By Estella Fullmer Brown
For Hometown News
Residents of Oak Hill recently discovered a young artist when they set out to paint the seawall in their back yard.
"When I suggested that we should paint the seawall, I was going in the direction of white paint on the brick wall," Renee Tatum said. "However, my husband had a different idea."
David Mills, her husband, felt that if they were going to paint it, they should have a mural on the wall. So, they contacted a friend of theirs who is a waitress at the restaurant around the corner, The Country Kitchen.
"We knew she was artistic," Ms. Tatum said, "but she thought that one of her fellow workers might be more interested. His name is Jeremy Marshall and he has completely blown us away with what he has done."
Mr. Marshall, who is in his mid-20s, has been working as a dishwasher and busboy at Country Kitchen for the last 10 years. Although he had never done anything like a mural before, he thought it would be challenging to give it a try.
"The first thing we did is seal the bricks with dry-lock," Mr. Mills said.
The wall has two tiers with the bottom one being right down at the boat dock level on the canal that runs behind their house and out into the river. Steps running from the dock up to the house break the wall into sections.
"I just took it one section at a time and sketched out what I wanted to paint," Mr. Marshall said. "I showed my sketches to them first and then I got to work on that section."
He started the mural in the blazing heat of June, working in his spare time and out in all kinds of weather until he finished it at the end of October.
"The heat was rough when I first started," Mr. Marshall recalled, "but the hardest thing was that tiny fish I put going around the corner."
He was referring to a three-inch fish he drew on the facing edge of one of the steps that appears to be swimming off the step and onto the sidewall.
"I couldn't get the perspective right as it made that angle," Mr. Marshall admitted. "I worked on it for hours."
Renee and David bought regular latex paint from the local Home Depot and Mr. Marshall mixed all the colors he needed from the yellows in the sunset-hued clouds to the variety of blues in the water and brightly colored fish. The mural depicts an underwater scene featuring manatees on the lower level swimming among several fish with sea turtles coming up out of the water onto a sandy shore on the upper levels.
"Jeremy suggested we get our grandchildren to draw something and put their drawings on the steps," explained Mrs. Tatum as she pointed to steps on the bottom tier. "We have one step for each of our grandchildren. They drew the designs and Jeremy transposed them onto the bricks."
They are still awaiting a couple of drawings from grandchildren to finish up the steps.
"We are tickled pink with what he has come up with," Mr. Mills said.
They suggested a few things they would like to see on the wall, but Mr. Marshall came up with the design.
"Being around here and being able to see the manatees right here helped," Mr. Marshall said as he explained that the sea cows frequently swim up the canal and hang out where the water is warmer than in the river.
Mr. Marshall said he has not had any formal training in art beyond what he had in grade school and high school.
"I always enjoyed art class in school. I was in the AP Class in high school, though, and it kind of burnt me out on art for a while. It was so intense," he said. "But I still do some pencil drawing and pen and ink."
He said he also does digital drawing on the computer and is starting to learn T-shirt art. His style normally leans more toward comic book and anime so the wall mural was outside of his comfort zone. "I really enjoyed it, though," he said.
Mr. Marshal and Mr. Mills finished up the wall by applying four layers of UV protection sealant, which cost more than $150 per gallon, to protect the artwork from fading.
"It was expensive, but it is well worth it," Mr. Mills said. "We want this to last a long time."
Mr. Marshall said he would definitely consider doing more art like this. "I have some things up on my web page, jeremymarshallart.com," he said. "It would be nice to be able to make a living doing artwork."