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The San Diego Zoo Murals – Part Seventeen

Here is the modern wildlife mural completed. When I say “completed”, that means for now. I’m going to put this painting away for a week or so and then look at it with fresh eyes to see if any errors have become apparent or if there are bits to be added, refined or taken out.

Compare it with the last mural entry’s image and you’ll see many changes. The biggest one is uniting the dark values at the bottom of the painting and the refinement of the plants and landscape. Also noticeable is the change in values on the two most distant mountain ridges. Allow me to share a great secret of how I accomplished this:

If I had left the two distant mountain ridges the same values they were previously, it would have severely limited the feeling of depth in the painting. So, I mixed up a batch of titanium white with a little purple, giving me a nice lavender/orchid color. I heavily diluted this color with lots of medium (I use 50% turpentine with 50% Liquin). I then brushed it over the two farthest mountain ridges. It covered them up right away so I began to work the paint into the canvas with my brush. This left me with a nice translucent glaze that lightened the mountain ridges without making them chalky (which would have happened if I had just used straight white). The orchid color worked with and enhanced the underpainting.

I did this twice because I really wanted to knock back those mountains. After the second glaze I felt the two ridges were too similar in color so I mixed up a glaze consisting of titanium white with a bit of pthalo green (I’ve found glazes of viridian and purple can do magic things together). Heavily diluting it again, I brushed it over the closer ridge, working it into the canvas to get rid of any streaks. Like my old teacher Harold Kramer used to say, “For a change of form look for a change of value, a change of color — a change of some goddam thing.” I used both a change in value and color for the closer ridge to separate it from the farthest ridge.

You can see here that I refined several of the plants, visually defining them as particular species.

I finally painted the tarantula that is the focus of the gray fox‘s attention. The green plants at the very bottom are real. I shot the painting in my front yard, standing it upright on my lawn. A bit of the lawn got in front of the painting’s bottom edge.

That digger pine nicely breaks up that long row of California oaks.

I was in San Diego last Saturday, celebrating museum president Mick Hager‘s twenty years at the San Diego Natural History Museum. I wore a tux! On the drive back both my wife and I noticed some of the clouds dipping below the tops of the coastal mountains. My wife reminded me of this when I was finishing the sky this week. I included some of what I saw in the mural. It was a great way to break up that long hard line of mountain ridge tops.

There wasn’t too much left to do to finish this section of the mural. I can now see that I need to go back and brighten up the mid-ground prickly pear fruit a bit.

Next: Back to the Pleistocene!

2 thoughts on “The San Diego Zoo Murals – Part Seventeen

  1. Bill,

    Awesome! Wonderful color and contrast, and seeing it fully realized has been well worth the wait. Can’t wait to see the mammoths finished.


  2. Bill, you are a very skillful painter! The animals and plant-life are so rich in color and texture! Very Impressive, indeed.

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