HALFWAY — Jon Hanley is a temporary resident of Halfway, but he’s leaving a permanent mark.
Hanley is wrapping up a mural at the Old Pine Market that depicts the history of horses in Pine Valley.
“He’s doing a beautiful job. I love coming in and seeing the new progress,” said Laurie Bryan, an owner of the market.
Hanley paints after hours, adding a colorful touch to a previously blank wall above the produce area.
“I’ve had murals on my mind,” Bryan said. “I knew Jon was a fabulous mural painter, and he showed up in town.”
His work space is a challenge — the ledge is about three feet deep and three feet high, so he has to kneel or lay on his side to paint.
“I take a lot of breaks,” Hanley said.
Hanley drew 10 different scenes that incorporate the local scenery and various uses of horses, from providing transportation for the Native Americans to logging, agriculture, mining, rodeo and more.
“We could have incorporated 40 more horse scenes,” he said.
The mural is about 30 feet long, with each era blending into the next.
“I wanted to do something that tells a story and how integral horses were to daily life,” he said. “I’ve never done anything quite like it. I hope people love it as much as I loved doing it.”
His second mural at the market will be in the entryway and depict how the building and town looked in 1906.
Decades as a cartoonist
Hanley lives in Pocatello, Idaho, but grew up in La Grande.
That was where, at age 15, he began his journey as a political cartoonist.
He first drew cartoons for the weekly Eastern Oregon Review, then freelanced for The Observer during high school, from 1976 to 1979.
“That was my foray into professional illustrating,” he said.
He became a full-time cartoonist while attending Portland Community College.
He’s drawn cartoons of every president from Nixon to now.
“It’s delightful,” Hanley said. “I’m bipartisan in my cartooning. I won all my cartooning awards doing (Ronald) Reagan and (Mikhail) Gorbachev.”
From his time at college, he developed a certain approach to political cartoons.
“We were conscientious that the editorial cartoons made an impact, made a difference. I’ve always done that,” he said. “It’s been a good career. I’ve enjoyed it.”
Other artistic ventures
Along with the cartoons, Hanley’s work includes murals and set painting for live theater.
Another venture includes cartoon-style maps of towns. So far he’s mapped 92 places and this year he’s focusing on Halfway.
The map will cover about 30 miles from Hells Canyon to Sparta.
“It will incorporate the history of the area, and be filled with trivia,” he said.
The map measures 11 inches by 7 inches, and will be folded into a brochure size. Although one side is a highly stylized depiction of businesses and landmarks, the opposite side has a more traditional map of the area.
“It makes a souvenir for years to come,” Hanley said.
This is the first map project where he’s spent extensive time in the area, which has helped him collect history of the area.
“I’ve met all the old-timers — we can sit down and talk about history,” he said. “Pine Valley has been really hospitable. Everyone has been so sweet.”
It was time to map Halfway, he said, because he’s already completed similar projects across Eastern Oregon including Baker City, La Grande, Joseph, Weiser, and Ontario.
Although he has a few trips planned back to Pocatello, he will stay with family in Halfway this summer until the map is finished.
He’s also scheduled to paint a mural in La Grande.