As owners Dylon and Katie Deschene prepare to open Revel Brewing at the corner of Main Avenue and 2nd Street, they recently commissioned a mural painting by a young artist.

Aleka London, age 16, is a sophomore at Park Rapids High School. She said she has been painting since she was little, but credits high school art teacher Michael Hartung with helping her develop her abilities.

Aleka’s parents, who are good friends with the Deschenes, made the connection between the artist and the opportunity.

“I was talking to her dad about it,” said Katie. “We wanted to do something with this wall, because it was so big and it was kind of an empty space. We talked about doing a mural, and he recommended his daughter. He was like, ‘Let me show you some of her art,’ and we thought it was amazing. She did a sample of what she thought she could do on the wall, and we’re like, ‘Yep. It’s perfect.’ And she started the next day.”

London’s painting depicts sunlight glancing off the surface of a long lake, with trees receding into the distance along the shore and leafy branches dangling in the foreground.

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The painting may have been inspired by photos, but it doesn’t depict a real place.

“I did, originally, see a photograph of a lake like this, but it was quite different. I changed it,” said London. “They just wanted a Minnesota theme, so I thought, lakes and trees. And then I saw pictures (like) these really cool trees in the foreground, and I had the idea to paint it.”

“I love it,” said Katie. “It’s awesome.”

Hard work

The 21-by-8 foot picture took London approximately 90 hours to paint.

“I didn’t work on it every day, so it was like two months, I think,” she said. “Because I had to work.”

London’s regular job is at the Good Life Cafe – not that she didn’t get paid for her artwork. The Deschenes rewarded London with a 1999 Jeep Cherokee.

“Some nights, she was here later than we were,” said Katie, recalling London’s hard work – like climbing down a tall scaffolding, moving it over and climbing back up.

“It was really fun, watching her put the leaves on,” said Katie, indicating the tree branches in the foreground. ”If it was me, I probably would have just cut a sponge out and stamped it on there, but she drew them with chalk and painted them all individually. It was neat to watch that all transform.”

London admitted that parts of the project were especially challenging. For example, she said, “The white streaks, in the sun on the water, were pretty hard to paint because the paint dries really fast, so it’s hard to blend it. Painting the trees in the background, too, because it takes forever to do every single one.

“My dad helped me a little bit, when I started to draw the trees out in chalk. That was taking the longest, so I asked him to come and help me with that. Otherwise, I painted everything.”

Asked how she feels about her achievement, London said, “I’ve never painted anything this big. I think it’s cool to know that I can paint murals.”

Nevertheless, she’s unsure whether she will pursue a career in art. “I know I’ll always do art,” she said.

Dylon said they plan to protect the painting with a clear coat, specially made for preserving art.