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Creating the San Diego Zoo Murals – Part Twelve

I decided I really needed to repaint the roadrunner. It was too darn big.

Here, I took a thick brush and quickly roughed out the shape of the bird in its proper scale. After I was satisfied it was the correct size in relation to the other creatures in the mural I knocked in the detail:

I’ll worry about the background later.

I had spent about three or four hours beautifully detailing the stag mule deer when I realized that it was out of proportion as well. It was too small relative to the size of the other critters.

The mistake I made was this: in my eagerness to complete the buck, I jumped to my small brush too soon, before I had carefully checked its roughed-in proportions.

Taking a fairly big brush [Note to self (and other artists): When painting, always use a brush about twice the size you think you’ll need. Always work macro to micro] I blocked in the mule deer family, this time making sure all their sizes were correct.

Then, I detailed them:

To be truthful, the first animal I painted in this section of the mural was the California condor.

Note that I changed both the value and the color of the condor’s outspread wings from tip to tip. The wing farthest from the viewer has a blue haze over it, implying that this bird is so damn big that you can see atmospheric haze between you and the farther wing. The change in value emphasizes that as well.

The gray fox was next. I like doing these murals in a painterly style. I haven’t yet figured out how to make peppery coats like that of the fox ring true in a painterly fashion ––– but I’m working on it. I probably need to look at more of my late friend Bob Kuhn‘s paintings.

I really like painting scrub jays, as they are a frequent visitor to my porch while I am painting. They are highly intelligent, curious birds.

A member of the crow family, I once taught one I named “Scrubby” to perch on my arm and take peanuts from my fingers. It only took me a few hours to train him to perform that trick. The problem was, from that point on he wouldn’t leave me alone. He’d pester me and pester me (shrieking and jabbering at me like…well, like a jaybird) until I produced a peanut for him. I learned my lesson that day to leave wild things wild. He still visits me when he’s the neighborhood. Scrubby likes to perch atop my easel, offering unasked for criticism of me and whatever painting I’m working on.

Here’s the second section of the mural with its animals all painted (except for the tarantula):

It’s coming along a little faster now. I’ve got most of the bobcat completed now, too, but it was too dark to shoot by the time I felt done with him. We’ll see if I still think and feel (always remember to both think and feel when you’re painting) he’s finished in the morning.

Next: The Animals in Section Three of the Modern Mural

2 thoughts on “Creating the San Diego Zoo Murals – Part Twelve

  1. Bill,

    Thanks again for all the info. Somewhat “reassuring” that even an amazing talent is still analyzing and adapting to insure credibility and authenticity. It’s really coming alive as it approaches its destination.


  2. I was searching the web for ideas to paint a deer mural for my son and found your work. It is amazing! I love it!

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