By Madeline Novey Reporter-Herald Staff Writer
LOVELAND — In an age of vinyl, 3-D, neon and digital signs, what Eric Johnson and his father, Alan Johnson, do is somewhat of a lost art form.
The two Loveland residents and longtime creative companions stood on ladders – Alan’s shorter than Eric’s – in Wednesday’s warm sunlight. Each meticulously brushed and dabbed maroon paint within the outlines of a towering lion and letters spelling out “Loveland Classical Schools.”
Though the two are on vacation for the holiday, they opted to spend part of their Thanksgiving break hand-painting the school’s mascot and name on the building’s southeastern side for free.
From beneath lion’s mane peeked the emblem and cross of The Church at Loveland, the building’s former occupant.
This type of project is nothing new for the two men, each speckled with paint and laden with brushes.
Alan Johnson realized at a young age that he had a knack for art and started pin-striping cars when he was 13 or 14. Come high school, people commissioned his skills.
“Everybody in high school wants their car done,” he said, laughing between brush strokes.
After studying art in college, he went on to paint motorcycles and automobiles – some of which are shown at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance car show held annually in California.
When he wasn’t painting vehicles, he was out with Eric painting signs, trains, boats, pickups and just about anything anybody needed.
Eric also studied art in college, and he said he’s garnered much experience from working with his father. He’s applied those skills to his current work with Loveland’s Zephyr Graf-X, a company that designs and manufactures hats and other clothing emblazoned with sports team logos.
“I learned from my dad and just by doing it,” he said, looking up at his work almost two stories off the ground.
Eric started the process Monday evening when he parked his pickup in the parking lot and shined a spotlight and projector at the cream-colored stucco wall. He then traced the image – the school’s official logo – using charcoal.
Though it would take several layers of paint to cover the first coat of purple-pink primer, Eric and Alan thought they would finish most of the painting by early evening Wednesday. Eric said he’d likely be back Friday to touch up.
The two eldest of Eric’s three children, fifth-grader Laurel and Sam, a first-grader, attend Loveland Classical Schools. The second of Loveland’s charter schools opened at the start of the 2011 school year, thanks largely to volunteers. School co-founder Trisha Coberly estimates that parents log some 2,000 hours each month writing grant proposals, fundraising, serving on boards and generally promoting the school.
“It’s amazing. It’s kind of a lost art,” Coberly said of the Johnsons’ work. “We’re just happy he (Eric) would share his skills with us.”
As for the unveiling, Coberly said students and parents were aware the project was under way, but most didn’t get a chance to see Eric paint earlier in the week before taking off for Thanksgiving.
“It will be a surprise,” for students, faculty members and parents alike come Monday, she said.