muralist Dana Burford has left his mark on Lynchburg — in some places,
more than once.
Take the piece of property on Timberlake Road where a newly ordained Big
Lick Tropical Grill opened last week. Before that, it was the Cattle
Ranch, before that T-Bone Jack’s, and before that the Lynchburg Chop
House. Each of these establishments, at one time, boasted a Burford.
You’ve probably also seen his work on a rear wall at Givens Books, or
his New York City scene outside the former Mudpuppy’s, or maybe even the
futuristic world he created inside the short-lived Blue Moon Cafe on
“I’d say most of my murals have been done in Lynchburg, actually,” said
Burford, who now lives in Altamonte Springs, Fla., but was recruited by
Big Lick owner Kent Wood for the latest wall art.
“I knew what I wanted, and I knew Dana was the person to do it,” Wood
said. “Generally, we work together very well. Dana’s ideas are usually
better than mine, but I can’t always afford them.”
The most recent compromise adorns a rear wall and depicts a weathered
sailboat, a rustic-looking shack, a palm tree, the ocean and glowing
strings of holiday lights — Christmas in Margaritaville.
“I looked through a site on ‘swamp real estate’ on the Internet to get
some of the images,” Burford said.
With his shaved head, husky build and black T-shirt, he looked the part
of the artistic loner he is.
“I almost always work alone,” he said. “It’s always my vision, and by
the time I explain it to someone else, I could have done it myself.”
He starts out with the roughest of sketches, lays down two coats of
background paint with a roller, and then lets the mural take the lead.
“It usually changes as I go,” he said.
His profession is a long and honored one, dating back to medieval
frescos and Michelangelo — perhaps the most celebrated muralist of all.
“In the early days, mural painters worked for room and board,” Burford
said, “and that’s why there are so many details in their paintings. The
longer they worked, the longer they got to eat.”
Burford, of course, gets paid in the usual 21st century fashion —
sometimes very well.
“I’ve gotten a lot faster doing the murals over time,” he said, “and
I’ve learned how to charge. The first mural I did paid $45, and took me
the better part of three weeks to do. Obviously, that wasn’t going to
There is no debate about the best wall upon which to hang much of
Burford’s work — the painting is the wall.
“The biggest one I’ve done was down in Florida,” he said, “for a floral
shop. It was three stories high.”
Some of his “outside” art, however, is literally off the wall.
“I enjoy doing murals,” he said, “but I’m also trying to find more time
to do some painting for me. I’m talking about on canvas. My latest thing
is to intentionally double-expose film and then paint the image that is
Dana Burford’s life, like his art, seems to be a work in progress.
“I’m living in Florida now,” he said, “but I’ve been getting a lot of
work up here. At this point, I’m not sure exactly what I’m going to do
or where I’m going to go.”
Not even the fluctuations of the economy faze him.
“Hey, if someone can’t afford to go on vacation,” he said, “maybe I can
paint them a tropical mural for their house. Then, it would be like
being on vacation every day.”