Everyone knows the streetside façade of Thornes Marketplace in Northampton, but now the back of the iconic building is getting some attention.  

Floridian artist Ernesto Maranje was chosen out of 87 applicants to create a nature-inspired mural and had roughly two weeks to complete it.  

Connecting Point’s Brian Sullivan visited downtown Northampton on the first day that his paint brush touched the bricks and brings us the story. 

Learn about Ernesto Maranje’s artistic process in a digital exclusive interview.

Read the full transcript:

Brian Sullivan: Most visitors to downtown Northampton would likely agree that it’s one of the most artsy areas in western Massachusetts, if not the most artsy. And it’s not just the visual arts, paintings and murals, although there are plenty of those to go around. There’s art on the walkways, musicians singing and playing guitar, and just an overall artistic vibe about the place.

And for a couple of weeks, there was a new kid in town making his mark here. Acclaimed artist Ernesto Maranje was tasked with converting this painted brick wall into a lush forest dreamscape, and he did so on the back of one of the most iconic buildings in town.

Of all the recognizable storefronts here on Main Street, Thornes marketplace may just be the most recognizable. And when this project is completed, it may not be too long before the back entryway can lay claim to that title.

It’s been a busy few months for Maranje, who arrived here in Hampshire County by way of Florida, with stops in Tennessee and New Jersey along the way, where he did projects similar to this one. With music in his ears, he approaches his canvas with what he considers to be organic brushstrokes that he feels are conducive to creating his nature-themed art.

To watch him tackle a project like this one with such skill and precision, it’s hard to believe that had it not been for an injury, he may have had a career patrolling the waters in the Coast Guard instead of doing this.

Ernesto Maranje, Artist: I don’t even know how it happened. It happened to me, individually. I’m sure things like this happen to — to people. But I saw something that I enjoy doing and I just kind of homed in on that. And I focused and I really — I really picked at what I enjoyed it from it, and then that just snowballed.

So, my last year in the Coast Guard, due to an injury, I wasn’t able to perform tasks. And then…then I fell on to this and that just — everything just stopped in one direction and then went in another.

Brian Sullivan: It wasn’t long before this once blank wall began to fill up. In fact, for an outsider, it appeared to progress much faster than one might think possible. But in this modern era, even artists have access to some remarkable and helpful technology for these types of situations.

Ernesto Maranje, Artist: A lot of us use technology to get these pieces done. A mixture of traditional techniques mixed with Photoshop or camera phones now have certain apps that do layovers. And then, so we put our drawing onto these images that we take from a lift or from another building, and that just helps us find the corner of an eye where it relates to the nose and how far of a distance. Because when you’re up on the wall, that’s about 60-feet, 70-feet up in the air, it’s very easy to get lost where everything is at, proportionately.

So, these — these tools assist us, and we can get a sketch on the wall in a matter of hours, depending how big the wall is.

Brian Sullivan: Technology or not, it’s still his hands holding the brush, making his designs possible for the whole world to see. The experience people have when they see it, well, that’s up to them.

Ernesto Maranje, Artist: There’s a whole spectrum of art and a lot of it I love that…that is very makes you think, makes you question yourself and your thoughts. And then there’s some that…it’s just a different type of ride. And that’s the one I like to put people on, you know?