New Haven resident Kim Linker recently completed her seventh and eighth murals on the sides of buildings in downtown New Haven. Balanced atop an eight-foot-tall ladder, she uses old-school techniques to create her artwork.
“I was just ahead of the introduction of computer design programs (in college), so I do it the old-fashioned way with a yard stick, plotting out my designs on graph paper and then transferring them to the building. There’s a lot of eye-balling involved, too,” she said.
Linker painted her first four murals on the side of the Ruhl Furniture building at Broadway and Summit Street for New Haven’s sesquicentennial celebration two years ago. One was a colorful “Welcome home” sign next to three historical scenes from New Haven’s past that included a canal boat, steam locomotive and a street scene from the 1800s.
She followed that up with two larger-than-life moose murals on Moose Lodge 1048. One is on the side of the building at the corner of Main Street and Broadway and the other is at the rear.
“The New Haven businesses have been extremely supportive of me and I really appreciate it. It’s humbling to think someone would entrust me to paint their building,” Linker said. “I love New Haven and am privileged to play a part in enhancing town pride.”
Linker said artistic talent runs in her family, but she really discovered her passion for art as a high school student at Heritage High School.
“My whole family is artsy, but I really got into it at Heritage High School when I worked on sets for theater productions. My drama teacher, Jim Schmidt, pretty much gave me free reign on the sets,” she said. “And that resulted in me going to Ball State University where I studied graphic design and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts.”
Most recently, Linker completed murals on the side of New Haven Bicycle Shop at the corner of Main Street and Broadway in downtown New Haven.
“In the case of the Bicycle Shop, owner Vaughn Ulmer wanted the first 12-by-9-foot panel to be a colorful sign. He specified that the second was to be a scene from the 1800s with a man and women in period clothing and old-fashioned bicycles. He had an old advertisement of a couple that I modeled my design on,” Linker said.
“Surprisingly, people passing by would stop to tell me that the woman in my mural looked exactly like me. I didn’t want to see myself every time I came through town so I changed her look,” she said.
While Linker leaves her mark on the wall, the wall often leaves its mark on her – her left arm between her wrist and elbow is perpetually smeared with paint.
“It’s a bad habit I’ve gotten into,” she said. “When I’m balancing on the ladder I just don’t have enough hands to hold a paint brush, paint can and a rag. So, when I get too much paint on my brush I just wipe it on my arm. Fortunately it’s outdoor latex so it washes off. Or sometimes it gets really thick and I just peel it off. I’ve gotten some strange looks at the grocery store when I forgot to wash or peel.”
Linker started getting more recognition for her work after volunteering to paint a mural at New Haven United Methodist Church. When her son, Ben, was two years old, he spent Sunday mornings in the church’s nursery room while she attended church. She volunteered to paint a Noah’s Ark mural on the nursery wall. Later, she was asked to paint a jungle theme on a 70-foot-long double room. She also did some small decorative paintings in the church halls.
Those jobs led to her painting a John Deere tractor mural on a child’s bedroom wall. She also painted murals at Cornerstone Youth Center in Monroeville, a large logo for Eagle Surplus, a wall at the SCAN offices on Main Street in Fort Wayne and just completed painting a prototype 6-foot-long by four-foot tall bulldog to be used in a coming New Haven Community Foundation fundraiser.
“Word-of-mouth is keeping me pretty busy,” she said.
Her biggest job was painting clouds on a football field-size tarp for Carroll High School Marching Band.
“It was difficult to get the correct perspective because it was so large. I had to keep running up the tower and back to make sure the size was right. I learn something from every job,” she said.
“I guess I’m a little like Leonardo DaVinci who said, ‘A work is never finished. It’s just abandoned’. That’s why I hate to look at my own ‘finished’ work because I feel like I should tweak it just a little or add something more. I’m finding it hard to know when to stop and finally abandon the work,” Linker said.
In addition to painting murals, Linker has branched out into painting on canvas. She joined the Fort Wayne Artist Guild, got an easel, painted a shepherd with sheep scene and entered it in a guild show.
“I was so happy with the way it turned out I decided to keep it. I’m sure I’ll do some more in the future,” she said.