Big Project in the Big Apple

The Faux Finisher Magazine by Diane Capuano - 02/01/2010

scan0030.jpgThey endured heat, cold, rain, gusts of air, pigeons and more, but Patrick Ganino and Ryan Stenz persevered to complete a unique mural project in Brooklyn

 If the tenants of two adjoining Brooklyn high-rises want to see the sights of New York, they don’t have to hail a cab or travel via subway. In fact, they don’t even need to leave their buildings at all. They can just look out their windows toward their common courtyard to see renditions of The Statue of Liberty, Central Park, the Cyclone Roller Coaster at Coney Island, the Brooklyn and Verrazano bridges and dozens of other painted images that symbolize their city.1.jpg

The images—a total of 40 murals in all—are the work of two artists: Patrick Ganino, owner of Creative Evolution in Durham, Conn., and Ryan Sentz of The Faux Dream in Baltimore, Md. “We worked on this project for 60 days, from Aug. 15-Oct. 15,” Patrick states. “Ryan and I rented an apartment in Brooklyn, so we were together 24/7.”

The project entailed more than 9,000 square feet on the exteriors of buildings rising 12 stories high. The owner commissioned the work because he wanted to give his tenants something nice to look at instead of a drab courtyard. The artists primed the building, created faux finishes as well as hand-painted and airbrushed the murals. Patrick and Ryan did most of the work, but when needed, they called upon the help local artisans and craftsmen to help with some of the trickier aspects of the project.

The largest mural is The Statue of Liberty, which was created in an archway and spans three stories. The remaining images are approximately 3-by-3 or 3-by-4 feet in dimension. Patrick and Ryan also painted architectural features, such as pillars, columns, faux windows and brownstones.

4.jpgThe tenants in the building encompass a wide range of professions, including doctors, lawyers and even a U.S. congressman. One of the tenants is the Little Flower Children and Family Services, and the artists did a portrait of their late director, Father John T. Fagan, as a remembrance specifically for them.

The project was completed over the course of two months, during which the artists endured heat, cold, rain, precarious heights and a couple of persistent pigeons who kept flying into their path. “We started when it was hot and ended when it was chilly,” Patrick reports. “There was also a lot of rain. Altogether, we lost 15 days to rain. We were looking at the weather report hour by hour.”

One of the biggest physical challenges was the use of swing stage scaffolding. Patrick and Ryan had to learn to use the motorized controls as well as the safety lines and harnesses so that they could securely work when several stories up in the air. “The scaffolding company brought it in, set it up for us and showed us how to use it,” Patrick reports. “ It was a little scary at first; it took some getting used to. Plus, there were these giant vents on the building blowing air on us, which was really challenging when we were trying to do airbrushing.”

Ryan concurred about the challenge of adjusting to the scaffolding. “The scaffolding was definitely intimidating the first couple of days,” he said, but it just was one of several physical challenges that the painting duo had to endure.

“This was my first exterior project, and it was different from my typical jobs,” Ryan reported. “You had to have a lot of stamina, because we worked seven days a week, from 9 to 5. If the weather was good, we couldn’t take a day off. There was so much rain, we had to keeping work while the sun was out.”

Their way of dealing with fatigue was to drink lots of Starbucks coffee. “It turned out to be an x.jpgexpensive habit, so we did ‘Rock-Paper-Scissors’ to see who would pay,” Ryan reports. However, they got back on budget by making many a meal from Ramen Noodles or canned tuna.

Originally, Patrick was supposed to start the project in the fall of 2008, but a couple of delays forced the project to be postponed until the following year. “We had to start from square one,” Patrick reports, “but I met with the owner in April or May and we got everything settled.”

Patrick got the lead for the project from an artist whom had worked with him on a project at the home of Judge Judy Sheindlin (this project was profiled in a previous issue of The Faux Finisher). The artist wasn’t able to take on the project himself, so he recommended Patrick.

Knowing that he couldn’t do the project alone, Patrick called on respected artist Kristiano D’Costa, who lives and works in Florida. Kristiano had done work for the Disney theme parks, so Patrick thought this large exterior project would be right up his alley. However, Kristiano was already committed to working on another project during the same time period and couldn’t participate on-site, though he agreed to give Patrick some advice on how to tackle the project.

In the meantime, Patrick began looking for another artist to help him with the project and soon got an inquiry from Ryan, who had worked with Patrick on the Judge Judy project as well as other smaller jobs. Ryan also knew Patrick very well through the Faux Forum, the online artist community that Patrick had founded a few years before.

“Pat has been a mentor of mine from the beginning,” Ryan reported. “I’ve taken his classes, and he’s a very good businessman. We turned out to be a really good team, since Pat’s more of a muralist and I’m more of a faux finisher.”

5a.jpgPrior to the project, Kristiano came up north to help Patrick and Ryan prepare for the project. Since neither of them had ever done airbrushing before, Kristiano’s help was extremely valuable. “We built a wall in the studio, which was 8 feet by 4 feet, and we practiced on both sides,” Patrick reported. “We imprinted it with brick, used a compressor and practiced airbrushing.”

Kristiano showed Patrick and Ryan how to create the murals using the pouncing method. For the Statue of Liberty, they did a full-size line drawing on paper and then used this method to transfer it onto the surface being painted.

All the advance preparation and training paid off, since it allowed Patrick and Ryan to move quickly when they were on the actual worksite. The Statue of Liberty was obviously the most labor-intensive project, but they were able to finish the smaller images in very short order. “Once we got through the Statue of Liberty, the rest was home sailing,” Patrick reports.

To make the project a success, Patrick and Ryan used products that are known to wear well in the weather. Among the products they used were a heavy-duty exterior primer, an exterior-grade satin-finish paint and Modern Masters’ Theme Paint, which offers UV protection and has been used on rides at major amusement parks.

One of the interesting aspects of the project was creating a depiction of Central Park at the base of the courtyard. “We painted a mural of Central Park on the ground. We used exterior-grade plywood, painted it, primed it and sealed it and installed it during the last week,” Patrick reported.

Throughout the two-month experience, Patrick and Ryan chronicled the project on a video blog ( that they thought would be interesting and inspiring to other artists. “Even if we were tired, we made an effort to do some filming so we could catalog our process,” Patrick reports. The blog covered the progression of the project and also captured interesting experiences the artists had, such as ridding their apartment of a mouse by capturing him in a Pringles can.

The project was so unusual that it attracted the attention of major metro newspapers. “The New York Post and Daily News did nice articles on it,” Patrick reported. And after Patrick and Ryan departed Brooklyn, of course, the artwork remained for the enjoyment of the tenants.

With the project behind them, Patrick and Ryan have great memories of the project as well as the artists and technicians who helped them make it a success. “It was a one-of-a-kind project, and I’m really glad I had the opportunity to participate in it,” Ryan concluded.





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