Monday, July 20, 2009

From Concept to Completion

Here's a small insight into the process of creating a scientifically accurate mural.

Near the end of last year, I was tagged to create a mural for the 42' white wall in our new watershed exhibit. My approach to murals is through the limited experience and experimentation that I've had working at the aquarium and the years of painting on a smaller scale, so my approach is very much my own. I started off the image in Photoshop for the quickness and ease of changing placement.

My first instructions were to copy the mural that was done on the fountain in the front, so I after a couple of revisions of bird placement and how much of the mural to copy, this is the mockup I made:

The thought was that the image didn't really do what they wanted to do, which was, essentially, to cover the white wall and in effect, make it disappear. So the bosses scrapped the idea of copying the fountain from the front, because the shape of it was completely wrong for the wall in the back and it would have taken some major distortion and extension to work with the dimensions of the wall. Instead, I was given free reign to create my own image, a sort of "do whatever you want" with a similar idea. So I decided to put some of the garden plants on the wall to create the illusion of an extended garden and since it's an aquarium, an ocean scene. I also carried over from the fountain mural the locally found endangered bird, the Least Tern, as the main focus of the mural and few native butterflies to round out the animal population:

Once given an image to work from, my bosses decided on the theme "Urban Wetland," to reflect the characteristics of the local wetlands and the interactions of people with the natural world. It's a large part of what the aquarium wants to convey through the new watershed exhibit, which this mural is a part of. So another couple of revisions deciding what should compose the "urban" portion and this was the result:

So we had power lines, cars, and a shopping mall to represent the urban part of urban wetlands. The next request was to see a 20% tilt in the "camera angle" of the image in order to see more of the wetland:

For the sake of scientific accuracy, since this was no longer an ocean scene but a coastal bluff overlooking a wetland, the brushy hill was converted to a sand dune, a prime nesting spot for the Least Tern. Also, an additional revision called for the inclusion of an osprey, a common bird of prey, hunting for fish in the wetlands:

Now, I had a full collection of local residents of the wetlands, mostly birds, because they are the most easily seen and recognized. The image was sent off again for review, this time including a professor that was familiar with the local Los Cerritos Wetlands. The species list was updated to include more of the local plants and animals.

The final concept image can be found in the previous post.
Next post: Photos from the actual finished mural.