Brent Herling led volunteers in painting the Forest Lane wall on Saturday mornings: Photo by Danny Fulgencio

Brent Herling led volunteers in painting the Forest Lane wall on Saturday mornings: Photo by Danny Fulgencio

Brent Herling can’t sit still.

He’s an engineer by day and an amateur artist by night, and at 2 in the morning, he ventures out into the dark with a couple of pails of paint to put the finishing touches on the Forest Lane mural.

“I’ve always been a night owl,” he says with a shrug.

The Glen Meadow neighbor led the restoration of the whimsical artwork over several weeks in April and May. Art students from W.T. White High School originally painted the mural, which depicts colorful, psychedelic images, in the 1970s. It was repainted in 1993 but still faded over time.

“I remember when it got painted. I want to keep it as close to the original as possible,” says Herling, who attended W.T. White in 1976 but graduated from Skyline. He still lives in his childhood home with his wife and two teenagers.

Herling bought hundreds of dollars’ worth of paint and rallied volunteers to join him on Saturday mornings to restore the mural that stretches between Midway and Rosser. Neighbors exchanged wild stories about days gone by. New friendships formed.

Herling’s improvement efforts have made him a popular guy. Three years ago, not so much. Out of nowhere in 2011, a cartoon SpongeBob appeared on the mural, outraging some neighbors and W.T. White alumni who felt it marred the original artwork.

“The wall was so beat up,” Herling says. “The only reason I painted SpongeBob was to cover up the big dent in the wall that was already there.”

A car had crashed into the wall. Delinquents came along later and spray-painted the word “GOOF,” which no one had seemed to notice.

Herling did — just as he does with other graffiti from here to Harry Hines.

“The only reason you don’t see any graffiti around here is because within 24 hours, I’ve covered it up.”

He does so usually in the middle of the night, his heart racing in fear that the taggers might return and catch him in the act.

Blank surfaces, Herling says, invite unwanted scrawls — which is what makes restoring the Forest Lane mural so important. That, and the community it builds.

While out painting with his 15-year-old daughter, Herling says she made a touching (albeit a little morbid) remark.

“She said, ‘Dad, when you’re dead, I’m going to keeping painting this wall.’ ”

And the rogue SpongeBob? He might sneak back onto the wall from time to time, but Herling insists it’s only temporary.

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