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Artist paints finishing touches onto West Main Bridge mural ahead of community unveiling event

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Low angle painting

Heather Bischoff brushes the face of a kayaker along with highlights and shadows for the details. The mural will be unveiled on Saturday, Oct. 17.

Heather Bischoff is painting on the final details for the West Main Bridge mural along the Connect Trail, with the plan to have the mural completed by the end of the week.

Bischoff, the lead artist on the project, spent around six hours adding facial features to a painted kayaker and a river surfer, as well as some metallic finishes Thursday.

“I love when I get toward the end, adding these metallic finishes,” Bischoff said. “It makes the whole thing take on a life of it’s own.”

Heather paints kayak with metallic

Heather Bischoff, the lead artist on the West Main Bridge mural, adds gold metallic paint finish onto the kayak Thursday. Bischoff plans to have the project completed this week.

While the finished painting has components of the original drawing the community voted on in April, Bischoff has taken inspiration from her time in Montrose as well as feedback from the board and community to incorporate the lifestyle of Montrose into the piece.

“These figures are actually from studies of the whitewater park,” she said. “I just think that it’s a really amazing park of this corridor having that park. ... It’s so inviting and definitely changed my perspective on how you can interact with the river.”

From those experiences at the Montrose Water Sports Park, Bischoff decided to incorporate a surfer into the piece, instead of two kayakers as she had originally planned.

Painting river surfer

Standing on a ladder, Heather Bischoff paints the face of the river surfer before moving to the person’s hands on Thursday, Oct. 7.

“Working publicly here, it’s really been an enjoyable process for me,” Bischoff said. “It’s more interesting for me to allow the painting to actually have its own life and if I’m just copying it from a sketch, it takes on a different feeling.”

Bischoff has also incorporated multiple species of trout, grasses, sunflowers and rabbit brush native to the area, inspired from the surrounding landscape. The commission suggested Bischoff add mountain ranges into the piece, which captures the views from Montrose.

On the north edge of the mural, people will see a pointer spaniel dog sitting in the grass. That’s Sheena, Bischoff’s dog.

Sheena memorial

Sheena, a pointer spaniel was Heather Bischoff’s dog. Sheena died while Bischoff was painting the mural, so Bischoff added Sheena into the mural as a memorial.

While Sheena was with Bischoff when she started the mural, she was diagnosed with tumors and within a week, she passed away at the age 8.5 years.

“She burned out bright,” Bischoff said. “We were actually floating down the Uncompaghre River right here, up from Chipeta Lake to right by the bridge. We got out and as I was organizing gear, I looked at her and she looked kind of faint. So, I picked her up and just like that, she melted in my arms.”

While Bischoff is the lead artist, she appreciates the volunteers for dedicating their time to take part in the community piece.

Painting close up

The yellow and oranges of the landscape blend together in Heather Bischoff’s mural under the West Main Bridge in Montrose.

Bischoff said the community has expressed a concern about the mural being covered in graffiti or vandalized in some way. The City of Montrose plans to paint a clear coat for a graffiti cover. Bischoff also hopes the mural generates respect since the mural was commissioned with taxpayer dollars to celebrate the community.

She plans to sign the piece and add a dedication area Thursday as the final element of the mural. As she stepped back and looked at the piece, Bischoff said the base of the mural is comprised of eight colors that have been mixed and layered together to celebrate the life of the Uncompahgre River.

“A color palette can encourage emotional experiences when people view it,” she said. “I decided to exaggerate a lot of the colors because that’s going to contribute to the experience of joy.”

Heather painting kayak

Heather Bischoff paints the face onto the person kayaking as she wraps up her mural under the West Main Bridge in Montrose Thursday, Oct. 7.

Bischoff said she and the City of Montrose will hold an unveiling event for the mural on Saturday, Oct. 17 at 3 p.m. The event is open to the public. Refreshments will also be provided.

Lauren Brant is a staff writer and digital content coordinator for the Montrose Daily Press.

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