February 17, 2006

Monterey Intertidal Mural

Last weekend I completed a second mural in the home of my friends Bob and Yvonne. When they were expecting their first child in late 2004, I was commissioned to paint his nursery with a Monterey Bay kelp forest scene. They were so happy with the results, they asked me to do it again when they found out they were expecting a second baby! The two rooms are adjoining, so they decided the theme should continue, this time with the ocean gradually becoming intertidal and then beach and sand dunes. This of course meant I got an opportunity to put BIRDS in the mural, as well as some other land critters. It was a 36-hours-in-four-days marathon, but I am so happy about how it turned out. I hope the new baby will love it too!

Bob and Yvonne prepped the room by painting it with regular eggshell finish wall paint, ocean color up to about eye-level and then sky blue above. I then sketched out the scene using soft vine charcoal, and then painted the mural using regular acrylic paint.

This mural was fueled primarily by coffee, PJ Harvey, and Bob and Yvonne's fabulous cooking.


See more pics? (warning: biology nerd alert!)


Here's the corner of the room next to the closet, opposite the window. This part was really challenging -- I had to figure out how to transition from underwater to above water. Some fudging goes on, and some forced perspective, but overall I think it worked out pretty well!


This is the above-closet view, mostly sky and the top of the dune grass.

Some area/creature closeups, going from the deep ocean to dry land:


The window wall (on the left) represents the open ocean, and the sea section of the wall is painted in a darker blue than the ocean on the intertidal wall. Most of the room's furniture will be against this wall, so there wasn't much room for critters over here. However, two beautiful pelican wall sculptures will fly above the water (and above the window). The crib will be in this corner, and the height of the animals is (hopefully) set up so the baby will see them looking down on her from all sides. To the right of the window, right above the head of the crib, is a speedy albacore! On the other side of the corner we transition into the bay, and a big sheepshead swims towards shore.


The kelp forest mural features a happy harbor seal, right above the crib, so of course this mural needed a big happy marine mammal too. The otter and pelican also look back towards the crib. The way the pelican turned out made me especially happy -- he looks like a stern babysitter. No staying up all night playing with the otter, young lady!


This is a closeup of the intertidal zone. Most of this area would be exposed to the air if the tide were out, but this mural depicts high tide. I thought the seaweed would be more beautiful flowing underwater than flattened out in a heap like it is when the water isn't there to hold it up. The fish poking out of the hole is called a "sarcastic fringehead", one of Yvonne's special requests :) The orange starfish is a bat star, and the purple one is called an ochre star (also known as a type of pisaster, a very important species in Monterey Bay ecology). The anenomes are called giant green anemones, and the lobster is a spiny lobster, which is a Monterey Bay species, although Bob said they actually aren't that common. The stripey fish sitting on the rock is called a painted sculpin, and that weird brown lump above the sculpin is an animal called a gumboot chiton.
There are four species of marine algae (aka 'seaweed') featured in this mural -- you can see two of them here, fucus distichus on the left, and postelsia,or sea palm. The sea grass to the left is actually not marine algae, but a plant. I took marine botany way back at UCSC, it finally came in handy!


This is a view further up the rocks, and you can also see the piling the pelican is sitting on from underwater. That's another ochre star, and there are also mussels and a green algae called ulva growing on the piling. The crab is a striped rock crab. The small green blobs above the crab are called aggregating anenomes.


This corner is where the main wall of the room meets the closet wall.
Here on the beach are some shorebirds -- the two running along the surfline are called sanderlings, and that's really what they always seem to be doing. The tall black and white bird is aptly named a stilt.
An extremely rare sub-species of garter snake lives along the coast between San Francisco and Monterey -- rare because its habitat is so limited. I've heard there are only about 4,000 of these guys, and I was lucky enough to see one in the wild once! They are really striking with their red and blue stripes. I just had to put one in here. Above the snake is American dune grass.


Here is a closeup of a couple of the animals that you can see above the closet. On the dead branch perches a peregrine falcon, and the butterflies are monarchs. Monarchs appear in Monterey Bay en masse once a year to breed, so they are another distinctively local species.

For the sake of completeness, I will list the other species in the mural not already mentioned:

rosy sculpin
surf perch
red-winged blackbird
grey fox
double-crested cormorant
laminaria (a brown algae)
oh man I can't remember the name of the snail!

See, it's not just neat, it's edu-muh-cational!

Posted by tammy at 5:31 PM

February 5, 2006

a very veritatem weekend in San Francisco

I live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and I feel like I appreciate it, but it's amazing how infrequently I really go out and experience what San Francisco has to offer. This weekend, however, I somehow ended up bouncing all over town (and even to Marin) taking advantage of all sorts of wonderful things I have such easy access to!

Friday: MOMA, Medjool
Saturday: Golden Gate Park run
Sunday: SF --> Marin and back 'Tiburon Loop' bike ride, Hatshepsut: From Queen to Pharoah at the DeYoung
I usually try to reserve this journal for posts about what I'm working on, but I did so much neat stuff this weekend I couldn't resist sharing.

Lots of details..

Friday started out with a bus ride downtown, where I met a few of my art buddies for lunch at the MOMA cafe (salmon crepes with hazelnuts and pomegranate seeds, YUM!) and I finally got to check out the Chuck Close show upstairs.


It was amazing to see his incredibly photorealistic earlier drawings up close, but I was much more interested in his more abstract later works. His most recent full color paintings, when viewed at extremely close range, are just little squares and circles of pretty intensely bright colors, but when you back way up, these blobs resolve themselves into a very realistic portrait. There is still a strange quality to them, however -- it sort of looks like you are viewing them through water, or maybe glass bricks.
The subject of the show was Chuck Close's self-portraits, but I sure wanted to see his portraits of other people after going through rooms and rooms of it. I mean, it's not like the art wasn't amazing, but I found myself craving more variety...
After too long spent in the MOMA gift shop talking myself and my friend out of buying art books, I made my way home by way of Union Square, and finally checked out H&M. WANT... STUFF...
But I was on a mission for boots, and didn't find any, so I went home empty-handed. Missed my chance to meet up with a friend for a bike ride to the Marin headlands, so I did my own ride around the city: home --> GG park --> Ocean Beach --> Cliff House (smelled delicious! this hill SUCKS!) --> Legion of Honor parking lot --> Lincoln Blvd (INCREDIBLE views of just outside the Golden Gate bridge, and the bridge itself) --> Presidio --> USF campus --> home. ID'd a bird I've never seen before: white-crowned sparrow.
Then, even though I was ready to pass out in front of the TV with a cocktail, Todd and I cabbed it over to the Mission for drinks -- a friend's birthday at Medjool. This place is NUTS. I don't know what it used to be, but now it is three floors of indoor and outdoor tables, bars, music, and high ceilings. The top floor is the 'sky terrace', and is the whole roof of this vast building. From up here you get incredible views of the city, and if it's chillly there are sheltered areas and outdoor heaters. I had the best damn mojito! Very lime-y. They serve middle eastern/mediterranean food, and it smelled delicious even though we didn't get any. It got really crowded by the time we were leaving, and it felt like nothing so much as those old dot-com four story parties they used to have in places like the Organic building.. floors and floor of pounding music and people with drinks going up and down the stairs. Weird! Neat! Worth checking out!

Saturday, spent the whole day in the studio until it was time for a run. Ran through the panhandle to Golden Gate Park, past the Conservatory of Flowers, a beautiful sunset in the sky above me. Made a detour through the DeYoung parking lot to try and get a look at how they're doing with the Academy of Sciences construction project, and noticed that there was an Ancient Egyptian exhibit at the DeYoung (Hatshepsut: from Queen to Pharoah) closing on February 5th! Why didn't anyone TELL ME?! ;) Anyway, I decided this was obviously something I needed to make time for on Sunday, even though my day was already pretty full.

Sunday morning got up bright and early to meet a couple friends by the Golden Gate bridge for a bike ride through Marin and back. The weather was PERFECT -- sunny, incredible visibility, and NOT COLD OR WET! The ride across the bridge is always a little scary but I also just love the view. This ride goes past Marin Headlands, along the Sausalito waterfront and through town, and goes through various other trails and roads until it crosses over 101 and ends up on a road called Paradise Drive, which I believe starts by the Corte Madera shopping center and goes up into the hills, curves around through some forested areas, and then pops out on the other side in Tiburon with glorious views of the bay. We stopped for mochas at a cafe on the waterfront, the water sparkling, the SF skyline looking clear and all postcard-y. Special bird I've never seen before ID'd on the way there: northern pintail!


A note about bird ID from a bike: I'm looking these birds up when I get home. I'm getting pretty good at spotting a few noteable characteristics while racing by at like 18mph, because I just can't help myself!

a description of the ride

So I got home, ate a bunch of eggs, and left for the DeYoung. This was my first time actually going inside, although I run/bike by it all the time. I really wanted to explore, but I was on a mission. Get in, see Hatshepsut, get to the art store before it closes.
It was totally worth it. I'm so glad I happened to see the sign yesterday, or I would have missed this show. I just can't get enough of the artifacts, the artwork, the animal-headed gods, and the incredible history of Ancient Egypt. I learned a lot about the reign of Hatshepsut, the only woman to ever call herself a Pharoah. Highlights included an incredibly well preserved papyrus from the Egyptian book of the dead, a tiny cosmetic spoon carved in the shape of a mouse with its little tail curled around its legs, and a sketch of a hippo on a piece of scrap limestone. The most beautiful and powerful piece of all, however, was a larger-than-life granite sculpture of Hatshepsut herself. Not only was it unusual in that it was more naturalistic than the typical Egyptian sculpture (it really looked like a portrait of a particular person, a beautiful woman at that) but she was wearing the absolutely scandalous combination of noble womens' dress clothing and a pharonic headress (DUDES ONLY!) You can be sure the Egyptians made sure THAT kind of shit never happened again!

Totally doesn't do it justice but here's a small image of the sculpture:


So afterwards I hauled ass over to the art store to buy a ton of supplies for the mural I'll be painting starting Thursday: a continuation of the Monterey Bay undersea mural I did for the Ellefsons last year. This mural will go in baby room #2, which adjoins the first room. An exciting twist for this room is that we'll be transitioning from the water OUT of the water into the intertidal zone, and up the beach...
I'll post pictures when it's done!

Posted by tammy at 10:18 PM