Waterford Church of the Nazarene commissions mural for Christmas

Photo by Michael Kelly Artist Roger Bonnette and Pastor Karl Kesselring talk in the sanctuary of the Waterford Church of the Nazarene below the mural Bonnette painted for the church.

WATERFORD — The mural shines down on the sanctuary as if generating its own light. The eye follows a road through snowy downs into a village in the distance, passing children and a snowman, around through a valley and up to a church, then fArther up a dark, ice-clad mountain range topped by a hopeful star, then back to the foreground, a family group in the snow, caroling to the viewer.

Roger Bonnette, who was a founding member of the Riverside Artists Gallery in Marietta, said the 8-by-32 foot painting was surprisingly easy to do.

“It was about 22 hours of painting,” he said.

The project began when Waterford Church of the Nazarene Pastor Karl Kesselring asked him if he would do something special to greet worshipers for the church’s Christmas Eve service.

“I thought maybe we’d get a picture or two to hang on the wall,” Kesselring said, gesturing toward the north side of the sanctuary, now dominated by the sweep of the great image.

Photo by Michael Kelly A detail in a Christmas mural by Marietta artist Roger Bonnette shows carolers in the snow above a village in the hills. The mural is mounted to overlook the sanctuary at the Waterford Church of the Nazarene.

The landscape is spread across eight sheets of plywood mounted together in a single panel high above the big room, lit in a gallery-like setting from below.

Bonnette said it was the first painting he’d done in 10 years, and only the second mural he’s done in a long career.

“It’s mostly acrylics, and I haven’t used those since I was in my 20s,” he said.

His art is occupied with children and nature, and two of the figures in the family group, mouths open with joy as they carol, were based on his granddaughters

“God was holding my hand the whole way,” he said. “It was a challenge but I knew someone had my arm, it just flowed together.”

Bonnette said he painted the mural on plywood sheets propped up along the south wall of the room, and the panels were moved to the top of the north wall when it was finished. While he was working on it, he said, he received a call from his art professor from Glenville State College in West Virginia, a man he hadn’t heard from in more than 20 years.

“It was odd,” Bonnette said. “He just wanted to know how I was doing.”

“It’s been up since Thanksgiving, and we unveiled it Sunday, Dec. 3, the first day of Advent,” Kesselring said.

He’s uncertain when it will be taken down.

“God had his hand in it so much, something for people to enjoy,” Bonnette said.