Dana Burford - Brookville Class of 1975
Story from the News & Advance - By Darrell Laurant
Published: August 3, 2008

Dana Burford stands in front of a mural at the new Big Lick Tropical Grill on Timberlake Road on Friday. Burford’s murals have adorned four separate restaurants at the same location, in addition to several other stores and restaurants in the Lynchburg area.


Without question, 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 Lakeside Drive.

“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 work.”

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 produced.”

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.”