Friday, July 28, 2000

Job comes with a view


Sharks circle as aquarium artist paints portraits

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWPORT — Eric Henn, the artist responsible for the brilliantly colored murals at the Newport Aquarium, has painted murals on the sides of outdoor storage tanks and buildings. He has painted murals in relief for a blind person.

        But his current job at the aquarium is a first: perched on a wooden scaffold 18 inches above the surface of the 325,000-gallon shark tank, painting lifelike images of sharks while the real thing cruises just below.

        “I've never painted right over sharks before,” the Franklin native said with a smile while working above the tank Thursday. “I can't back up very far to take a look at my work.”

        He's covering a bare wall with paintings of about 14 different sharks. Aquarium visitors will see the mural as they walk past the top of the shark tank just before entering the gift shop on their way out.

        Mr. Henn, who spent several months last year creating the images of fish and animals that greet visitors at virtually every turn in the aquarium, said he is painting a diverse cross-section of sharks, from the largest, the whale shark, to some of the smallest.

        “I couldn't represent every type of shark in the space I have, but I wanted to show different shapes, sizes and species of sharks,” he said. “I laid out my work using photos I gathered from various places and from the aquarium's research books.”

        Mr. Henn, one of the best-known large mural painters in the nation, has been busy since completing his original work at the aquarium.

        “I've been all over the place,” he said. “I just completed a five-month job at an aquarium on Long Island, which was fun because the theme is the lost city of Atlantis. I did 10 murals. I'm getting ready to go to Gatlinburg (Tenn.) after I finish the job here, to paint murals at the (Ripley's) aquarium there.”

        He'll be back in Newport in December to paint a rain forest at the entrance to the Amazon exhibit. “I'm looking forward to that,” he said. But for that job, at least, he'll stay on the ground.

       



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