Frank Negley has been an artist all his life, just like his father, Donald, and grandfather Frank.
“It runs in the family, I have four artists in training at home right now,” Negley, 45, said, referring to his four children.
You won’t find his work in the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, but every time a car passes the Salvation Army store on Jefferson Boulevard or drives past its store on Lima Road, they can see his work.
Negley specializes in painting murals, although he is quick to tell you he also does signs, airbrush work on cars, and even wooden cutouts of Santa and his reindeer. Negley, originally from California, via Texas, said his grandfather learned his craft in the movie industry by painting sets, including those for some John Wayne movies. Negley’s father learned from his father, and passed the skills on to Negley.
“Some families go out and carol; my grandfather would go around town and paint windows,” Negley said.
Friday afternoon was rainy and bleak, but Negley was working on a painting around the entrance of the Salvation Army on the corner of Fairfield Avenue and West Washington Boulevard. The cold was making the acrylic paint run a little bit, slowing down the drying process. Once it dries, explained Negley, it stays on until he scrapes it off using soap and water. Safety conscious, he always paints his murals so the business can still see outside.
Negley started with a base layer of white and then proceeded to paint in every part of Santa that is white. He followed it with flesh color for the skin, and then used red for the suit. He left the surface white, where he would paint in the presents Santa was holding.
“I learned a lot from watching Bob Ross paint on PBS; you know, ‘happy little trees,’” Negley said.
Recently Negley painted the interior of a new family restaurant with murals that make the customers feel like they are inside a cabana looking out at the ocean. He uses a combination of free hand painting and airbrushing on large projects. That project took him about two weeks to complete. He also paints murals for people in their homes.
This Christmas season he painted several businesses around the area including both Al Gratz car lots, Oley’s Pizza and the Mac Mart in New Haven. Negley and his family moved here three years ago, so he is still establishing himself in the community.