“There are areas in Pinecrest that need something,” Gulbalis said. “My main thing for the donation is to make it look nice.” He saw a need to enhance the exterior of the recreation building at Coral Pines Park, 6955 SW 104 St.
“It’s a building that they rent for activities and parties. It’s like a community center,” he said.
He saw the donation as an opportunity to do something for the village. So he talked to someone who knows the mayor.
“She contacted her. I meet with the mayor; they liked the idea,” he said. “I tried to talk to them first before I do anything. When I know what they like, I sketch it out.”
Gulbalis did sample sketches and they chose the one they liked best. He had to make some minor changes to their favorite sketch because village officials wanted the mammals taken out.
“It was a fox and a raccoon,” he said. “There were empty spaces so I had to reorganize the whole thing. I put a spoonbill in the space, blue herons, white herons and spoonbills.”
That wasn’t a problem since a lot of his paintings are of birds.
“I do the sketching on the computer but the sample I do in tile,” he said. The sample was 19 inches by 24 inches. The finished painting is five feet tall by 12 feet wide.
It took almost two months to complete the project because he did a sample section of the tile painting first.
“I wanted to do that before I did the larger,” he said, adding that it is important that he sees what the painting looks like on tile before he does the whole thing. Also, the Pinecrest officials wanted to see what it would look like before it became a permanent fixture in the park.
Once the officials agreed on the painting, he went on to complete the project. “I painted the tiles; I fired the tiles; then I transported them and glazed them myself,” he said. “They are fired tiles. They go into a kiln after the painting with a glaze.”
He fired the tiles in sections to make sure the colors matched after each firing. Once the tiles were prepared, he needed to adhere them to the building. He used regular mastic to affix the six- by six-inch tiles to the building.
The advantage of the tile painting is that it is permanent.
“No one will have to do anything about it because it’s outdoor tile. Nothing will happen to it,” he said.
Pinecrest officials were quite happy with the final product, enough so that they held an unveiling and gave him a plaque. Now he would like to do more donations and beautify more of South Miami-Dade. He already has murals at Homestead Animal Hospital and Trimline Kitchens.