1637 Portage Avenue
The newest Manitoba Hydro Mural at Portage & St. James.
Location: NW corner Portage & St. James; East Face
Occupant: Manitoba Hydro Substation
District: St. James
Neighbourhood: Polo Park
Artist(s): Charlie Johnston (C5 Artworks), McKim Cringan George (original design)
Charlie Johnston: "Manitoba Hydro is a Crown Corporation, so, for this Mural, they put
out a tender to 4 companies, and I won the bid. The design of this Mural had been
created by their advertising agency, McKim Cringan George. I've been painting large
scale for 20 years. On one level it was just another day at the office for me. On another
level it was a long term goal to finally get to paint one of the biggest and best known
projects- the Hydro Mural at Portage and St. James. Before Murals had become
popularized in Winnipeg there had already been different incarnations at this wall.
Everyone remembers the Baby- it was a big iconic image (Ed note- see 1637 Portage (1)
in the RIP section)."
"After I received the design, I started prepping the wall as soon as the season began. I
had the building base-coated blue and I received notice that I had to stop due to the
provincial election campaign. Because Hydro is a crown corporation they couldn't be
perceived as doing any advertising during the campaign. And this IS an ad Mural. The
wall was basically in very good shape- there were just a few minor repairs, surface
cracks, that had to be done."
"The whole project went off like a charm. The weather was very good. I had to leave it
once to go to Huntsville, Ontario to do a project there. I finished it July 1st. There was a
lot of stuff that was alluded to in the design that I tried to bring it out more in the
rendering (Ed note- for example the reflection of the clouds in the lake) to try to achieve
what I felt is the maximum potential of the image as a design. That's where my input
came in and that's where I put myself into the large-scale painting. It was up to me as to
how the image was done, and I was to create an honest and accurate photo-realistic
rendering of the design. Quite frankly, I think they expected that this would be an
airbrush Mural, because the previous few jobs had been done with it. I chose not to use
airbrush for over 99% of this wall. This worked out well, as there was some concern
expressed about overspray. They didn't want overspray of any of the electrical, on their
vehicles. They had a fleet of white vans and they didn't want any spray on them. I only
used airbrush for the final effect of the out-of-focus blades of grass in the foreground
(this was at the end after the restriction had been lifted), and that's it! The rest is all
brushwork and rollers, and the blending techniques I've learned over the years."
"My goal was to make it feel like a painting and not an ad so that it feels like a piece of
artwork. The only thing I added in the design is a little grasshopper in the grass.
Everything else came from the designs given to me by McKim Cringan George. It was a
great Mural for me- I love painting clouds. If I had the time and materials, I'd probably
be doing large-scale paintings of clouds anyways! It was a lot of fun."