Greg Preslicka is almost done with the Scott County Library mural.
The big 9-by-14-foot section in the system's Savage branch sits to his left, already complete. In it, three cartoon critters putz along in a teal-and-purple dirigible, high above a rolling prairie scene not far removed from the southern Minnesotan landscape where the library is located.
Now Preslicka is working on the remaining 8-by-8-foot section, shading in a dog and cat who are sharing the cab of what looks to be a purple hang glider. An old Walkman playing National Public Radio is clipped to his belt, and a new haircut and a matching, neatly trimmed brown beard frame his round face.
Staccato dabs with a short-haired brush do most of the work, but it's the long, wavy, contoured strokes that get the final say. He stops all the time to quickly mix colors in an old metal tray. There's a reddish brown, two shades of neon orange, three shades of turquoise, a light purple and a deep blue, but there is no black. Preslicka doesn't use black. And he doesn't do Disney characters.
"What I do is create unique stuff. There's value in having something that is totally unique," said Preslicka, speaking in the calm, thoughtful demeanor of a man who paints children's murals.
"In art school, everyone wanted to illustrate children's books, and this is a way I could do some of that."
The Savage resident grew up in New Prague and went to the College of Visual Arts in St. Paul. After graduation, he worked for a few different local design firms before starting Preslicka Studio 18 years ago.
Much of his work has been aimed at a youthful audience. Preslicka has done jobs for General Mills, Dairy Queen, Nabisco, Malt-O-Meal and 3M, as well as creating the logos for Scott County and the cities of Savage and Burnsville.
He has five kids himself, ages 10 to 18, and originally started painting murals for their bedrooms. Then he had the idea to start painting other children's bedrooms for extra income on the side.
His first big project was the pool at the Burnsville YMCA, and since then he's done 17 projects for different YMCAs across the metro.
His mural business is called the Big Picture and has snowballed in large part due to the business savvy of his wife, Heidi, who graduated from St. Thomas with a degree in marketing. Today there are more than 50 Preslicka murals in Minnesota, in places ranging from day cares to museums.
"I do get to do the fun part," said Greg.
Back at the Scott County Library, librarian Dea Goldy could not be more pleased with the results.
The library staff wanted to do something to commemorate its 15th birthday, and fellow librarian Lisa Pollard suggested they commission Preslicka for a mural.
By the end of last summer they had a plan in place, and had all of the funding ready by Dec. 1. The Rotary Club, Davanni's and other community contributors all paved the way for the new mural.
"It has been so, so much better than we imagined," said Goldy. "We wanted an adventuresome, fun theme, and it just came together in a perfect way."
Ben Johnson is a Twin Cities freelance writer.