contributions of the Wolf family who had the vision to construct the brewery, the mill and Wolf Park.
The importance of Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge is also acknowledged.
This is the largest project the artist has done so far in his career. “This (project) is stretching me physically and mentally,” he said. This is his first venture where scaffolding has been used.
Tim admits that the Ellinwood mural project is a challenge, and said he has never worked on a project of this magnitude. The artist sees the project as mutually beneficial— the community receives a mural and he learns new skills in painting murals.
He still is tweaking the design as he goes to makes allowances for decorative brick, windows and doors of the building to make the design fit the allotted wall. The brick in the building makes it more difficult to paint because surface isn’t smooth. He had to adapt to the building.
Conway is to finish the mural this week.
“This community has been so wonderful,” he said. Conway does have family connections to the area, although he had never been to Kansas before.
He donated his painting fee for this project, and the Historical Society provided transportation, paint and equipment. There has been about $4300 in donations raised to help finance the project. Each contribution over $25 will have their name on a plaque.
Conway is a 25 year science teacher in California at a junior high school. He started painting about 13 years ago.
“Illustration has been a passion,” said the artist.
“I always look for a win-win,” Tim said. “This project is helping me along my path.”
“I wouldn’t be where I am without positive people,” the artist said. “I like to share that with kids.” He also likes to share that “regardless of your passion, it takes time and practice.”
He credits the skills of observation required for science to see the differences and then the similarities as improving his painting skills.
The artist plans to teach six more years and then transition to painting. Conway also is an intense gardener, choosing high maintenance plants.
“I don’t mind spending a ridiculous amount of time to take care of them,” he said. This list includes maples, conifers and bonsai, which must be pruned and wired.
At school, he also teaches his student through an organic garden, and each student gets one square foot of space to grow vegetables. They plant peppers and leaf crops, which are cooked in the life skills class.
His website is www.timconwayart.com.