RAY BROOK - Arti Torrance had been looking at the 35 by 8-foot "canvas" for quite some time. It only took him and his friend Travis Isham less than a day to complete the painting.
The surface the two Lake Placid artists painted a mural on Saturday, June 23 wasn't a canvas at all. Instead it was sheets of plywood covered in white primer on an addition to of one of the oldest standing structures in Essex County. Abandoned ages ago, the building sits along the roadside of state Route 86 in in Ray Brook on property owned by the Saranac Lake Golf Club across from the popular nine-hole course.
The site where where the artists plied their trade includes a historic farm house that is believed to have been built around 1800, and a back section measuring 35 feet long and about 20 feet wide that was added on sometime during the 1920s. The structure is dilapidated but historically significant, as it once was part of the Meadowbrook Dairy farm and also was the home of the golf course pro R.A "Hike" Tyrell, who worked at the club for more than half a century starting when the course opened in 1919.
The building was important enough that workers at the golf course shored up the addition about three years ago with posts, beams and plywood to prevent the roof from caving in.
That's where Torrance, a fourth-generation Lake Placid native and area history buff stepped into the picture. On Saturday morning, Torrance and Isham stood in front of a large white wooden "wall." By the end of the day, they had transformed it into a mural of a porch with windows and a connecting set of steps.
"I had been looking at that bright white wall as long as it's been there, and I found it appalling," Torrance said. "It just didn't fit. It stuck out like a sore thumb. Here were these screwed down sheets of plywood painted white connected to this beautiful, interesting old building, and I came up with the idea of painting it to look like part of the house. I wanted to make it look weathered just like the rest of the house."
Over a span of decades dating back before the 1980 Olympics, Torrance has been a whimsical artist in Lake Placid who has been more concerned with creating art than making money. His passion for the people, history and future of Lake Placid runs deep.
In the case of his painting at the golf course, Torrance wasn't even planning to charge a penny for labor or materials, but the club's board of directors agreed to pay him for the work.
"This was a good project for me because I was able to play a little role in restoring a part of our local history," Torrance said. "Besides, it's free advertising. It's right alongside a heavily-traveled road. How could any true artist pass up exposure like that?"
Torrance began the project by taking photographs of the area he would paint and did much of the preparation at his Adirondack Loj Road home, starting with cutting out templates in his garage. Using that process made the actual painting of the porch easier and quicker.
"One day it was just a white wall, and the next day it was a porch that looked weathered just like the rest of the house," Torrance said. "This thing happened so fast. It went smooth as silk right from developing the concept to the proposal to getting the materials to completing the mural.
"The whole process took about 10 days, and during that time, there were no hitches," Torrance added. "The board approved it Wednesday, we got the materials Friday, and by Saturday, the job was done. I love how it turned out. I'm still on a high. It still blows my mind."
Isham said he was also thrilled to be included in the picture.
"I've been friends with Arti for years, but usually, I'm taking photographs and Arti paints them," Isham said. "Photography is more my thing. I've only done four or five paintings before this one.
"Arti always comes to me with so many off-the-wall things, but this time, I thought doing the mural was a pretty cool thing," Isham added. "I've seen Arti go broke for art. He loses money for art, but I like his style. I was proud to be a part of this painting."
"It's such a shame the building is falling into a state of disrepair," Torrance said. "I feel like we brought some new life to it. It's no longer an eye sore. It's another chapter historians will discuss for years to come."