I can’t believe I’m lucky enough to wake up every morning and work towards another mural project. Likewise, I am so fortunate to continue to grow professionally. As my career progresses, the jobs become different. When I first started painting murals ten years ago, I was painting a lot of children’s bedrooms, doctor’s office exam room updates and graffiti stricken schools. The jobs I cut my teeth on were small in comparison to today’s jobs. I appreciate each of those jobs still because they’ve prepared me for the bigger ones.
Nowadays, I paint new construction and “City” jobs. These opportunities are special in different ways. Any time you paint a new building, your mural is synonymous with the building visually. It is a part of how that brand new thing will be known for all its days. It’s the “building with a that mural”.
This Morgan Hill job was both on a new shell heavily under construction and a public art opportunity with the City of Morgan Hill. A City or Public Art job is always unique is its formation, execution and inspiration. Each city entity works a little differently. The individual jobs are generally bigger by hundreds of square feet. I haven’t been heavily scrutinized through the approval process because of the subject matter and intent of my work. I’m not in any danger of making a controversial statement that enflames passers by. Each jobsite is super specific as to utilities, work hours, etc. The job itself is a little more technical. Every public job is a rarity and a treasure for a mural artist. It’s the fruit of our artistic labors – the years spent toiling in obscure bedrooms are repaid in these jobs where we become known in public. Working in other cities around the Bay Area is the jumping off for a nationwide presence. It’s how we as artists scale our careers.
In any case, I like to use these public art opportunities to create a sense of place by acknowledging the culture, the history and the highlights of the area. It just makes sense to me. It’s going into the City’s portfolio of Art. If I can tie a fun bow around what makes a place cool, I’ll have succeeded – getting community buy-in and engagement. That’s really what I’m aiming for as an artist. I tried to creatively create a sense of place for City of Morgan Hill, but whimsically. I can’t create that sense authentically or responsibly without doing my research nor without the help of very knowledgeable others. The architects, property owners, tenants and city advisory committee collaborated about the different things that distinguished Morgan Hill from other cities nearby. This included an agricultural heritage, historic architecture, their mushroom magnetism, a motorcycle enthusiasm, a wine trail and other Morgan Hill character traits. I processed this input and delivered several different options. Upon choosing to represent Morgan Hill’s residents as animals, it became clear that the animals either needed to be whimsical or needed to be indigenous. A blend was too confusing. I think you can tell which direction the stakeholders chose to go in.
To represent Morgan Hill, California’s rich agricultural roots, I not only painted larger than life fruits and nuts specific to Morgan Hill. Covering the fruit packing industry, I utilized an early 1900’s Bisceglia Brothers canned apricot label that obviously featured Morgan Hill’s landscape from their Paradise Valley brand. Upon seeing how stunning this was from a distance, I left it a little larger than intended and let its sunset shine over Mt. El Toro. Morgan Hill prides itself on its wine tours so our spider raises a red wine. Apricots, more common to the area, are featured in the upper right corner. To further add to Morgan Hill’s produce history, more modern mushrooms were incorporated into the animals seated having coffee as the chairs and tables. Though whimsical or magically creatured, the committee and I tried to keep this mural’s contents balanced between authentic and playful.
I don’t care where you got your art training from or how much of it you’ve had. The chances are that if you’ve had two serious art teachers teaching a single 2 dimensional medium, you’ve been told to start with the farthest and work your way forward in one of those mediums. Perhaps so many times, you shutter at its utterance like I do. Art Teachers are smart people – they pay bills with their art and communication skills. Don’t fight good information. This elongated process will eliminate white spots and errors because it’s so clear what you’re working on. Not all mediums allow you to layer. This one does. Not only is this back to front process just super smart so it eliminates errors and ultimately saves time. Back to front is also the most dramatic presentation throughout the mural painting process. Hopefully you’re not dropping a cloth down every day trying to hide and unveil your work. If you have the time and money, it’s worth revealing to the public beautifully.
Over the last year or so, spraypainting is a skillset I have been acquiring some expertise with. I have heavily utilized sprays on the last 4 projects, though never exclusively. Don’t get me wrong. Paintbrushes are how all my contours and details happen. There’s still a lot of technical painting happening. Spraypainting, however, has been another incredible time saver. Beyond blocking colors and an airbrush quality shading, the affects one can achieve spraypainting are awesome. The clouds feel fluffy. The fruit looks shiny. The background intentionally looks faraway with particle shading. While elevating the quality of the work, spray also provides my whimsical mural here a lot of street cred. I guess I’m where Street Art meets Fine Arts. My colors are much more vibrant if I’m not risking the contamination that comes with mixing on a pallet to shade. I also bring about 10 plastic, reusable pallets to a project and wash them daily. Changing the spray tips and making sure those aren’t clogged can make a world of difference. No one wants unintentional drip marks.
This mural is 28 feet across and 14 feet tall. The mural will have 4 lights dropping down illuminating it. It’s so large that it’s hard to get it in a straight on photo, except from the parking structure across the way.
This whimsical public art mural is located at 17280 Monterey Road, Morgan Hill, CA 95037, where several popular Willow Glen restaurants are expanding to. This is across from the parking garage on Fourth Street, with this awesome, nay, inspiring spider made from motorcycle headlights. You can see why I think this guy is a part of the Morgan Hill culture and is featured in the whimsy. Can I also say this section of Downtown Morgan Hill is food heaven. Coffee Guys is a mere few yards away from the project and Huntington Station Bar & Grille views the project from its patio.
I love talking to people when I’m out painting a mural. I am painting for the public. It’s “public art”. If you can’t concentrate while being watched or can’t be gracious about kind interruptions, you probably should wear headphones while you paint. It’s way more fun to get a vibe off of your audience and allow them to help you push through the tough times. I always meet the nicest people. The residents of Morgan Hill were so kind and encouraging throughout the process. Not only did Katie from the City’s advisory committee come out and let me know how they felt about the mural in progress, but I found this on a Morgan Hill Community facebook page with almost 200 likes and more than 10 shares. When the Community I’m painting for welcomes it into their lives, I’ve succeeded. I have created something others can be proud of in their hometown. My ego only requires that their is a public viewing and enjoying my work.
As for working on another working jobsite, the guys from Method Construction were amazing. They clearly enjoyed working with each other. I was never made to feel unwanted or wanted too much. This was a great on site experience for me. I couldn’t thank them more.
I’d also like to thank KRP Architects, Imwalle Properties and the City of Morgan Hill for this huge opportunity. This one definitely helps grow my public art portfolio and allows me to grow beyond the City of San Jose. I’m so honored to be apart of this beautiful project. Photos coming from the Opening Events.