SIDNEY — The Matt Clayton family has taken their art to a new — size.
Matt and his daughters, Christine and Sarah, are well known for their wildlife art. Christine won the Ohio Duck Stamp Art contest in 2015. Matt came in second. Sarah took Best in Show at the Ohio Junior Duck Stamp contest last April, came in second in the national competiton and won the State Fish Art contest in 2012 and 2013.
Their paintings fit on easels.
This year, joined by wife and mom, Darlene, they have some new subjects and a much larger “canvas.” The Claytons are painting Christmas pictures on the windows of businesses throughout Shelby County.
Swimming ringnecks have given way to prancing reindeer, wood ducks to elves, and reed-filled waters to mangers in paintings gracing the windows of Hometown Pharmacy, Father Hubbard’s Cupboards, MV Arms and a host of restaurants in Sidney, as well as Casa Lupita in New Bremen, Hussey’s in Port Jefferson and two insurance offices in Anna, so far.
The family developed Clayton Window Art as an addition to their successful Clayton Wildlife Art. It was the suggestion of a fellow duck stamp artist, Tim Taylor, who has been painting holiday windows in New Jersey and New York City for 40 years.
“He told us things that, if we’d had to figure out, would have taken years,” Matt said. Taylor hosted the Claytons in New Jersey in November and put them work to teach them the techniques they’d need to make window art.
The paintings are done in layers. As each layer dries, another is added.
“Christine lays it all out,” Darlene said. “Then one of us comes and paints all that in.” The first broad strokes are in white. Darlene fills in color, but, they noted, any one of them can do any other the subsequent steps as they work on various sections of the window.
Christine does the initial drawings freehand. That’s very different from the work she, Sarah and Matt do when they’re working on wildlife art. Those paintings are done from photographs they’ve taken in the field. Each one can take several months to complete. The longest time spent on a window is about 12 hours.
That doesn’t mean that the final product is any less professional.
“We are still picky about it,” Christine said.
Another big difference is the effect of weather on the schedule.
“Wildlife art we can do in the house,” Sarah said. The Claytons paint the outsides of windows, so when it’s rainy, it takes a lot longer to finish a job. The more humid it is, the longer it takes each layer to dry.
They use Sherwin-Williams latex exterior housepaint. Removal is by scraping with a razor blade. So if something needs to be corrected as they work, the razor blades come out to “erase” a mistake.
Sometimes the artists decide what the paintings will be. Sometimes, shop owners ask for specific scenes.
Sarah and Christine enjoy watching a whole work come together.
“At the very end, you put in the outline, the detailing and everything is defined. Before that, it’s just areas of color,” Christine said.
What Darlene likes best is that the activity gives them lots of time to spend together as a family. For Matt, it’s a chance to talk with people on the street who stop to watch the painters at work. And he especially likes that the windows evoke nostalgic feelings.
“(They) have the old-fashioned flavor that I remember of the old downtown (Sidney) of the 1960s. It was a winter wonderland with all the lights. It was full of people. This window painting brings back a lot of fond memories,” he said.
The Claytons base their fees on the size of the windows, the complexity of the designs and the time it takes to implement them. They hope to provide window art throughout the year for other holidays, too.
“Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Independence Day,” Matt said. He says that a business gets more than a nice window display when it contracts with the Claytons for a painting.
“There’s an element of joy involved,” he said. “It’s uplifting. The thing we’re selling is what that does for the (business’s) customers. The window creates a subconcious feeling of joy. Customers associate that joy with that place. The effect of the artwork lasts way beyond when it’s up there. In July, (the customer) may go back to the restaurant or business because, while they may not go because there was a Christmas window, they go because they remember the joy.”
For information about having a window painted, call 419-733-3896.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.