The image shows Chief Black Hawk at his most regal.
His chin is lifted, his prominent cheekbones giving his face its distinctive look.
In the background, the landscape shows woodlands and a mountain.
That’s the image artist Jeff Henriquez has created for a massive mural on the north side of the downtown Janesville building at 29 S. Main St.
Henriquez started work Wednesday between bouts of rain. He created a grid of dots to serve as a guideline for his initial sketch and the final painted image.
On Thursday, he started sketching the Sauk Indian chief.
Depending on the weather, the mural could take 10 days to two weeks to finish.
Everything will be done in spray paint.
Henriquez’s previous work shows the exquisite details and emotional impact that can be achieved with spray paint, even on an uneven canvas of bricks.
When asked how he developed such detail and clarity, Henriquez replied, “It’s the same way you get to Carnegie Hall: Practice, practice, practice.”
A can of spray paint has a surprising amount of range.
“There’s some different types of caps, and there’s different types of pressure,” Henriquez said. “You can turn the can upside down, let some of the air out so you get a softer line; you can turn the can one way, and you get an edge.”
In the end, the Carnegie Hall advice still applies.
“It’s all just practice,” Henriquez said. “You gotta screw things up a lot and then be like, ‘OK, this is not how things are done,’ and then you have to try something else.”
Henriquez, who lives in Newark, New Jersey, has spent a significant amount of time in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, where people can find his artwork livening up stale walls and energizing street corners.
This is his first time in the Midwest—outside Chicago, that is. It’s also one of the largest projects Henriquez has created on his own. He has done some commercial jobs on the sides of buildings, but he was always accompanied by other artists.
Even as he was getting started Wednesday, he drew small crowds. When he begins to paint, those numbers are expected to increase.
Henriquez isn’t bothered.
“That’s all right,” he said. “It’s all about the public. We’re here to bring some vibrancy, some happiness here.”
His work is being supported by Janesville resident Nigella Ryan and the owners of the building, George and Karen Collas.
Ryan first saw Henriquez’s work during a visit to Salem, Massachusetts. There, a development council hired a number of artists to create massive outdoor murals for a neighborhood revitalization project.