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Creating the San Diego Zoo Murals – Part Four

With the pencils approved, the next step is painting my little scale value studies (double-clicking on the image will increase its size).

Let go back several steps here first. Above is the very first thumbnail sketch I did for the Pleistocene mural. It was drawn in my sketchbook well before I began the pencil drawings I showed you in the past few Journal entries. You’ll notice that the proportions are different from the pencil drawings. The size of each mural was originally going to be 4′ x 8′. As I was beginning the pencil drawings, the size of each mural was changed to 3′ x 8′.

As you can see, crude as it is, I was already beginning to think about my value (dark and light) systems.

I looked at it in the mirror and decided I liked it better in reverse, so I flopped it:

Using this thumbnail and my approved pencil drawing (see previous Journal entry), I painted this value study:

I went through the same process for the mural depicting San Diego’s contemporary life. Here’s my thumbnail:

I wondered how it compared to its reverse image version.

If you compare these to the first pencil drawings I submitted to the zoo, you’ll see that I decided to use elements of both.

Again, using these crude thumbnails and my approved pencil drawing as a rough guide, I painted my value study:

The value studies are very important, as they establish and organize all of the design elements into groups. They simplify and do away with much of the chaos of the pencil drawings. Leaving out the color at this stage is good because color can be such a distraction. I have learned that if your values are working (and you stick to them), it doesn’t matter what colors get put down later; the picture will work.

I sent the zoo jpegs of these two value studies so that they could see the progress I was making.

Next: Color Studies

4 thoughts on “Creating the San Diego Zoo Murals – Part Four

  1. Nice! I think I love this first sketchbook idea best of all. Especially the way the layers are staged, and the one mammoth leading the eye to the main one.

    The large tree element balanced by the mammoth…all very nice. Would love to see that one as a finished piece.


  2. Hi Rick,
    I tend to agree with your astute assessment. I like to create stand-alone icons for institutions like zoos and museums. I think the design of the picture and the pose of the mammoth have the potential to become quite iconic.

    That’s not what the zoo wanted, though. They were going for something more subtle and less focused on the mammoth. While the mammoth is still a central element of the picture, the approved pose takes the viewer away from the pachyderm. Its pose leads you away from itself but takes you out and throughout the other animals in the setting. This way, the mammoth is a part of the tapestry of nature, not the explicitly dominant force I originally presented.

    Nevertheless, the first sketch follows my observations of elephants in East Africa. When the elephants arrive, everyone else quickly gets the hell out of their way. It is very clear who is king in that part of the world.

  3. Dear Mr. Stout,
    So will you complete a version of the Pleistocene art with the trumpeting mammoth just for your own satisfaction ( I hesitate to say just for fun with the amount of work that I can see goes into these)? It is much more dynamic than the selected art, and I can clearly imagine it in the elephant house at a zoo.

    On a slight tangent I wondered if you saw the news story about the elephants who regularly pass through a safari lodge in Africa. The lodge was set up during dry season when the elephants had migrated elsewhere, but the designers didn’t realize that they had put the reception desk and main building on the path that the elephants use to get to some mango trees on the property. The hotel got built and the elephants came back. Fortunately the front desk is in an open area with huge doors leading in and out. So visitors at the right time of day are treated to an elephant parade as the critters head over to lunch on mangoes.

  4. Hi Aaron,
    I still like that first design, so it may very well end up in another picture.

    As to your second paragraph, I am reminded of the saying, “Man plans; God laughs.”

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