Summersville mural completed by WV artist 

By Stephen Baldwin, RealWV

Born and raised in Lincoln County, Blake Wheeler now lives in Marmet, WV, with his wife. During the day, he works an office job to pay the bills…and on nights/weekends, he travels the state creating commissioned public art. 

“It’s so rewarding,” Blake says of the opportunity to paint public art across the Mountain State. “Artists usually only have a certain audience put eyes on their work in a gallery or a store, but with public art it’s seen by everyone.” 

Blake began drawing as a child, gifting pictures to his kindergarten classmates. His talents evolved over the years as he delved into projects such as illustrating a graphic novel and offering pop-culture inspired paintings in galleries. Today, he focuses exclusively on public art, which is usually commissioned by cities and non-profits such as Charleston, Bluefield, and the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation. 

Blake’s latest project was a 2-stage mural totaling 2,800 square feet for the City of Summersville (Nicholas County). 

“The city formed a mural committee about two years ago,” Blake remembers. “They wanted to beautify the city and attract tourists.” 

Sounds simple enough–and Blake makes it look easy with his talent–but the process from idea to mural is a long and complex one. 

“The committee decided what things they wanted to highlight–the lake, fishing, hiking, and a message of welcome,” explains Blake. “So I take that and then start to sketch out a mural.”

Once Blake and the committee settle on a design, he begins assembling supplies and scheduling the work. Everything from equipment to weather to supply availability to visitors stopping to chat can affect the progress of a mural. Blake’s father-in-law often spends time on location with him to assist in the complex process. 

“I took time off of work for this project since it was a big one,” says Blake. “I stayed in a hotel while I was there working for nine days.” He began on May 5 and finished on June 17.  All in all, he was pleased with how it turned out. 

“It went pretty well,” he reflects. “I definitely learned that the physical makeup of a wall can dictate the painting. This wall had cinderblock pillars all throughout it. So you have to think about your lines and plan ahead and consider different perspectives on the art to make sure it all looks right.”

Summersville Mayor Robert Shafer says he is proud of the committee’s work and vision. “The latest mural by Blake Wheeler showcases who we are by highlighting the awesome outdoor recreation that makes Summersville a must-visit tourist attraction.”

Blake is a perfectionist and says there are small details he would like to spend more time on, but “At some point you have to walk away from a painting.” 

“Overall, I feel a sense of accomplishment,” Blake says.

To checkout more of Blake’s public art, visit his Facebook page The Art of Blake Wheeler.

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