Patrick Corrigan was in a race against the clock and calendar to finish the mural.
Portland artist Patrick Corrigan stands in front of his completed mural at the corner of Congress and St. John streets on Friday. The three-story creation replaces a Greyhound Bus sign that stood for decades. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

PORTLAND, Maine — Patrick Corrigan wore a paint-splattered hoodie on Friday while gazing up at his just-finished, art nouveau-style mural, pointing out a few visual Easter eggs he left for viewers to find.

Those patient enough for a thorough search will discover a couple cat faces in the towering, three-story piece. Corrigan also embedded the name of a construction worker’s daughter. The hard-hatted man, working at a nearby hospital jobsite, made the request one day while on a lunch break.

Corrigan obliged, and now the girl’s name is up there. It’s easy to spot — if you know where to look.

Amid shrinking daylight hours, falling daily temperatures, frigid November rains and December coming on fast, the Portland artist was in a race against the clock and calendar to finish the mural.

So it’s surprising he had time for fun with it all, but Corrigan did.

A man stops to admire a new mural at the corner of Congress and St. John streets on Friday.
A man stops to admire a new mural at the corner of Congress and St. John streets on Friday. The three-story creation replaces a Greyhound Bus sign that stood for decades. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

He even threw in two racing-dog silhouettes as a symbolic shoutout to the iconic Greyhound Bus sign that occupied the same brick wall for decades before the station closed in 2020.

Corrigan’s stylized tree design was chosen for the spot this month in collaboration with Maine Medical Center and members of the St. John Valley Neighborhood Association. The hospital owns the building, at 940 Congress St. and is footing the $20,000 bill. 

We talked with Corrigan about what it was like to work on such a large project.

Q: Is it hard to paint a mural on a three-story building?

A: It depends on whether you’ve done it before, I suppose.

Q: You’ve done one this tall before?

A: Oh, yeah. The one at Oakhurst Dairy on Forest Avenue, that one’s more like four stories — warehouse sized.

Patrick Corrigan and assistant Winnifred Orr (top left) paint a mural on the side of a Portland building, which houses the Pizza Villa restaurant, on Nov. 4, 2022. Corrigan unrolls a section of his mural pattern (right). He casts a shadow (bottom left) over his mural while using a paint roller. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Q: To do this, you printed this whole design out into a grid of stencil blocks, right?

A: I think there were 72 different sheets of paper, each one 100 inches long and 36 inches wide.

Q: And — if I have this right — you then went over them, poking little holes along all the design lines, by hand, with some kind of tool?

A: Yes, it was a little pattern wheel from Joanne Fabrics.

Q: After that, you taped each pattern up, one by one, and then pounded them with a sock full of chalk, to trace the outline on the wall?

A: Yeah. It’s called a pounce pattern.

Patrick Corrigan puts almost final touches on a mural in Portland.
Patrick Corrigan puts almost final touches on a mural in Portland last Monday. The finished mural is three-stories tall and takes up one whole side of a brick building. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Q: But you probably didn’t really use a sock.

A: No, it was a sock. They probably sell official ones but my grandmother would not have approved of that.

Q: Was she a sign painter?

A: No, she was just very frugal.

Q: Are you afraid this now becomes the biggest graffiti target in the city?

A: A little bit. But I know the graffiti community to some degree, and I haven’t had anyone tag any of my other murals.

Q: Do people love your shoutout to the Greyhound station? A lot of people still miss the old sign.

A: They get nostalgic for stuff. I always associated this neighborhood with that sign, too. I immediately see people’s eyes light up when they see the dogs — and I figured, if the hospital didn’t like them, I could paint them over.

Q: How long did this take you to finish?

A: It’s three weeks. I’d say, like 150 hours.

Portland artist Patrick Corrigan paints a mural in the St. John Valley neighborhood in early November.
Working high in the air, Portland artist Patrick Corrigan paints a mural in the St. John Valley neighborhood on Nov. 4, 2022. Corrigan reckons he put about 100 hours into the project before finishing it last week. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Q: Where’s your next big mural commission?

A: I don’t have one yet. I’m hoping that maybe this will shake one out. 

Q: You must have other art you’re working on?

A: I have a couple of children’s book ideas that have been kicking around — one about a Casco Bay mermaid. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Winnifred Orr assists Patrick Corrigan in painting a mural on the side of a Portland building in early November.
Winnifred Orr assists Patrick Corrigan in painting a mural on the side of a Portland building, which houses the Pizza Villa restaurant, on Nov. 4, 2022. Corrigan based his tree-themed design on a late 19th century art nouveau book cover. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN
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Troy R. Bennett

Troy R. Bennett is a Buxton native and longtime Portland resident whose photojournalism has appeared in media outlets all over the world.