James Molina stepped back for a moment from his mural — almost three years in the making — and expressed his satisfaction with the final outcome.
"What I'm most proud of is the design," Molina said Tuesday as he cradled his palette and looked at the 128-foot-long, 18-foot-high, brightly painted scene on the side of Pohley's Market in Windsor.
"People notice the mural. They look for things on there," he said, adding that some folks come up and shake his hand and 95percent of the comments are positive.
The mural has key things that make it singularly Windsor — the Town Green; the old volunteer firehouse (which has been torn down); Windsor High School; a half-dozen hot air balloons; Keiser Park; and oak trees like the one in the town's logo.
There's a Pomo Indian in traditional headdress, along with a town character who hung around downtown in past decades.
It isn't exactly Realism. Rose Diamond, one of the artists who worked on it, acknowledged that the mountain lion and two cubs that she drew are "kind of cartoonish." But, she said, "it makes people happy. A lot of people come (to see it) with their children. There are not enough happy things."
The mural is at least the third to grace the outside wall of the 1933 Odd Fellows Building.
The changing content has highlighted the different identities of Windsor. More than 30 years ago, there was an Aztec motif reflecting the neighborhood's Mexican influence. By the mid-1990s, there was a rural Americana theme showing Bell Manor, a horse and buggy, an ice cream parlor, a dentist's office and a school.
That mural faded and cracked, and Molina designed a new one, launched with financial backing from Pohley's Market and the Odd Fellows Lodge and donations of paint and equipment, all totalling more than $2,000.
"People were really happy to put in money for something like this," said market owner Ronnie Khoury, who put out a big jar in the store for his customers to chip in. "They think it's cool."
"I think it's great. They are so talented," said Kristen Obst, a Windsor woman who emerged from Pohley's Market on Tuesday and admired the artists' handiwork. "You don't see this very often — people doing murals."
"It's very special," said Arturo Pe?, a house painter who prepped the wall and sprayed the mountains. "It's therapy. It relaxes you," he said of working on the project.
Jeanette Scarfuto, a retired administrative assistant and artist who worked on the mural, did the lower portions, painting the cows, horses and poppies.
"Oh, I loved it," she said. "Since I'm short and older than most, I did what I could reach."
She liked hanging out with artists, whom she described as "a little different. They're fun to be with. They have more guts to do things."
Molina never expected the project to take as long as it did. But he was sidelined by a shoulder injury, surgery and other jobs.
"It's that old cliche. You can't rush art," he said. "It's volunteer. It never really had a real deadline on it."
"It's the 'thank yous' that keep you going," he said of the work that took him hundreds of unpaid hours with the occasional help of a few other artists.