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A towering mural for the masses in Auburn
Water tanks are great things, but let's face it, as eye candy, mnehh! pfft! and sometimes even yegg!
For the last 15 years, brothers and artists Rolf and Peter Goetzinger have shown the country that this often overlooked part of the American landscape can be made striking, too.
The Muckleshoot Tribe's utility district recently commissioned the brothers to paint large fish and the tribe's logo on a 120-foot-high tank in a patch of woods southeast of SE 392nd Street.
"We're very proud of it," said Peter.
The district supplied the original design. By studying the rendering and how it was going to be applied to the tank, however, the brothers realized immediately that the whole shebang would have to be raised up if it were going to be seen from SR 164 and elsewhere.
Before the brothers could begin their part of the project, the painting company that had included the brothers in their original bid package had to come in, scrub and prime the tank.
Peter, Rolf and Rolf's daughter, Anja, began work Oct. 5 and finished in a week.
Peter explained how it happened.
"The only way to really get those fish accurate is that we made big patterns and then taped those up," said Peter by phone from his home in Sandpoint, Idaho. "Rolf did those before we got there, and those patterns were then taken and traced out, and we kind of filled in the lines. Generally, we don't use brushes, so we did the whole tank with these mini rollers, which can produce a really nice line. From about 10 feet back, it looks like it was stenciled on."
No small task to do such precision work on a curved surface.
"That's why creating these big patterns worked, they could take the curve. Often on a tank that is not quite so curved we can project the patterns on a big projector. That didn't work on this tank because it is a small circumference," Peter said.
The Goetzingers worked from a Snorkel lift, which had to reach at least 120 feet so the artists could finish the logo near the top.
"It's always interesting going that high on a lifter," Peter said. "When you're up 120 feet in the air and there's a slight breeze, that lifter can sway five or six feet either way, and you have to learn how to compensate for that, especially when you're doing something as tight as lettering. And my brother and I are both punsters, which can be a joy and a real detriment. We're up on the lift throwing puns at each other, and it can get a little whacky."
Obviously, translating from a small to a very large scale and making it work takes a steady hand and mental sharpness. Those skills the Goetziner brothers have honed over the years to a fine point.
Leaving their touch
Water tanks throughout the West today bear their touch. They painted their first on the Issaquah Plateau about 15 years ago, and just before the job for the tribal utility another for the City of Puyallup.
With Peter living in Sandpoint and Rolf in Spokane, it's easy for the brothers to get together and work on bids, proposals and designs and then pitch them.
"We worked for another company and now we are off on our own, developing jobs. We're both artists. The tank murals are not full-time work and are seasonal," Peter said. "I do a lot of public art and mural work. My brother does mural work as well. That's kind of our profession. Rolf and I are aspiring to be the best tank painters in the country, and I think without tooting the horn too much, I think we're right up there and can compete with anybody in the country."
It's important to consider, Peter said, that while what they do is not only for private and public utilities, it's also public art.
"The ones who benefit the most are the public," Peter said. "If these tanks are left just plain, they're kind of an eyesore in a way. They serve a great purpose to the community because they provide water storage. But to go that extra mile — and many utilities are doing this now — to put either some graphic or some mural work on it, or maybe even the town's name on it or something, that really creates good public relations between the utility and the public. That's where we come in," Peter said
To learn more about the Goetzinger brothers' work, visit them on the Web at artistbrothers.com.
COURTESY PHOTO BELOW: Artists used a Snorkel lift to reach near the top of the water tank and complete the logo.