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Creating the San Diego Zoo Murals – Part Ten

Here’s the lay-in of local color for the mural depicting the contemporary wildlife of San Diego. Like the prehistoric color lay-in, this one is pretty rough. I’m obviously not going for detail here. At this step I am out to establish the color scheme and tweak the design a little bit. Like the other painting, I’m working full size now: 3 ft. by 8 ft.

Here’s a detail of the left hand side:

The black bear and the jackrabbit and its tableau appear darker in the original painting.

Again, I have tried to evenly distribute the color to move the viewers’ eyes around the painting.

I can already see that I am going to have to lighten those last two sets of mountain ranges to give the viewer an even greater sense of distance.

Note that I have already varied the color temperature across the wings of the condor to give it more size and scale, as if the wingspan is so large that we can see an atmospheric difference between the closer and farther wings.

With the exception of the bobcat, tortoise, coyote and hawks, this last section of the painting will basically be a California Impressionist landscape by the time I’m done with it. Again, I can see those distant mountains need to recede more.

Here’s a slightly larger detail so you can see just how darn crude this thing is at this point:

I love painting landscapes. The landscape part of these murals just might be the most fun elements for me to paint.

My wife thinks the bobcat appears too big. She might be right (she usually is). If the dark value alone doesn’t convey how close the bobcat is to the viewer (its closeness is why it’s larger in size in relation to the other animals), I’ll reduce the bobcat in size a bit before I begin detailing it. It’s always easier to change an element in its raw, crude form. I don’t end up wasting a lot of time painting detail that I’d ultimately have to paint all over again once the scale has been changed.

Next: The Detailing Begins

3 thoughts on “Creating the San Diego Zoo Murals – Part Ten

  1. Bill,

    I really like the darker foreground, and the other separation of layers…nice depth.

    Sure is a kick looking over your shoulder and seeing all these stages.


  2. Sir William – You have me “pumped up” watching these unfold. I have an old canvas that I worked on years ago up in the loft. It’s a long narrow one, I think I’m going to drag it down & do something new on it. Maybe a ‘mural’ type theme.

    The ol’ Well has been kinda dry for awhile – but I detect dampness seeping in. In large part thanks to your book & demos here.

    Mucho Gracious

  3. Thanks for these articles. As always I come away with new information every time I read about your process. Seeing these panels as you developed the final designs and color method is very revealing (and entertaining). I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to lay this out for us. By the way, the mural book is your best book to date. You deliver a beautiful book that, like this series of coverage, educates me with beautiful and powerful artwork with instruction. You should consider teaching full time….but I guess this proves you already are.


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