Kyle Hughes-Odgers has painted murals around the world but has just finished his most challenging canvas to date.
He spent two weeks in a cherry picker, painting a 35-metre-high grain silo in the West Australian Wheatbelt town of Merredin — a daunting task for an artist who is afraid of heights.
“I have a rational fear of being in a metal cage at the top of a stick,” Hughes-Odgers laughed.
“But I wanted to push myself and have the challenge of conquering that.
“The first few days were very intense, really having to psych myself up to go higher and higher.”
He worked from dawn to dusk, going through 200 litres of paint and battling the elements to produce the 12-storey-high artwork that references Merredin’s seasons, harvests, waterways and land formations.
“When we were at the top and the machine was fully extended any slight wind was exaggerated,” he said.
“I was trying to deal with that adrenaline but obviously wanted the composition of the artwork to be exactly what I wanted it to be.”
The mural is part of a project by not-for-profit arts organisation FORM in partnership with grain handler CBH to boost cultural tourism in WA.
Similar murals have taken over silos in Northam and Ravensthorpe in a bid to create a trail of attractions throughout the regions.
This year, local residents were asked to get involved in a coinciding story gathering and social documentary project celebrating regional communities.
One of them was Renee Manning, who grew up in Merredin before going away for school, then coming back.
“I talked a little bit about my experience as a boomerang,” Ms Manning said.
“I came back because of love and made this place my home.
“The storytelling project is about uncovering what it is about Merredin that makes it tick, the personalities.
“I thought why not put my hand up and say ‘I’m proud to live here’.”
The mural itself has generated plenty of discussion among locals in Merredin and has served as a distraction from what’s been a tough grain season.
The shire’s CEO Greg Powell said he hoped it would catch the eye of tourists travelling along Great Eastern Highway and encourage them to stop in, rather than just drive by.
“One of the issues we have being on a major road is that it’s difficult to get people to stop,” he said.
“Certainly having something like this will give people an opportunity to stop and see what else is around Merredin.”
FORM has received hundreds of submissions from throughout regional WA for future makeovers of buildings or infrastructure.
It was set to announce its next canvas later this year.