Ryan Scott Ottney
PDT Staff Writer
Louisiana-based artist Herb Roe has been invited back to Portsmouth this summer to add another of his signature murals to the high school girls’ softball field at the Clark Memorial Athletic Complex.
Artist Herb Roe graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1992, and attended the Columbus College of Art and Design before joining-up with artist Robert Dafford on the Portsmouth floodwall murals 20 years ago. Roe spent 15 years traveling with Dafford and eventually moved to LaFayette, La., where Dafford was based. After doing murals with Dafford in Portsmouth, New Orleans, Texas, and more, Roe branched out to do more of his own work.
He was first hired by Portsmouth City Schools in 2006 to paint murals inside the new school building.
“(I did) the three Trojans mural, welcoming you into the building. The painting of the old school and the painting of the different figures around that big wooden piece hanging on the wall. All three of those over there are mine,” he said.
Because of his history in Portsmouth, and his past work with PHS, he was asked to come back and paint the murals at the Clark Memorial Athletic Complex in 2009. On the first wall of the complex, Roe painted a Portsmouth Trojans baseball player, circa 1960. Next to that is a tennis mural, then a large landscape football mural spanning the decades of Trojan football and uniforms.
He was invited back to the school again last year to paint another mural on the newly completed high school track, so when the school started work on their new girl’s softball field — who else would they call? Located on the corner of Ninth and Waller streets in Portsmouth, the new field still has a lot of work ahead of it.
But the press box is standing on the corner of the site, where Roe started his latest work last week. He’s joined on the project by artist Michael Doherty — another Portsmouth graduate whom Roe met while working with Dafford Murals.
Roe first drafts the images in Adobe Photoshop and then normally he projects them onto the wall using a gridding process; breaking the small picture into many smaller squares on a grid and then scaling them up onto a larger grid on the wall. Unfortunately, electrical work hasn’t been installed yet at the softball field, so he couldn’t use his projector this time.
“A local photographer sent me a bunch of his photos to use,” Roe said. “I wanted to kind of parallel the one we have on the track, so I have this one big, central figure, and all these other figures balanced around it. When I got the photos of the players, a bunch of them was taken down by the levee at the old field, so you can see running in the background there’s going to be the hills of Kentucky on the other side of the river, then the levee and part of a floodwall.”
Incorporating the levee worked very well, Roe said, when he arrived at the field and realized the school had the same idea and have built a large levee around the new field to honor the old. He said he’s always astounded to see the changes to the old neighborhood when he comes to town.
“I love coming back here. This is the school I went to high school at, where I attended. I love coming back and doing something nice and making it look good. Hopefully it’s instilling pride with the next generation of students here to keep coming back and doing something for the town, the city and the school,” he said.
While in Portsmouth, Roe said he stopped by the floodwall murals to see his old friend and mentor, Robert Dafford, who is also in town this summer adding a new library mural on the side of the Scioto County Welcome Center.
Roe expects to complete his softball mural by July 7, if the weather plays ball.
Ryan Scott Ottney may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 287, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Ryan on Twitter @PDTwriter.