LOVELAND, Colo. -- For 41-year-old mural painter Van Hecht-Nielson, it was the most important job of his life. Not because of what he had to do, but who he had to paint: Pope Francis.
The Catholic Arch Diocese of Brooklyn commissioned Hecht-Nielson’s company to create a 220-foot by 90-foot likeness of Pope Francis to be painted on a building at Eighth Avenue and 34th Street in New York, overlooking Madison Square Garden, in preparation for the pope’s visit in late September.
“Seeing that I would be painting Pope Francis was just pretty overwhelming. You know I felt like it was definitely a gift from God to be able to do it,” Hecht-Nielson said.
Perched more than 200 feet high upon suspended scaffolding, the four-man crew took 10 days to complete the papal image.
“The toughest was the anxiety of making sure I got the face right and then the other tough challenge was the extreme heat,” he said.
Hecht-Nielson, a Catholic, was grateful for the opportunity to paint the pope.
“I felt extremely honored to have that come to me in this point in my life," he said.
As confident and talented as artist Hecht-Nielson might be, he still prayed he got it right.
“Sometimes, you have a bad day,” he said.
And sometimes, your prayers are answered.