Slater finishes Bemelmans-inspired mural in Saint Andrews café

By Heather Knight

Jeff Lively photo Local artist Geoff Slater in the room at Drewhaven Town and Country where he just finished a Ludwig Bemelmans-inspired mural.

SAINT ANDREWS – A new mural is bringing the town of Saint Andrews to life.

Geoff Slater has created murals throughout Charlotte County, leaving various towns with art pieces that capture the feeling you get when visiting or living there.

Now, the local artist has done the same thing at Drewhaven Town and Country.

Lee Wells, owner of Drewhaven, approached Slater to propose the special project. Slater began work on the mural this past November. Wells, a renowned interior designer, wanted the décor of the café and lounge area in Drewhaven to compliment the space.

The vision for the mural was to capture the ambience of Bemelmans Bar in New York City.

Named after Ludwig Bemelmans, artist and author of the Madeline book series, the bar located in the Carlyle Hotel is the last public display of his work, according to Slater.

“It creates a magical feel,” said the artist. The idea wasn’t to duplicate Bemelmans’ work, but rather duplicate the feeling it inspires.

“It created a dilemma for me as an artist,” Slater said.

Artists live to create. Many find their own unique touches to add to their work and make it theirs. While the project still allowed for creativity, it challenged Slater to step into the head space of an artist who created very different murals from his own.

“It’s not a style I work in at all,” he said. “You kind of have to humble yourself to the process.”

Bemelmans’ work is witty and quick, which is nearly the exact opposite of the slower pace Slater described his work involving.

Learning more about the man behind the murals was a part of the process Slater really enjoyed. While he knew of Bemelmans’ work, he wasn’t incredibly well-acquainted with it.

“I really enjoyed unpacking that,” said the artist.

The mural captures Bemelmans’ “done in a flash” style across the nine-foot-high walls in the 30 by 35-foot room.

“I think I’ve found that common ground that makes it different enough to call my own,” said Slater.

Going back to the basics and setting aside his own style is something he thinks may have even helped improve his own process.

The mural depicts a summer in Saint Andrews including different community members, significant buildings, common animals of the area, and even some pets from the community, among other features intended to make Saint Andrews feel even more special.

“They’ll have to figure out who they are,” Slater said, referring to those captured in the mural. “That garden feel is very much a part of Saint Andrews and this mural. Deer have definitely made their way into it, too.”

Bemelmans’ work has many moving parts, adding to the level of difficulty involved with capturing the specific ambience Slater and Wells envisioned. Slater described seeing all the pieces come together to beginning to create a cohesive art piece as reaching the sweet spot.

The timeless floor to ceiling mural incorporates décor, furniture, and doors, making it blend seamlessly in the room.

“We want people 50 years from now to enjoy it like they do Bemelmans’,” said Slater. “It’s about the place and the love people have for it. Hopefully we’ve captured that.”