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A More Perfect Union Needs Your Help!

Jim Earp is a dear friend of mine. We recently collaborated on a project that is near and dear to my heart. A More Perfect Union will be a public access website that will clearly explain (in completely non-partisan fashion) the United States Constitution. Jim is on the last leg of his Kickstarter program, attempting to raise the necessary funds to make this happen. I hope that you can contribute.

My involvement? Jim hired me to design the site’s cartoon characters and paint some of the site’s backdrops and backgrounds. If you’d just like to see more of my art, that should reason be enough to contribute (I hope). Here’s Jim’s posting on my Facebook page (I updated the deadline to keep this post current):

Jim Earp posted on your Wall

Well folks, we have just until midnight, tonight to raise a little less than $18,000.00 for “A More Perfect Union.” We’ve been honored with a bunch of generous, giant-hearted donors already, and to them especially, our deepest thanks. But if all my friends and all my friends’ friends (those who can afford it only and if you can’t, don’t even think of sweating it), would throw in one measly tax-deductible buck, we could make it. Look at it this way: We can civilly, honestly, accurately enlighten the average citizen this way, or go ahead and let them be indoctrinated the the Koch Brothers/Fox News way. I don’t see much middle ground. Wouldn’t it be worth a tax-deductible buck or five to make a decent effort to slow the rot? As the great Lewis Lapham has asked on more than one occasion, “What possible use could the current crop of elected leaders have for an informed electorate?” Let’s show ’em.”

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The San Diego Zoo Murals – Part Thirty: Conclusion

I’m beginning the end run here with the tree I painted behind the short-faced bear

…and some water plants, plus the foliage below the bobcat and tortoise….

…and some Pleistocene lily pad type plants…

…as well as some California natives behind the coyote and a California juniper below the coyote…

…plus some more water plants and some painterly deep foreground definition…

…followed by more loosely painted plants below the fox

…and the same amount of plant detail below the giant jaguar.

In the morning I sneaked in another animal: the Pleistocene long-horned bison (Bison latifrons)…

..and painted more native California trees, including this palmetto.

I added then refined the second ground squirrel and then detailed the mallows in front of the giant ground sloth a bit more, as well as the deep foreground plants…

…and the plants below the tapir.

My friend Samantha Holmes asked me why I had painted the teratorn with such light (almost white) feathers. My lame answer was, “That’s the same color I painted it for the one in the sloth mural at the San Diego Natural History Museum.” It was also the same color as the illustration of the teratorn in the book Rancho La Brea: Treasures of the Tar Pits.

I gave it some thought. I figured that since the teratorn was somewhat related to the condor that I would give it a slight overhaul with some darker feathers. I like the result.

At this point, the first quarter of the Pleistocene mural looked like this…

…and the second quarter like this…

…and the third quarter…

…followed by the 4th quarter. There’s still a little bit of work to be done, but here’s the full mural at this point:

The next day I added some dappling to the water:

And a bit more dappling to this part of the pond:

My wife didn’t find the water convincing enough as water; plus, she thought the water color was a little too intense and (to use a critical term I use a lot) “too candy”.

So, I worked on it some more, adding more dapples, darkening the the water between the lily pads and cutting the “candy” color with some grayer dapples and paint.

I did that here, too.

After seeing some great Howard Terpning paintings at a nearby exhibition at the Autry Museum on Father’s Day, I decided to lighten the distant mountains, using the same technique I used on the first mural (see past Journal entries).

I did the same for this section of mountains, plus I decided to lighten the far part of the condors wing even more to evoke its great size and distance.

I signed this baby and it was done — and off it went to the photographer (just barely fitting its eight feet length into my mini-van)!

It’s done, folks! Thanks for sticking with me through all of this! The next step is for the San Diego Zoo to transfer these to mural images to a gigantic 8 ft. x 8 ft. tile and then install them at the Zoo. I’ll let you know when they’re up. They should be in place on public view well before Comic-Con International.

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The San Diego Zoo Murals – Part Twenty Nine

I continued to work on the right hand third of the Pleistocene mural, mostly landscape and plant work.

I did add another animal, which helped to expand the American lion‘s (Panthera atrox) story. The new species added was the dwarf pronghorn (Capromeryx minor), which the lion has just killed. So, the lion’s story changes from a lion looking all noble, surveying its kingdom, to a lion guarding its freshly killed prey.

I also “cleaned up” the water, smoothing over all the rough patches and doing a bit of blend work, as well as cleaning up the capybara reflections.

Here’s how that turned out:

I figure that, hopefully, today should be it. As soon as its finished (either today or tomorrow morning), it will go right off to my photographer, Blue Trimarchi at ArtWorks, to be professionally shot for the San Diego Zoo.

One more series of small steps and touch-ups to go!

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The San Diego Zoo Murals – Part Twenty Eight

Here’s a close-up of the tarantula (Aphonopelma).

I also completed the painting of the western black vulture (Coragyps occidentalis). I grayed it down considerably from the rest of the birds of prey in flight to place it more in the distance. I made a series of controlled scratches with the back end of my brush to evoke the flight feather quills of the bird.

The value of the American cheetah (Miracinonyx inexpectatus) was equal to the values ov the foreground animals, so I knew I had to change it to convey the illusion of distance I desired. I took some of the sky color and used it on top of the cheetah so that it looks like the cheetah’s coat is reflecting the sky. This also lightened the animal in relation to the other creatures, my main goal in this touch-up.

I worked some more on the reflections as well as the mud surrounding the pond. I also did substantial work on the middle third’s landscape. I glazed a pale wash of ultramarine blue over the bobcat (Lynx rufus) so that it would feel more like a part of the deep foreground mass. Except for the dark areas at the bottom of the canvas, the left and middle thirds are pretty much finished. Above is the middle third as it looked when I knocked off last night.

I don’t know if I can make this goal, but my current objective is to finish the right third today (and all of the bottom dark areas) and spend tomorrow just doing about a hundred little retouches before taking it to my photographer to be professionally shot (all the shots posted on this site were just quick snaps taken with my little digital camera).

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The San Diego Murals – Part Twenty Seven

After doing some quick research, I felt that the Zoo might be right in considering the straight bill on the flamingo (Phoenicopterus minutus) to be older than the Pleistocene. I changed it, but didn’t give it quite a modern flamingo bill; I gave it the slightly different curve of another flamingo from that time.

Not painting the American coots (Fulica americana) would have left a big hole, not only in the pond but in the storytelling (they’re swimming away from that saber-tooth).

After painting out the other nine birds in the sky (to help me meet my deadline) I had intended to paint, for similar reasons I decided I had to at least include the western black vulture (Coragyps occidentalis). It will only take a few minutes today to finish it.

I smoothed out the painting of a lot of the water and started to clean up the tapir‘s (Tapirus) reflection.

After paying more attention to the distant hills and mountains (I propped up both paintings on their side, side-by-side, so that I could match the geological contours of the modern mural), I also began to fill in the plants.

Here’s how the middle third looks at this point (click on this or any of the other images to make them larger):

Oh — I also painted in that tarantula (Aphonopelma) to the left of the fox. I painted some on the right hand third (mostly matching the two landscapes) as well. I hope to finish this second third today.

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The San Diego Zoo Murals – Part Twenty Six

As you can see, I made enormous progress over the weekend.

It’s all about botany and landscapes now. I need to carefully choose the plant species from the Pleistocene and place them in their appropriate habitats. I also need to evoke the Pleistocene landscape of San Diego, when it was much wetter and cooler.

There’s a lot of detail that’s been added, so I’ve made this image a little larger than my usual postings (click on the image to make it bigger).

This left third of the mural is nearly finished. I need to delineate what’s going on in the bottom dark area. My best painting teacher, Hal Kramer, had a mantra that went “Draw, paint; draw, paint.” There’s plenty of painting in the jaguar’s little hill and the plant clump next to it; now I’ve got to go back in and draw…then paint a little more and this section of the mural will be finished.

Anything that bothers you, dear viewers, please let me know now, as I will soon be reaching the Point of No Return — that is, once I deem this baby finished, it goes to the photographer. No more changes!

Full speed ahead!

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The San Diego Zoo Murals – Part Twenty Five

I finally finished the saber-toothed cats to my satisfaction (Rick! Are they OK?)

The mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) family is finished, too.

My wife has a way of dropping bombs on me as I’m painting. This time it was “Your cheetah’s too big.” I tried to explain that no, this was a giant cheetah and that it was in correct proportion to the western horse.

The really irritating thing about my wife, though, is that she’s usually right. That little burr she implanted in my brain just kept itching and itching. I kept looking at the cheetah, trying to wish and will it into correctness. With so little time left to complete the murals, I didn’t want to do a complete re-do on that damned cheetah.

But (once again) she was right.

For the cheetah to have been that size he would have to be placed lower in the picture. As he was, the cheetah was pretty much on the same plane as the bison, and there was no way the cheetah was THAT big.

So, I did what I had to do and repainted him smaller and in a lower position on the canvas so that the cheetah looked like it was on the same plane as the horses. I was bothered, though, that the cheetah’s focus did not seem to be on either of the horses. So, I painted out the head and neck, then changed the position of the head so that it looked like this:

Much better. The cheetah now looks like it is going after the colt. The next step is to paint out the original cheetah.

“Nothing” left now except the landscape. I better get on it!

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The San Diego Zoo Murals – Part Twenty Four

Continuing on, the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) and the merlin (Falco colunbarius) were finished like this:

A common visitor to my porch, the little (in comparison to the Columbia mammoth) scrub jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens) has been completed:

Here’s Merriam’s teratorn (Teratornis merriami) with the gopher snake (Pituophis catenifer) it has killed.

These massive birds of prey were larger than condors.

I roughed in the western meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta), as well as the…

western horse and foal (Equus occidentalis) and their pursuer, the gigantic American cheetah (Miracinonyx inexpectatus). I used the recessive throwback pattern of the king coat cheetah to inform the patterns I applied to this giant cheetah.

As you can see, the next day I refined the ancient bison (Bison antiquus), the western horses and the American cheetah. The bison may still be too loose, although they look great from a distance.

The western camels (Camelops hesternus) were improved, too. You might be able to tell I did a little more work on the meadowlark.

Very subtle changes here; after more careful research I lowered the line of the top back half of the American mastodon (Mammut americanum) and sloped it down some from spine to tail. I plan to put some sun dappling on its back. I also better defined the grizzly bear‘s (Ursus arctos) snout, ears and shoulders.

These saber-toothed cats (Smilodon californicus) were painted as my light was dying. The one on the left came out just fine, but I see that working in the near dark messed with my values (dark & light systems) sensibilities in the other one. I’ll fix it today.

The critters in this pic are almost finished! The landscape with its requisite California native plant species will hastily follow.

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The San Diego Murals – Part Twenty Three

The Pleistocene mural is rapidly progressing (although not as rapidly as I would like).

OK…let’s start out with the California Quail (Lophortyx californicus) I promised you.

And then, a whole slew of small mammals:

On the left is an ornate shrew (Sorex ornatus). To the right of the shrew is a very nervous desert cottontail (Sylvilagus audubonii). The dead hare is a black-tailed jackrabbit (Lepus californicus).

From left to right: California meadow mouse (Microtus californicus), western harvest mouse (Reithrodontomys megalotis) and the Pacific kangaroo rat (Dipodomys agilis).

Beechey’s ground squirrel (Spermophilus beecheyi) is on the left; the southern grasshopper mouse (Onychomys torridus) is on the right.

On the left is a packrat (Neotoma); at right is the California pocket mouse (Perognathus californicus).

Left: Valley pocket gopher (Thomomys botteae); right: Deer mouse (Peromyscus imperfectus).

This is the little desert shrew (Notiosorex crawfordi).

This is my rough lay-in for the brush rabbit (Sylvilagus bachmani). Here’s the more finished version, along with a recently added horned lark (Eremophila alpestris), burrowing owl (Speotyto cunicularia) and a yellow-billed magpie (Pica nuttali):

The badger (Taxidea taxus) got a better paint job…

…as did the long tailed weasel (Mustela frenata).

Continuing with the birds of prey:

Here’s the peregrine falcon (Falco pergrinus), turkey vulture (Cathartes aura) and red tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)…

…followed by the sharp-shinned hawk (Accipiter striatus), the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) and the merlin (Falco columbarius). The eagle and merlin aren’t finished (I ran out of light) but they’re half way there. I’ll post their finish tomorrow; you’ll be able to see the eagle in the three steps it took to paint it (rough, value/color lay-in, finish).

I think this is a better shot of the dire wolves (Canis dirus). They have lower foreheads than the gray wolves.

I have another day’s worth of additions, but I need to get back to my easel. The zoo has graciously allowed me to work on the mural Saturday and Sunday. There’s a lot I can do with that extra time.

Today I’m finishing the fauna.

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Ray Bradbury 1920-2012

This is a shitty day. I lost a great friend and the world has lost one of its greatest writers. Humanity has lost a great, positive light that never stopped its positive shine even in our darkest moments.

As of today, our world and our future are greatly diminished.

I’ll write and share more about my friend, author Ray Bradbury, in a few days.