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Creating the San Diego Murals – Part Fourteen

My kidney stones have left the building. This is the longest they have ever lingered. I am back on my San Diego Zoo murals.

I added this little desert cottontail to the picture. After doing so, I realized I had made him too small, so I repainted the wee feller.

Upon my medical recovery I got a bit carried away with my new found energy and enthusiasm. I made up a list of all the Pleistocene fauna from San Diego that still exists there today. It ended up being 23 mammals and 23 birds. All 46 creatures (plus the rattlesnake, tortoise and two species of toads; sadly, I couldn’t figure out a way to include the 7 other snakes and 7 lizards of the era as well) are now depicted in the modern San Diego mural. You won’t see most of them very easily in this and the subsequent pictures of the other sections of the mural, as they include 11 small rodents. Some of the birds (like the burrowing owl in the last section) are pretty well camouflaged, too.

I did this knowing that whatever is in the modern mural also has to be included in the Pleistocene mural. Not only that, each animal has to appear in roughly the same spot in each mural. So, as you can imagine, it took some planning. Fortunately, I’ve got those dark foreground areas — a perfect place to hide little critters in both pictures.

I painted the badger twice (too big the first time).

I am still planning to do some more work on the airborne birds. Too many hard edges make them look like stickers on the mural. I need to soften lots of those edges and bring some of the sky color into the tops of their wings to make each one more a part of the picture.

Once I finished the animal life I began working on the foreground, mid-ground and background landscape elements, like the dried mud basin (what’s left of the pond in the Pleistocene mural) behind the bobcat, as well as the hills and mountains in the image below.

The flowers of that big agave (century plant) are no longer a large, pale blob. I still need to work on the plant’s leaves at its base, though. I gave a nice curve to the dead agave stalk to make it more interesting than the straight vertical of its lay-in. I like the impressionistic looseness of the flattop buckwheat above the yellow-billed magpie. Now that I am looking at it in this small form, though, I can see the round buckwheat blossoms need to be larger in their relation to the magpie.

I also like that the blue of the magpie wings gave me a way to bring some of the sky color down into the lower part of the picture.

I’ve already done more work on this mural since these photos. Watch for my mural update next Sunday or Monday (I’ll be appearing in Cleveland this Thursday-Saturday).

3 thoughts on “Creating the San Diego Murals – Part Fourteen

  1. Bill,

    The saga continues to excite. Seriously…you couldn’t find a way to add all those other snakes? Ray did it all on Medusa’s head….and you have SO much more room here. Seriously, it looks ever more alive, and I can’t wait to see it completed.

    And glad to hear the stones have passed.


  2. Hi Rick,
    I know what you’re saying is partially in jest but I gave the idea of their inclusion serious consideration. There are plenty of places I could have worked the seven snakes and seven lizards into this portrait of modern San Diego wildlife. The problem is that all of them would also have to appear in the same spot in the other mural. With the giant ground sloth and the Columbia mammoth taking up so much of the picture’s acreage, I had, quite simply, run out of room within the Pleistocene mural.

    As far as it coming alive, I am amazed by what an effect each piece of finished landscape has on the picture. Each new addition of plant and landscape details makes the mural so much richer!

  3. Glad you are feeling better Mr. Stout.


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