Three artists paint Canal expansion

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Detail from “Miraflores Passage” by Matt Tomlet.

The Panama Canal (ACP) has inspired artists for decades. Now three painters: Al Sprague, George Scribner and Matt Tomlet, are capturing on canvas the expansion of the interoceanic waterway in three different styles, creating a visual chronicle.

International artist, Al Sprague, was born and raised in the Republic of Panama. After receiving a master’s degree from the American University in Washington, D.C., he returned home to paint the culture of Panama. His work, which depicts the everyday life of native fishermen, market vendors, and pollera dancers, has made Sprague one of Panama’s most recognized artists.

The ACP hired Sprague to create a painting that shows the work being done at the third set of locks. His 40” x 60” oil painting will join the collection of the Expansion Program, which consists of 41 acrylic, watercolor and oil paintings by renowned artists.

In 1974, during the celebrations of the Canal’s 60th anniversary, Sprague produced a commemorative collection about daily life on the waterway, which is on display at ACP Administration Building. His work can be seen online at

George Scribner is another painter who is using the Canal expansion as his subject. Like Sprague, he was born in Panama. He served as an animator for the Walt Disney Studios in the 80’s and has participated in such films productions as “The Lion King” and “Dinosaur.” Currently, he is the animation director for the Walt Disney theme parks.

Scribner has been commissioned by the ACP to paint scenes of the historic expansion project. The artwork will be part of a solo show at the Mery Palma Gallery, in Panama City, February 2015. He paints small studies on site and finishes larger canvas projects in his Los Angeles studio. His work can be seen on his website,

Al Sprague is famous for his girls in polleras.

Al Sprague is famous for his girls in polleras.

Matt Tomlet, a native of San Diego, California, grew up in the Canal Zone where his father worked as a Canal Pilot. A self-taught painter working in acrylics and oils, Matt creates scenes of the Canal with a special focus on ships traversing the waterway. His paintings evoke nostalgia of the Zone days, and “capture the beauty of Panama.”

While his early career in the arts involved gallery shows in Panama City in the 90s, he began to gain notoriety when the Canal Administration Building acquired six large pieces for their work space. Another milestone came in 2001, when the then-president of Panama, Mireya Moscoso, was presented with one of his paintings at the inauguration of the upgraded Panama Canal Railway.

Now working almost exclusively on commissioned pieces, Matt’s work forms part of private collections the world over, from Europe, Japan, Australia, Central America and the U.S. Most recently, “Miraflores Passage,” a painting inspired by the 100-year anniversary of the Canal, was displayed at the International Maritime Pilots’ Association (IMPA) Congress held the second week of April.

In addition to original, full scale pieces, Matt sells canvas, signed reproductions of his work through


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