Truth, Inspiration, Hope.

Missouri Artist Went Viral After Painting Huge Patriotic ‘Tribute Mural’ On Highway 63

Published: April 27, 2022
The Howell County Tribute Mural (Image: Sandra Pemberton Murals via Facebook)
The Howell County Tribute Mural (Image: Sandra Pemberton Murals via Facebook)

About two miles north of Pomona on highway 63, passersby can view a patriotic mural that has been painted on the side of a building. This giant painting on metal siding features an arrangement of iconic images: the American flag, it’s being raised during the battle of Iwo Jima, a soaring bald eagle, and first responder symbols.

This marvelous creation, called The Howell County Tribute Mural, was painted by 36-year-old Sandra Pemberton, a talented artist from Neosho, Missouri. With her paints prepared and ready to go, Pemberton climbed the scaffold with a piece of soapstone and began to etch, freehand, the outlines of this patriotic American mural.

The Neosho painter, who prefers to sketch without a projector, traversed the 12×20 foot panel siding as she worked. After five days and more than thirty hours of painting, Pemberton finished the mural to great success, which has since become an attraction. 

The “Tribute Mural” started with an 8-by 10-inch concept painting. After that was accepted, she began to procure scaffolding, ladders, painting tables, and other supplies.

For any artist, paying close attention to details is extremely important to produce stunning art. Pemberton is no different. 

“I often must step back away from the wall and look at the design as a whole, getting all of the proportions correct,” Pemberton said. 

Once she was satisfied with that, she and her husband Matthew moved on to the next step: “fill in the design like a coloring book.” The first step was to get paint on the entire surface, even though it appeared to be rough. 

Pemberton explained, “I will go over it to correct mistakes, shade, and add detail later…I paint in layers, working from the general to the specific, and adding layers of color.”

In “The Howell County Tribute Mural,” depicted mainly in warm tones, an American flag sweeps along the top, arcing over a bald eagle in flight. Towards the bottom right, soldiers raising the Battle of Iwo Jima flag, strike a bold silhouette before an exotic sunset. Centered beneath the eagle the words “We The People” are calligraphed on parchment. Finally, in the lower left, a tribute to first responders and law enforcement. 

“I start painting with a large three- or four-inch brush and finish with an artist brush that holds just a few hairs,” Pemberton said. “I also sign and date every piece.”

It took five days in September for Pemberton to complete the job. She could have finished it earlier if it wasn’t for a brewing storm that cost them an evening of work. Once the painting was done, a thick clear coat was applied to protect it from scratches and fading.

Shortly after the mural was uploaded on Facebook, the post went viral, with her mural images being shared around 30,000 times. It became so popular that visitors traveled from as far as Illinois and South Carolina to check out her incredible mural in person.

“I am beyond blessed to be given these opportunities. I have been contacted by people all over the United States,” she said.

After the project’s completion, Pemberton was flooded with requests for painting work all over the country. Some of her more recent work can be seen here:

(Courtesy of Sandra Pemberton)
(Courtesy of Sandra Pemberton)
(Courtesy of Sandra Pemberton)
(Courtesy of Sandra Pemberton)
(Courtesy of Sandra Pemberton)

“Veterans message me thanking me for painting it, and it’s hard to wrap my head around. I feel as if the painting is my thank you to them. I don’t deserve a thank you,” she said. “They put their lives on the line in order for me to have the life I am blessed with. I am just so very thankful to be able to give them something that they can feel good about.”