The lead artist charged with creating a bold entry statement for Mt Barker as part of next month’s Mountains and Murals says she has “been stalking Mt Barker for a couple of years” in anticipation. Canadian artist Elaine Wallis has been locked in to paint the 10x4m mural since early 2021. The mural, which will be on a freestanding billboard near the northern entrance to town, was originally planned to be painted as part of last year’s festival before COVID-19 caused its postponement. Ms Wallis said she could not believe it was finally happening after a busy year and multiple projects which had been delayed by the pandemic. “I’m so excited to get back to travelling with my Walldog pals,” she said. The festival will add another eight murals to Mt Barker’s growing collection after the Walldogs painted six as part of the inaugural Mountains and Murals in 2019. An international collective of former sign painters and other artists, the Walldogs painted their first mural in Iowa in 1993, at an event hosted by the group’s founder, Nancy Bennett. They now hold several festivals each year throughout the US and around the world, converging on a town to paint murals inspired by local history. Mountains and Murals organiser David Johnson — the former officer-in-charge of Mt Barker police station — is a Walldog artist who has travelled to the US to paint with the Walldogs several times. Seventeen Walldog artists from Canada, the US, UK and Australia will travel to Mt Barker next month for a busy five days of painting and community events expected to attract thousands of people to the town. The design of the eight new murals, including the entry statement, will be unveiled two weeks before the festival. “It’s traditional for Walldog event organisers to keep the content of the mural under wraps until close to the festival as it provides an opportunity for a community unveiling,” Ms Wallis said. “I do count on the committee to provide research and information and I’ve been in constant contact with the Mountains and Murals team who provided the initial information of landmarks and what the area is renowned for. “It always starts with research, asking questions and finding a way to tell the story in an original and compelling way.” She said the design of the mural took up a lot of “dwell time” in her head before putting pencil to paper. “My design is not only about who you are, but also about how you want people to feel … safe, warm and welcoming, a unique place that feels inviting, a place to grow up,” she said. “I want people to feel like they’ve arrived home and guests to feel welcome and curious.” Ms Wallis has extensive experience with the Walldogs, having painted more than a dozen murals in her home country of Canada as well as the US and Greece. She has a finely-tuned design process that starts with pencil sketches before moving on to create the design digitally. “I always hand-paint a maquette or the mini mural to finalise the paint pallet — this becomes the final reference to work with on site,” she said. “As an experienced project leader on many Walldog murals I know that it’s important to create a design that can be broken down and executed in a few days by a team of artists of all skill levels. “I want others to be able to pick up a brush and take ownership of the work — that’s the spirit of Walldogs and that’s truly the fun part.” The design of the murals will be unveiled as part of a community event on November 3. The festival launch, including mural projections and late-night shopping. will take place on November 16. Mt Barker Bowls and Sporting club will host a dinner with the Walldogs where signed mural pieces will be auctioned off on November 19. The festival will culminate in a market day on November 20 where there will be nearly 70 market stalls, live music and a classic and vintage car display.