CHARLESTON -- A storefront window seems like a less than favorable canvas for a developing artist, let alone an experienced one. But for 8-year-old Henry Guillen, it is preferred.
"Everyone gets to see my work of art," Henry said.
Henry saw it as a no-brainer. It gets his artwork out into the public space.
This year, the Carl Sandburg Elementary School student was the one to paint the Mystery, Inc., gang with Christmas flavor on the windows of the Courtesy Loans storefront located at 500 6th St. ahead of Charleston's big holiday celebration.
He, along with other volunteers, took time to brighten up the streets of the Charleston square with a little Christmas spirit in time for Christmas in the Heart of Charleston.
Diane Ratliff, Charleston Tourism director, said each year, artists in the area are called upon to help paint the storefronts of the square. They have been Eastern Illinois University students, students from the Charleston district and other community members looking to simply help out.
Henry was introduced to the opportunity a couple of years ago. Amber Pedigo, Henry's mother, said his first-grade teacher at the time, Yvonne Larson, recognized his talent and asked the then six-year-old to participate.
This latest foray was his third time doing this.
His first year, he painted Jack Skellington from "A Nightmare Before Christmas," a favorite holiday movie of his. It was his first time putting a brush— in this case, a foam brush— to a window, and yet he said he was more excited than nervous.
"It was really exciting that first time my teacher told me I could do this," he said.
His second was Charlie Brown.
In each case, the process was found to be a tough but rewarding one. For his most recent painting, it took Henry approximately 4 hours over the span of two days to complete. He drew from a sketch of the Scooby-Doo gang. The painting turned out to be one of the more challenging ones he has tackled without too many straight lines among the crew.
This was all done in sometimes demanding weather for the 8-year-old.
Pedigo said Henry goes to the square right after school and stays after the sun sets regardless of the temperature. She added it was often hard to pull him from the project even in the nippy temperatures.
"I have to set a goal for him or he will (continue on)," Pedigo said.
"I just wanted to keep on painting," Henry said.
He said it is worth the cold and time.
"I just like doing it," he said. The compliments didn't hurt either, though.
"It feels good."
Paintings were scattered along the windows of businesses along the square for the annual holiday event. Another artist Kindra Kroll of Charleston painted a Charlie Brown Christmas scene along the wide window panes of CTF Illinois.
Kroll said for her, it is meaningful to give locals an image that might let them wander back to good memories with holiday movies like "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and the holiday in general, however fleeting it might be.
Ratliff said the paintings will be removed at the first of the month if not sooner depending on how they fair the weather.