- Associated Press - Thursday, March 5, 2015

CHANDLER, Ind. (AP) - Michael Smith donated murals his first year back in Warrick County to spread the word about his business. But the donations almost ruined it.

“The first year, I almost donated into bankruptcy,” Smith, Orange Moon Studio owner, told the Evansville Courier & Press (https://bit.ly/1F135Tu ). “But I told my wife it would pay off.”

Now Smith’s booked solid until October. In fact, most of the schools in Warrick County wear a few of Smith’s murals. He likes to do murals in Warrick County because it is his home.

“I was a military brat, so I moved around a lot, but this was the first place I felt at home,” he said.

Castle Elementary looks like a castle overtook the interior of the building. It has a mural in the library, cafeteria, gym, entrance and the most recent project has been the hallways.

Castle Elementary paid for half of the mural, while the school’s Parent Teacher Organization raised the other half.

“It really enhances the entrance. … I think it makes it more cheerful for the teachers and the students,” PTO parent Tiffany Bonnell said.

“(The murals) kind of help build up the tradition of them going to be the Knights at the high school,” Bonnell said.

All of the walls Smith painted at the elementary school are gray bricks. He painted the entrance way’s ceiling and door frames, which were originally maroon, to look like they’re wood.

“(The principal) wanted to get rid of the maroon colors and put the school’s colors,” Smith said.

In one of the hallways, Smith extended his project by 10 feet because he “didn’t like it” that it stopped before the lockers.

“I’m one of those people who beg for forgiveness rather than ask for permission,” he said.

Since he posted a picture of one of the recently finished murals at the elementary school, he has received a lot of feedback.

“The phone hasn’t stopped ringing since,” he said.

Smith first started doing murals in Chicago. He even got the chance to do a mural at the Planet Hollywood in Houston, he said.

He said he learned from each method of art he’s done. During his time in the military, he owned an air brush T-shirt store. Doing that, he learned how to shade.

Smith stopped another job he was working at the end of 2014: tattooing.

He tattooed people for 20 years. In his current work, Smith has found a way to add details from tattooing. He typically did bigger tattoos, but even then, it wasn’t enough for him.

“I needed a bigger canvas,” he said.

A few of the murals he’s done for the Warrick County schools, he completed within days.

His first mural, which was donated, was painted at Chandler Elementary School. He went there first because of a familiar face.

“My kindergarten teacher is still there, and she taught my three children,” he said.

School walls aren’t the only canvasses Smith likes to compose on.

Smith painted a new mural in the Downtown YMCA hot yoga room during the weekend.

“We have to get it done by Monday because they have classes,” Smith said Thursday.

He’s starting up his own shop that will design art on motorcycles and cars as well.

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Information from: Evansville Courier & Press, https://www.courierpress.com

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