Painter takes barn art to new heights

When Scott Hagan was commissioned by the Ohio Bicentennial Committee in 1998 to paint the bicentennial logo on one barn in each of Ohio's 88 counties, he had only painted one other barn.
It was his father's.
"I painted an Ohio State Buckeyes logo on my Dad's barn," Scott shares. "My grandpa took a picture of it and sent it to the local newspaper."
It just so happened that when the picture ran in the paper, a representative from the Bicentennial Committee was traveling through the Jerusalem, Ohio, area and saw the picture.
"Literally, within a few weeks, I got a call from the state," Scott, 27, says of the telephone call that catapulted his hobby into a career.
"I'm glad I took my time on it," Scott says with a laugh.
Just out of high school
It was his first year out of high school, and Scott was working construction during the day. For two weeks, he spent his evenings up on a ladder sketching and painting his father's barn.
Listening to his story, I am amazed at Scott's stroke of good fortune. Yet, a question lingered in my mind. "Why did you paint your father's barn?" I asked, wondering how this thought came to him.
"I had been doing little things," Scott says.
In high school, friends would ask him to paint a design on their truck. He painted the sign for the local baseball field.
"I don't like to sit down and do that little stuff," he said. Scott admits he didn't enjoy painting back then.
When he painted the Beallsville Blue Devil mascot logo on the 50-yard line of his hometown football field, it struck a chord in his heart.
"That was the first big thing I did," Scott recalls. "When I painted the barn, I just wanted to see how big I could do it."
He had no idea how huge his painting would become.
When he received the call from the state asking him to paint 88 barns, Scott felt a bit overwhelmed. He sought assistance from the only person who shared his love for painting big: Harley Warrick.
Harley, also from Ohio, was the artist responsible for the "Mail Pouch" barns painted across the state.
"With that big job coming up, I thought who better to go to for advice," Scott says of his mentor.
"I was using a ladder," Scott explains. "Harley told me about the rope and pulley system he used."
Along with advice, Harley gave Scott confidence and assurance. "He didn't die doing it," Scott chuckles. "He never fell."
Harley died -- of natural causes -- several years ago. "Now that he's passed away, there's really no one else to talk to," Scott says with a touch of sadness.
Work in New York
In a few weeks, Scott will be setting out for upstate New York. He has been commissioned to paint a barn for a centennial celebration in a small town near Syracuse.
He will leave Jerusalem, where he lives with his wife, Amanda, "just a stone's throw" from the house he grew up in, and travel in his van, pulling a pop-up camper.
"In these small towns, there's not always a place to stay," Scott explains.
When he arrives, he will set up his pump jack -- a more modern approach from Harley's rope-and-pulley system. Then, he will take out his carpenter's crayon and begin to draw on the rough barn wood.
His freehand artwork has been perfected by practically no formal schooling.
"I think we had art in seventh and eighth grade," he says when I ask him about his training. "It's a gift."
When the weather grows cold this fall, Scott will put his crayon and paint away.
"During the summer, I get worn out," he says. "But after winter, I'm ready to get out there and paint."
This winter, however, there will be other matters on Scott's mind. Scott and Amanda are expecting their first child in December.
But in the spring, he will be back on the scaffolding.
"I like what I do," Scott says.
"I hope I keep getting jobs for as long as I can get up the ladder."
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