June 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When Trevor Hollins decided he wanted to paint a mural in son Logan’s bedroom in their West Omaha home, he found inspiration in a favorite read from his own childhood: Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree. The book’s cover illustration features a young boy catching an apple being dropped by a large, leafy tree.

“I liked reading Shel Silverstein books growing up and going back, reading the story as an adult, I became aware of the deeper themes of these books—selflessness, the human condition, cherishing the earth…” Hollins says. “Everyone is both the tree and the boy at some time in their life.”

To create the mural, Hollins used a technique his mother, an artist, had used to create a mural years ago. “I remember her using a crude image projector, which was basically a box with a mirror that would project whatever image was placed into the box onto a surface,” he says. “I got to thinking, I could have a lot more control over the image if I used a digital projector, so I used a digital camera to take a picture of the cover of the book. Then, using a laptop, I was able to scale and orient the image on the wall. Once I had the image projected, it was simply a matter of tracing over the lines of the image.” No problem for Hollins, an electrical engineer with HDR who works with computer-generated images daily.

With the help of his brother, Greg, Hollins traced the outline using paintbrushes and black latex paint, then filled in the apple and the boy’s overalls with red paint to replicate the color illustration. In all, the project cost him and Greg about six hours of their weekend and less than $50 in supplies.

One lesson the Hollins brothers learned the hard way was that the right tools make all the difference. “Having the correct brush type for this project is important. My brother and I originally started the project with some old paintbrushes I already had. We realized early on we needed fine brushes to do the job right, and so we spent a good amount of time wandering the aisles of Hobby Lobby searching for the perfect brushes,” he confesses.

Since the completion of the mural, Hollins and wife Alicia have decorated the rest of Logan’s room with other storybook themes: Curious George sheets now dress his bed, and an artwork purchased on Etsy creatively displays a whimsical illustration from the Dr. Seuss book And to Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street.

Hollins says he hopes The Giving Tree mural will instill in his son an appreciation for Silverstein’s books. “Right now, [to Logan] it’s just a cool picture of a tree handing an apple to the little boy, as it was to me when I was his age. Hopefully, years from now, he will find the message meaningful.”

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