Creative Opportunity Knocks

Artist David Hansel paints 16 doors with coastal scenes

Chase Yakaboski

They say that when one door closes, another one opens. For Panama City artist David Hansel, you could make that 16 doors.

Hansel is one of 10 local artists who were commissioned to paint coastal-inspired scenes and sea life on the doors of a cheery, two-story, six-bedroom beach house, located just a few steps from The Red Bar at 255 Garfield, in Grayton Beach. Hansel painted 16 of the home’s doors, and the other artists painted the remaining two dozen. (There may have been more; the artists stopped counting at 40 doors.)

The home’s owner, Len Herndon, who hails from Abbeville, Ala., relocated to the Emerald Coast after retiring and lives next door. He bought what is known by locals as the “house of doors” as an investment and invited local artists to “jazz it up” to ensure that it “wasn’t another boring vacation-rental home.”

Courtesy of David Hansel

Hansel and others covered a Grayton Beach beach house with local art.

He succeeded. The eclectic home brims with vibrant art, artisan furniture pieces from The Zoo Gallery and, yes, painted doors galore. Herndon’s love of trains is evident in the many railroad-themed design touches, such as iron railroad ties that have been repurposed into hardware and a dining table fashioned from aged railroad ties. It’s fitting that he named this passion-project/dwelling Grayton Station.

As you enter Grayton Station, a familiar local landscape scene greets you: the stand of cypress trees on the edge of Western Lake. Hansel’s meticulous mural wraps around a corner and spans three doors. It’s so detailed, you can almost hear the breeze through the treetops.

Hansel’s childlike sense of wonder is on display in a child’s bedroom, which has been fitted with saloon-style swinging doors. Going into the room is like diving into an underwater world that puts you nose-to-nose with a giant, majestic sea turtle. The adventure continues on the other side of the same door, which is splashed with fun sea life that resembles the likes of fishy friends such as Disney characters Nemo and Dory.

Another playful bedroom door showcases a fun-in-the-sun day on the emerald shores of 30A. When you close this door, the very same beach scene is now depicted at the magic hour of sunset, which is captured in paintings on the walls and in matching rosy-orange bed linen.

The list, or art gallery tour, as it were, goes on and on.
Hansel, 57, is soft-spoken, with spectacled gray-blue eyes and salt-and-pepper hair. Originally from Roseau, Minn., he has lived a nomadic life: “I attended 15 schools by the time I reached 15,” he says.

Hansel received a degree in theology and is a pastor; but his recent relocation, from Toccoa, Ga. to the Emerald Coast, is to answer a different calling. As he says, “I’m literally filling a blank canvas with a fresh start as an artist.”

Hansel is a self-taught painter. He was first inspired to create art as a child of 5, when his grandmother gave him books of animals that he practiced drawing and soon after began to paint.

Courtesy of David Hansel

Beyond traditional canvases, Ryland has found a home for his lively artwork on wooden signs, T-shirts, home décor, furniture and holiday ornaments. His work is vivid and playful. And as a beach lover — he’s lived in both Hawaii and the Virgin Islands — he is endlessly inspired by the sea, sun and sand.

“For me, the beach is a place that takes your cares away. It’s therapeutic. You get a sense of being content in life,” he says.

Hansel has a gallery space within the Artists at Gulf Place collective on 30A, and he sells his work at a few retailers along the coast.

Looks like the door of opportunity is already cast wide open for this talented Emerald Coaster.

To view examples of David Hansel’s work, or to contact him for information regarding custom commissions, visit

Categories: Art