Lewisville resident Connie Nicholson has enjoyed painting since she was in her teens and said she is attempting to make art her career. A few years ago, she and other artist members of the Visual Art League of Lewisville painted a series of canvases to hang in the city’s then-brand-new Medical Center of Lewisville Grand Theater. Two of the panels were reproductions of a historic photo of Lewisville’s passenger train station circa 1909 and Nicholson painted one of them.
Commercial Bank of Texas, formerly known as Lewisville State Bank, commissioned Nicholson to recreate that photo again on canvas to hang in their lobby.
The photo was part of James Polser’s collection. Polser, who owned and operated the Lewisville Feed Mill, had numerous historic photos of Lewisville in his collection. Many of them were used in the 2002 Lewisville history book “Reflections – A Folklore History of Lewisville, Texas” by Jeff Fielder.
The photo depicts a busy train station along the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad– along the same right-of-way, and not far from where Old Town Station currently sits on DCTA’s A-Train line. According to the caption in Fielder’s book, both whites and African Americans waited on the train at the then-segregated station.
Nicholson built the canvas for the 24-by 42-inch oil painting and painted it from July 1 through early September. While an oil painting can take up to a year to completely dry, Nicholson said it’s dry enough to touch now.
The train was the hardest to paint, said Nicholson. “Because of the perspective lines, I would draw them on there, but when I would start painting it, my hand would stray off of the line.” She said she used a grid system to lay out the painting, with a finer grid on an area of detail.
Nicholson said the painting did require some interpretation. “Some things I still don’t know what they are, but I painted them as I saw them,” she said. “Sometimes, only after a painting is finished and I step back from it, I can see what it was that I was copying.”
While the photo was black and white, Nicholson chose a sepia-toned theme for her painting. Some areas of detail too fine to be shown in the photo may have a bit more detail than can be made out in the photo, but Nicholson did not take much license in improvising. People depicted in the painting show motion and direction, without the viewer getting distracted by facial details.
“The people were easy for me,” said Nicholson. “That’s always been my strength.” Nicholson noted that even though she’s good with figures, she does not do them as much. “I [normally] do animals and landscapes and still lifes,” she said.
The painting shows a cropped section of the photo. Nicholson said they had to adjust the size and shape to fit the location where the painting is hung.
When CBT moved from its old location on Main Street to its new home at Mill and Elm streets, Assistant VP Heather Cicirello wanted the new location to reflect their history with the Lewisville community.
Cicirello asked her bank’s architecture firm, Rogers-Ford, to find some art for the new bank building. The firm went back to Cicirello and showed her the series from the MCL Grand.
When Cicirello saw Nicholson’s panel in that series, she knew that was the one she wanted that for her bank. “I picked it because it said Lewisville on it, and you could tell that it was from a long time ago,” said Cicirello.
The architectural firm contacted Visual Art League, who connected them with Nicholson.
This past Monday, Nicholson delivered her completed painting to the bank, where it has been hung in the lobby.
Though CBT is in a new building, Cicirello thinks this painting helps tie back to its history in the community.
“We had a big memorabilia display [in the old location], and it was important to us because we thought that was cool to tie into the Old Town community with our bank,” said Cicirello. “I just wanted to bring some old back, and celebrate Lewisville.”
Cicirello said the bank has history in Lewisville since 1901. “It’s very important to us to be involved in the community, and be a big part of the community,” she said.
Nicholson thanked Cicirello for CBT’s support of Visual Art League in the past. The bank used to host VAL artists’ works for display in their lobby at the old location. Cicirello paused that for the move, but now says she would like to start that up again.
Cicirello said she loves the painting, and welcomes the public to come in and take a look.