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Artist makes big waves in Poulsbo

POULSBO — Barry Iles takes a step back on the tall scaffold, looks a harbor seal in the eye and goes back to work. For the mural artist, the devil is in the details, even when the painting in progress is 20 feet off the ground.

“I’m not scared of heights,” he explained, as the support creaks under his feet. Good thing. If he was, Iles might just end up in the tank of starfish he is precariously positioned above.

The long-time Silverdale resident has found a temporary home here in Little Norway at the Marine Science Center. Since the beginning of the year, Iles has been “brushing up” on a 53-foot indoor mural that will depict Puget Sound’s various marine and outdoor environments. When completed, the once drab walls of the MSC will boast the largest indoor painting of its kind in all of North Kitsap.

“I do a lot of outdoor scenes,” Iles said, adding some tints to the seal’s enormous, black eyes. In the background, other seals chase fish playfully and while the scene is impressive in itself — it is a mere part of the overall work. On the western wall, sea life of all shapes, sizes and colors sprawls, crawls and swims around a large pier. A little further south, a majestic Mount Rainier is sure to draw even more gazes upward.

For Iles, creating beauty is all in a day’s work.

“I’ve been painting since I was a kid,” he said with a shrug, apparently not satisfied with the inspired piece sprawled out before him. Not yet at least.

“I’ve done murals before — just nothing this big,” he remarked. “I wanted to add the mountain and some islands in there so it didn’t just look like a big fish bowl.”

The Silverdale muralist took first place in a 2001 competition at Marine Science Center established to give area artists a chance to vie for $1,000 in mural contract money. The mural is phase one of the center’s new exhibit renovation project, which will completely transform the look and feel of the 1,600-square-foot main floor.

Iles has set his sights on April 1 as a completion date, asserting, “I’ll get it.”

In the meantime, many visitors at the MSC have been treated to more than Northwest sea life but a look at a modern day Michelangelo hard at work. In fact, the center might just pick up the nickname as the region’s “Fish-tine” chapel.

“This is neat because it’s in my community,” he said, assessing the seal, again. “I think that’s just great.”

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