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Welland's Murals:
21. Tugboats

About the Mural
Tugboats by Stefan Bell, Ottawa, Ontario. Painted in 1988, at 77 East Main Street (facing Cross Street), 37' by 16'. Bell used what he described as a realistic technique in portraying the "Hector" tugboat, used during the 1920s to pull ships and barges through the Old Welland Canal. Using soft and subtle blending, the bright colours attract people, enhance the image and provide a vivid contrast to the grey buildings.

The Artist's Interpretation
"The main concept was to show the old boats of the waterways in their primary locations: out on the lake, going through the canals/up rivers, and docking for loading/unloading. The graphic bars divide the three boats in their separate situations, whereas the sky above and water below unite all the elements into one picture. The blue graphic colour that surrounds the three boats helps to frame the three pictures and accents the main colour in a seaman's life. My trademark as a painter/juggler is always to include a juggling element in every painting. So, as you notice, three juggling balls and a cigar box are painted on the wooden dock."

"The mural is accessible to everyone. It becomes a public experience and they can watch the growth of the mural from beginning to end. The public becomes part of your process and you also become an entertainer or showman. The magnitude of the mural makes you aware of how insignificant you are and just as one tiny element of the mural, you the artist, are also one tiny fragment contributing to a better world in a selfless way!"

Your Virtual Guide's Comments
The main impression here is of the jauntiness of the tugboats. They seem to exude an unbridled confidence in the future of the canal and Welland. The opaque windows and the upswept bows suggest smiling faces, personifying the tugs. They appear to be happy as they go about their business, apparently without interference from humans. The mural seems to be a celebration of the tools of the canal trade. 

About the Artist: Stefan Bell, Ottawa, Ontario

Bell is a man of many talents, not the least of which is juggling. He performed professionally for eight years. He is also known as Ballini: The Great Fake Juggling Clown. He was trained by the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. He spent 20 years as a commercial artist, designing, illustrating, building models and doing other technical graphic artwork. He then shifted his emphasis to fine arts.

Stefan said painting murals appealed to him because it gave him the opportunity to get out of the office. He has painted two murals in Creston, British Columbia. One of these was the largest and most complex mural in Canada (100' by 30') and took one year to complete.

He has had art shows in Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary and received two Canadian Graphic Arts Awards. Stefan also produced the first Canadian juggling magazine.

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