FORT DODGE — There are big canvases to paint on, and then are really big canvases.
Artist Guido van Helten, of Brisbane, Australia, is working on the biggest one available in Fort Dodge — an 80-foot-tall abandoned concrete silo along Hawkeye Avenue.
He's recently started putting brush to concrete after meticulously planning the work.
"I trust my planning," said van Helten.
The mural will, in its finished form, be viewable from all four sides of the structure.
"It's going to be a 360-degree mural," he said.
Van Helten's work was chosen by the Public Art Committee, which was formed in 2016 to oversee the silo project. Members include city planning staff, the Fort Dodge Fine Arts Association, the Image Committee of the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance, and staff from the Blanden Memorial Art Museum.
He's painted murals on large buildings all over the U.S., Asia, Europe and Australia.
When planning a work, he considers the existing concrete surface, both its color and shape, to be an organic part of the work.
"It's really cool to use the concrete as a base," he said. "I use all the angles. Some are curved, some are flat."
The paint is specially formulated for concrete.
"It's a mineral-based paint," he said. "It bonds and becomes part of the wall."
It actually repels moisture, something that will be important in the future on the north-facing side of the silo.
"There was a mold back here," he said. "Now, with this paint, it protects the concrete as well."
He didn't want to get too aggressive in removing that mold, he said, because he wanted to preserve the concrete's naturally aged patina.
"I don't want to change it; I want to add to it," he said.
Right now he's working on the sides that receive the least sunlight.
"When the weather turns I'll be in the sun," he said.
He's already had one turn with the Iowa weather.
"I was painting in the snow the other day," he said, adding, "The paint dries. It's OK."
Much of his workday is spent in a lift bucket high above the ground. He likes it when people come by and watch, but he isn't able to spend much time on the ground with them.
And don't ask him how many gallons of paint he's going to use either. The land down under uses metric measurements.
"I use liters," he said.
Van Helten doesn't have an exact date when he expects to complete his work, but he does have an estimate.
"End of November," he said. "You'll see."
The silo mural project is funded entirely by donations from the community, local businesses and grants.