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Muralist’s experience proves you can come home again

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GROTON — For a local artist, the completion of a major indoor mural at a private home was of much less importance personally than the coincidence that led to his being hired to execute the work in the first place.

“The whole manner in which the client contacted me about doing the mural was very serendipitous,” said Dug Morton, of Shirley. “You see, her house was the one I grew up in so working there was very special to me. When she first bought the house she was really enamored of it and decided to do some research to find out who had originally built it. She began by asking around town and found out that the builders were Bill and Sue Morton, whom she finally tracked down in Maine.

“At the same time she was doing that, she hired an interior decorator and asked him about a muralist,” continued Morton. “The decorator gave her my card and she called me. She noticed the name on the card was Morton and out of curiosity, she asked me if I was of any relation to the Mortons who had built their house. In fact, Bill and Sue Morton are my parents.”

Morton, 43, was hired by Mary Livingston to execute a mural covering an entire wall in her newly redecorated house along Chestnut Hill Road. After getting over the amazing series of events leading to his being hired, the artist took time to absorb the atmosphere before settling on a theme.

“The client was an animal lover and also collects art, so I sort of roamed her grounds and looked for inspiration in the art she had there,” Morton said. “I incorporated 77 different kinds of animals I saw or that were represented in the sculptures and paintings the owner had in her collection.

“Using animals as the subject of the mural was my idea,” said Morton, who executed the mural in acrylics over six months. “I’m more of an abstract artist by trade, but knowing that style wasn’t the client’s cup of tea, I decided to take images of animals and incorporated them into a sort of whimsical landscape.”

When he finished, the painting had everything from wild African animals to cats and dogs to worms and grasshoppers, to fish and sharks.

“It is just gorgeous,” said Livingston. “He’s just so talented, not just in his execution but his concepts as well.”

Morton said that although his primary focus as an artist is producing work on canvas, he has been commissioned to create a half-dozen indoor murals.

“What he did for me is different from the work he is currently interested in doing which is a lot of abstract work,” said Livingston. “He really listened and got to know me and listened to what I wanted and then just put something together that is so special.”

Aware that in creating murals for private homes, he is working in a tradition established by artists such as Rufus Porter who was popular in the 19th century, Morton was not prepared to discount his murals against work he places on display at shows.

“Art is art,” observed Morton of the relative importance of his murals to that of working on canvas. “But I take the murals far more seriously than other commissions because when I have a paying client it gives me the opportunity to get more involved in the piece. I have the luxury of pushing the piece to a more finely tuned completion.”

Although a house painter by day, Morton has been an artist for the past 25 years — and a dabbler before that.

“When I was a kid, I was attracted by the visuals in comic books and I became a huge fan,” he said. “But my interest in art started before that when I used to draw on everything at hand from furniture to walls. Then I discovered paper.”

Morton began formal training in art at Mount Wachusett Community College in the mid-1980s before moving to the Museum School in Boston from 1986-88. He earned a degree in fine art and teaching from Franklin Pierce College in New Hampshire.

As it has since he was a boy, art continues to fascinate Morton because of its ability to set loose his imagination.

“The satisfaction I take from my work is being able to create my own worlds,” said Morton. “Once I envision a concept and begin on a piece, the work seems to take over and I’m only along for the ride. A lot of it is being in communication with the work so that it often tells me what to do next.”

Those interested in having a Doug Morton original gracing their own homes are encouraged to contact the artist at (978) 855-6455.

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