Local artist creates “Waukegan Express” to beautify parking lot

Above, artist Tom Pedersen with a painting of his brothers, both military servicemen. – Jeni Ensslin photos

by Tina Johansson

Waukegan is right on course for spring cleaning: street sweepers are being deployed and yard waste is being removed.

And the city is getting ready to add a pop of iconic beauty to a drab parking lot, by way of a 160-foot long train mural. The train which will stand 6 feet tall, is to include several distinctive style cars and engines: a 1940s, and an antique one.



“I’ve been thinking about this for a year,” said artist Tom Pedersen, of his plans to paint a train that he calls the “Waukegan Express” on the back side of businesses located at the corner of Clayton Street and Sheridan Road.

A resident of the Karcher Art Space in Waukgan who is originally from Des Plaines, Pedersen will have help from local artists, including City of Waukegan spokesperson David Motley. Motley is also an artist and works with Urban Edge Gallery, owned by the City of Waukegan.

Pedersen who has lived here less than two years, said he first approached Motley about the idea.

“I was walking down Sheridan Road exploring Waukegan when I came upon this big, unsightly stretch of wall. I thought it would look so much better if it were painted. I visualized a train and thought that it would fit pretty well.” Of his style for the mural, Pedersen, a former draftsman, said he is “using the principal of industrial design.”

“When I received one of Tom’s business cards and saw his style and I learned more about his passion for trains, I knew that he would be a perfect artist to design a mural for this location,” said Motley.

The plan is to begin work in mid-May. Depending on the weather, it will take approximately five days for artists to outline the passenger train in black, and paint the blue in the background. “It will be simple, because I want this to be very recognizable. Just three colors: black, blue and white,” said Pedersen, who holds a fine arts degree from Oakton College in Des Plaines.

Ace Hardware store in downtown Waukegan has donated the paint for the project.

Currently the back of the buildings which include Horsefeathers and Three Brothers Theatre, are being repaired so that the painting can go smoothly.

“I designed this to be recognizable from 50 yards away. When people drive by, especially the daily commuters, they will see that it’s a train,” said Pedersen who intends to copyright and sign the mural in an inconspicuous corner.

He said he has walked down the end of the main pier to the lighthouse on Lake Michigan, and can actually see the spot where the train mural will be. “That’s in the winter, when the leaves have fallen from the trees,” he said.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if visitors stand in front of it to get their pictures taken one day,” he added. “I think it’s going to be a positive, visual effect.”

Pedersen said he began creating art “as soon as I could pick up a pencil,” he said. “There wasn’t a grade in school that I wasn’t the best in the class, except for kindergarten.”

Besides drawings, he also paints using acrylics mostly as of late, and India ink. “I would say my style is ‘realist.’ But I am starting to loosen up my painting style a bit.”

At the end of May he plans to head to Door County to take an artist retreat, lead by a former professor and previous head of Oakton College art department, James Krauss. “He’s been holding this (retreat) every year for 30-years,” said Pedersen.

When he’s not drawing or painting, Pedersen plays banjo, and tutors adults at Waukegan Library who are seeking GEDs.

From left Tom Pedersen, at Urban Edge art gallery in Waukegan. - David Motley photo
What the mural will look like: From left is Tom Pedersen, Jennifer Hood, Jane Ferry, and City Clerk Maria LaCour at Urban Edge art gallery in Waukegan. – David Motley/City of Waukegan photo


6 thoughts on “Local artist creates “Waukegan Express” to beautify parking lot

  • May 6, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    Tom…How exciting !! I can’t wait to see it .. See you in Door County

    • May 9, 2016 at 9:57 am

      Thanks Sandy. I’m excited too. Wish I had a time line on this project earlier so I could have put some works in one of the local galleries but I’ll do that latertthis year. You can stop by anytime. The 3rd Saturday of every month is our Artwauk View u in Door County!

    • May 13, 2016 at 8:48 am

      Thanks Sandy! I am excited about both the mural and Door County.

  • May 11, 2016 at 8:19 am

    Congratulations Tom! What an honor and becoming part of art history in Waukegan!

  • May 12, 2016 at 9:04 am

    This is wonderful and I can’t wait to see the mural appear. I’ve been watching the old wall turn blue and knew something good was coming to my commute down Sheridan Road in Waukegan!

    • May 13, 2016 at 8:50 am

      Thanks Julie! It starts this Sunday and I’m anxious to get to work!


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