Artist working on mural for C-Falls bank

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Artist Nick Oberling works on a mural for the lobby of Freedom Bank in Columbia Falls. (Chris Peterson photo)

Hungry Horse artist Nick Oberling can only work on his latest painting from 7 to about 9 every morning. After that, it just gets too hot — literally.

Oberling is putting th finishing touches on a massive 9-by-14-foot mural for Freedom Bank. He can only work on the mural in the mornings because once the sun hits, it gets too warm.

When complete, the mural, painted on aluminum, will be displayed above the teller booths in the Columbia Falls bank. The work was commissioned by the bank, he said.

Oberling has been working on the mural for the better part of two months. The mural should be finished and go into the bank sometime this month.

This is the largest mural Oberling have ever done. It depicts Glacier Park’s Bird Woman Falls and the surrounding peaks — Mounts Oberlin, Clements, Cannon and Brown.

Oberling grew up in Long Island, New York, where the highest point was the garbage dump, he noted. But he always loved painting.

“Growing up I always had a painting easel next to my bed,” he said.

A gifted artist, Oberling has painted Glacier Park for the past 18 years. In 2014 he completed a three-year project where he packed into the wilderness regions of Glacier and painted backcountry scenes plein air. Prior to the project, many of the scenes had never been painted before.

He opened his studio in Hungry Horse with his wife, Dr. Betsy Bittman, last summer.

Oberling’s landscapes work in two different dimensions, one is the scene and light on the landscape from a distance, but like a high resolution photograph, Oberling also paints in the details, particularly in the trees, down to the very leaf.

He said getting the mountains right in this mural was paramount.

“It’s hard to understand them and the overall shape ... to get the rock layers right,” he said.

Oberling studied art formally at the Art Students League in New York, New York.

His work has been shown throughout the U.S. and he was on the Hockaday Museum of Art board of directors in Kalispell for 11 years.

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