Muralist Brings Italian Vistas to State Restaurants

New Haven Register by Peggy Schenk, Register Staff - 10/17/2005

scan0027.jpgWESTBROOK ó Patrick Ganino can turn an ordinary white ceiling into a sky full of stars or make angels peek through clouds at diners in a restaurant below.

One recent morning, Ganino was working his magic at Fioreís Pizzeria, which is about to open in the Tanger Outlet Center.

In the space of a couple of days, a blank cement block wall became a seascape with sand dunes and bluff reminiscent of Block Island. A New England lighthouse stands watch above a vine-covered stone wall plucked from a vision of the Italian countryside.

"It combines the elements of the shore, which we have here, with a touch of Italy that identifies the restaurant," said Ganino.

"All this is his idea. I love it," said restaurateur Russ Cecunjanin. "I donít know too much about painting. I had no ideas. You just do something that you want, I told him."

For more than a decade, Ganino, 29, has been developing his craft, painting murals and applying decorative finishes in homes and restaurants throughout Connecticut.

Thereís the one of the Tuscan hillside with arched pillars at Stella Doro in Old Saybrook.

Several decorations grace the walls of Vespucciís Restaurant in Cheshire, where patrons are delighted by them and ask about the artist, an employee said.

Visitors to Wadsworth Mansion in Middletown can see his work on the walls, which heís highlighted in gold, as can patrons at Fioreís in Middletown.

"Itís kind of a fun job," said Ganino, the father of three young children. "Itís make-believe every day."

Ganino, a graduate of Fitch High School in Groton, had no formal training as an artist.

"I doodled a lot in my school books. My grades probably suffered from it," he said.

Also, as a child, Ganino would draw along with a television artist who had a how-to show on Sunday mornings.

He attended art school in Florida for a brief time, "but I hated it."

Ganino dropped out of school, painted a couple of murals in nightclubs in the area and began learning skills such as distressing and faux finishing while working in houses in and around Boca Raton.

Back home, Ganino put his brushes aside as a principal means of livelihood but his wife, Alli, encouraged him to pursue his artistry professionally.

Since then, Ganino has not only become a sought-after muralist; he has started his own business, Creative Evolution, and launched a line of products, including pigments named for Connecticut towns. Thereís New Haven slate, Orange orange, Oxford ebony, Madison burnt umber, Middletown green, Mystic umber and Hartford henna.

Metallics are available in Thomaston twilight, Salem silver steel and Canaan copper.

A year ago, he moved his family and business to a studio in Madison and opened the Institute of Decorative Painting, teaching others his business and artistic techniques in two- and three-day workshops.

He said he considers his lack of formal training in art a benefit because "my techniques are simplified, accurate and sensitive to time."

Ganinoís work is featured in the October issue of Decorating Ideas, and his portfolio can be seen on his Web site, Or visit Fioreís Pizzeria when it opens later this month for some pizza beside a seashore mural.

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