Artist Sydney Sbarbaro has completed her artwork on one wall of the Van Alstyne Public Library. For about two months, the Denison resident has been working on a floor-to-ceiling mural, giving even more uniqueness to the library’s young-adult area. And the detail in the artwork can keep a viewer busy for hours, searching for those familiar characters and finding the books featuring those characters that may be unfamiliar.
Sbarbaro is a young artist from Denison, and this wasn’t her first mural, and it won’t be her last. Library Director Judy Kimzey said she first spotted Sbarbaro working on an outside mural at the Denison Library. Impressed with the quality and magnetic charm of what Sbarbaro was creating, Kimzey went to work figuring out how it could come to happen, also, in Van Alstyne.
Funding was the first consideration. But there was already a solution waiting to be found. Turns out, this project was paid for by the teens, through the Library’s Teen Council. They have been busy for a while, with gaming tournaments, art contests, bake sales and a car wash or two.
“Money raised by teens needs to be spent on projects for teens,” Kimzey said. “We were still a little short, in spite of the $600 nest egg they had laid back. Then, last year, the Anime Club won a $100 gift card because of their float in the Van Alstyne Christmas Parade.”
With that, the project was on.
The young adult section is on the opposite end of the Library, as a way of giving the teenagers a bit of solitude from the younger Library users.
“Teen males are the toughest demographic to get into a library and get a book in their hands,” Kimzey said. “But they derive pleasure from looking at graphic novels.”
And the characters in Sbarbaro’s mural are those depicted in the graphic novels. Among those are Harry Potter and Hermione, Light from “Death Note,” Frodo from “Lord of the Rings,” and others of that ilk.
“These are young adult novels,” Kimzey said. “There are several studies showing that more information can be gleaned from looking at pictures. … One young lady was an avid reader, but then was in a horrible wreck and suffered brain damage that caused her to lose her ability to read. This book section helps her through photos, and helps others with learning disabilities. And the Anime Club members immerse themselves in the sub-culture and language and lingo and get lost in it. Our graphic novel collection rivals that of the McKinney library. It began with a grant, 10 years ago.”
Sbarbaro said she grew up in a library.
“I was always there, and this is more of what I would have liked to see in a library,” she said. “It makes it more fun for people to be there.”
After agreeing to take on the project, she said she and Kimzey talked and developed a mutual concept, and then she drew up a mock-up of the mural.
“A lot of inspiration comes from Pinterest,” Sbarbaro said.
First came the pencil sketch, with Sbarbaro climbing up and down that stepladder for hours at a time, and with Kimzey taking photos every hour or so, just to keep it all documented.
She works with all sorts of paints.
“I use a lot of primer and mix it with acrylics for inside painting, like this mural,” Sbarbaro said as she worked. “There will be a clear, non-glare coat over it when finished, to make it easy to wash and keep clean. Definitely inside, I use a lot of primer and mix it with acrylics for inside painting.”
Sbarbaro’s style is unique, too. She begins with all the major characters, and then adds the smaller details and lastly the background.
“I want to get my foreground first and the colors,” she said. “I put up the core colors to start and then add shading,” she added without missing a stroke of that paintbrush.
Sbarbaro said her first mural was created when she was still in high school. She has also completed the artwork for a book cover and other murals in Denison-owned buildings including two fire stations.
“This is my fifth (mural),” she said. “I’m kind of establishing myself as an artist.”
She is also a tattoo artist, and said about mural painting compared to the other art form, “I’ll draw something (for a tattoo) and it’s done, and then I may never see it again.”
Sbarbaro painted, smiled, and talked effortlessly, and the mural’s characters developed lives and personalities of their own — or rather, developed those personalities as the story authors gave them in print.
Kimzey said there will be a public unveiling of the mural, but it is available for viewing at any time the library is open. Maybe those hour-by-hour photos will be shown then, letting everyone watch the mural come alive.
Watch the Van Alstyne Public Library’s Facebook page or the city’s website, CityofVanAlstyne.com, for details on when this open house will be.