Bringing Greece to you

Outdoor Fountain

This project started with a lot trust and a simple, along standing fountain in my parent’s backyard painted 12-13 years ago.  It was my second mural ever.  It tricks the eye and brings a little bit of the villages of Greece to this bustling Silicon Valley backyard.  I surprised myself, for the first time painting on stucco – the thing I do now almost exclusively.  This was inspired by a song we sang in Greek folk dance and later painted for a theater backdrop.

CAM01205This huge extension started with the addition of an over pouring flower box.  This little murals was awesome Mother’s Day gift that creates an optical illusion, but it looked odd sitting there on its own.  Actually, the flower box and fountain both did.  So I decided to bring them together in my free time.

CAM00597From there, I was trying to formulate a perfect scene that would united a homey flower box and a traditional, Greek fountain.  There aren’t very many options that fit.

My parents had always talked about but have never been to Greece, where my father’s family is from.  I decided to lay down a coastal Greek Village between them.  This will create the feeling of wide open space, and another illusion of the corner in the house.

When I was sixteen, I went to Greece.  Then, painted the original fountain with the unique knowledge I had.  Relying on this and the trusty internet, I was sure I could create something fantastic for them that feel whole and complete.

CAM01216First, I restored the brightness and color of the flowers at the original fountain.  The rest of it held up pretty well over 10 years later.  I surrounded the fountain with new flowers to match the neighboring, living flowerbed, hopefully blurring that illusion.  .

I taped the fountain off to create a foreground level of depth.  I also taped off the corner before proceeding with the background, creating the next optical illusion.  Then it was time to sink my teeth into a huge undertaking of background.  I started with the fun part, the sea.

CAM01350I know my coastal regions of Greece are often hill, sometimes mountainous and so I did steep, interesting hillsides.  My mom loves the mountains.  I wanted to give them a killer view.  I also added a pier, because if there’s people living in a village, there’s a little industry and there’s fishing.  Greece isn’t super green and lush, but it has it’s far away windmills, trees and houses.

Image 20

Then, I began adding houses, vineyards, boats, goats, churches, and walkways.  I don’t think this hilly place is easy to drive around.  I think it’s neat to have a throwback village.  It’s unique like they are.  Hopefully it brings them back to a simpler time and helps them relax.

Backyard Santorini

I decided to have a bustling city down below, this foreground being up on a hillside itself away from the action.  I added a lighthouse, because I obviously have a bay going on and it would be dangerous to sail here at night.  The houses came in at different times, in different colors and really come together towards the end with the details.  Right now, it’s time to straighten these things out.

I’ve added flowers and rooster to the foreground.  Because it felt a little abrupt in its definition.  I added sunflowers to draw the eye up and down and make the whole scene feel taller and ultimately more open.

I’ve added people, a school, clothes lines, tables, etc.  All the little things that give a city personality.  Adding detail at this point is only going to capture the optical illusion further.

Nowadays, it looks like this.  I’m adding colorful bougainvillea to the foreground and finishing details on faces and houses.  Then, I get to seal it and call it complete.  Because I’ve had the opportunity to work on it over time, it’s taken a long while but it is a delight for the eyes.  Time well spent.  Marketplaces, water well, Orthodox priest, woman rocking babies, schoolyard with children, etc.



Chaboya Middle School Labeling Project


251764_10150194849711975_3474768_n253904_10150194849401975_6428725_nThis amazing project is located at Chaboya Middle School in the Evergreen Elementary School District.  This school had a desperate need of some direction.  The school only had colored roofs distinguishing the pods, helping kids find their classrooms.  It made the first week of school very difficult for new students relying on a map and sense of direction.  This was my first huge job and my first public school.  The project was to label the buildings in a pretty way that can be seen at a distance.

252815_10150200294521975_3744531_nAt first, I pitched the school all kinds of different themes and motifs for their large letters but the administration decided on a Letterman style, classic letter.  I decided to dress the letters up with a backdrop of academic symbols.  These were well rounded in subject matter, but gave me the opportunity to personalize the symbol per the teachers in the building.  This gave the staff members, especially the long time teachers, a sense of being heard and cared for.  It’s their school, not mine.  The response from teachers “That’s my symbol,” was overheard several times towards the end.

Middle School Building Labeling

I jumped around the campus, based on which buildings were in and out of summer class schedules.

I started with the mural on the A pod, which hosts classes for struggling and disabled students for the most part.  This building would have classes later but was an easy place to start while it was empty.  It needed to be very concrete in nature.  The symbols are very straight forward and balanced.  I had a great idea of what this one looked like already because I had it meticulously planned out for negotiation meetings.

Middle School Building Labeling

I then jumped to the C building because I had the most information from the teachers in the C pod.  I had the best idea of what this looked like based on their input.  This building houses computer labs, gardening club, science classes, math classes and history.  My favorite part of this piece is that I painted a Plant Cell, tracked rate of growth on a chart, drew the garden with growing veggies and handled slope.  These things play through many subjects while explaining our they’re connected.  And as always, when in doubt or with off putting space, add a Leonardo Da Vinci flying machine.

268224_10150229033936975_3311428_nI then painted the B pod.  The B pod is host to lots of language arts and history classes.  Of course math, physical education and science are incorporated but meagerly.  Gladiator helmet, Great Wall, Mecca, Vitruvian Man and Tribal Masks make this a history corner.


The next building was the D pod.  This building has a good mix of classes.  It also has a ESL class and all of this is incorporated into the subject matter.

Let's paint the campus and expand minds at the same time!

The three colts, in school colors, coming together in the center of the mural is supposed to symbolize the students coming together with a shared goal in mind.  The Preamble to the Constitution is prominently featured.  The Pythagorean theorem is featured, as is the Punnett Square.  Mayan temple and Globe of Diverse Children round out this piece.  It’s one of my favorites.


I painted the mural for the F Building next.  This holds a cluster of electives including cooking, leadership, art, animal folklore and life skills.  This is clearly seen in the subject matter.  I was assured that these would always be elective classrooms.  Music is around the corner, but wouldn’t be able to be represented elsewhere, so I included it here.

Middle School Building Labeling The next building was the E pod.  This pod holds US History, Honors Math, literature, and math club.  A large Raven represents the literature classes.  WW II plane and US Map represent US History.  Quadratic Equation, Parabolas and Physics Equation represents Math.  The Physics Equation and Ecosystem represent science while three horses run together through the background.  Baseball and bat are the symbol for PE in this mural.

229768_941518527224_4265117_n Then this was the closing of the scope of our original contract with the J pod.  That having been said, there was a large change order, doubling the scope.

IMG_1579This was the last building with summer classes.  The J pod has an assortment of subjects.  A mathematic spiral represents a quilting math teacher.  Glucose molecule and solar system represent sciences.  A timeline of the Civil War represents a Civil War reenacting History teacher.  A yearbook represents Journalism and Yearbook classes.  Books represent literature while a chessboard represents the Chess Club.

228829_10150262988496975_4850867_nThe H pod and next mural is a cluster of conference rooms, for things like speech therapy, and specialty classrooms attached to the library.

294608_958232542204_8056250_nFrom there, I labeled every other building on campus.  I painted labels for the PE building, both locker rooms, Library, Office, and updated the California Distinguished School logo.  This was an incredible chance they took on me and I am so happy my first big client is happy.  They’ve rehired me and called me first when their creative projects come about.

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Middle School Building Labeling
Middle School Building Labeling
Middle School Distinguished School District
Middle School Distinguished School District

KR Smith 2nd Grade Student Project

CAM02043I had a hand in how this school’s 2nd grade class celebrated 50 years of open doors.  Like this school, Hawaii was turning 50 years old as well.  And the school mascot is a Panther.  I think that explains the fun artwork.


First, I outlined the design on the wall in sharpie, so the kids could clearly see it, then divided the square footage by the number of students participating in the project.  I had the game plan in mind for how this would go.

I had done drawing instruction inside the classroom with a lot of success at KR Smith, so the students were familiar with me.  The 2nd grade teachers each brought their classes out to discuss the project and the rules before getting started so the interruptions to classroom learning were limited.  I then asked each student, in groups of six at a time, to come out quietly and paint a shape or 6 inch by 6 inch space/area.  Each student was to tap the next student on the shoulder and pass them their smock.


Let me say, the students treated it like the privilege it was.  They get to leave their mark on the school forever.  Each student painted between 5-10 minutes and the students were wonderful throughout.  Of course they were.  It was so much fun to do.  Bit by bit, the artwork came to life.

Class Participation Mural

Even before we had finished the mural, the students felt a sense of pride and enthusiasm in their school and their work.  The response was immediate and amazing.  It was overwhelming,  They’ll always remember painting Hawaii and this experience they shared with their fellow students.

Class Participation Mural

From there, I added my Gemellos touch.  I detailed the mural and outlined the images.  I added colorful seashells.  I added textures and rocks.  I didn’t need to touch the water or trees at all.  The students did a great job.  They added the bubbles and their natural fill patterns blended into an awesome wave.  Now, we’re ready for the writing.

Class Participation Mural

I taped up a large arch on the mural, which is a lot harder than it initially seems, and the portion I was going to write in the sand.  The teachers decided that the most diplomatic way to do this was pick their students of the week.  This was a fair pick of the draw and being rewarded for improvement.

Class Participation Mural
Class Participation Mural

These students, one from each class, did the writing in the arch I had created and we picked a new student for every letter and in a new style every time.  In their own handwritings and without matching each other.  This was like having a physical font picker.  It was so cool to orchestrate this little group.  I had them writing @ symbols and numbers too, which they eventually understood towards the end.

Class Participation MuralIn the end, the 2nd grade students had a great time creating something beautiful and long-lasting at their school.  They’ll always feel that pride I feel when painting.  They’ll walk by it for years to come and feel a little joy knowing they put it there.

We did this project beautiful common core, but in the future, I might apply mathematic and writing properties into the creation of this with older students.

Santa Cruz Orthodontics Signage

cropped-cropped-p1100662.jpgHey there!  So, I was asked to do a different kind of mural this time.  It was my first signage project for my portfolio.  This project would require pristine, execution and concise copy-cat skills.

Luckily, what the client wanted wasn’t what I prepared to pitch them.  I showed them photos of cheesy, smiley teenagers and existing Invisalign advertising materials.  I was relieved from the start to hear they wanted something completely different.  I’m so happy that my clients feel open enough to be honest about exactly what they want or require from me as an artist.
Screen Shot 2015-09-05 at 10.46.32 PM

After some thought, they decided they wanted a cool Bart Simpson and this particular Invisalign ad, framing the text.  I proposed that we add rainbow braces into this mix as a cool frame, and drawing more attention to it.  I wasn’t prepared, and I’m sure they appreciated saving this cost, to travel back and forth several times to Santa Cruz.  So this portion of the project was quite detailed in its planning.

Scan0018 copyWe handled it all over e-mail.  I totally appreciated having the approval of art portion in writing, though electronic.  It means everyone is clear about the expectations and that ensures that the client will be happy at the end.

I pitched the client several different versions of Bart Simpson in our negotiations.  They picked their favorite pose and then I made it 20% different.  Then, we tried Bart Simpson in different colors.  The likeness is still so close that you recognize him instantly.  I’ve played with his body portions, number of spikes in his hair and added braces per the customer’s requirements.

Santa Cruz Orthodontics 31Santa Cruz Orthodontics 25In the process, I tried the chosen graphics with various different colored, bright backgrounds.  I created over 50 proofs with a wide variety of font choices and in a lot of different layouts options and placements.  This made it so easy to decide for the client.  This process didn’t take more than a couple days for the client to decide.  Going back and forth via electronic mail, I sent them a new look every time, but only my favorites.  This is just a sliver of a sampling of the proofs we went through.

SCO Final ProofThe last of our face-to-face negotiations, we sat in his lobby, opened my laptop and clicked through fonts  for the center text.  With that having been decided, we signed of our contract.

Here’s what the client decided on.  A bright, lime green background and a bright blue and red writing. The Bart is wearing a red shirt and blue shorts.   These colors are eye-catching and create all kinds of contrast.  The Bart Simpson add the cool factor for the teenagers at the school down the street.  The Invisalign logo is clean and clear.  The rainbow braces really make the sign pop.  In the end, I really liked that they chose a green.  It’s different and neutral.

This project was on Mission Street in Santa Cruz, California.  It’s a busy, well traveled path on the way to UCSC.  It’s down the street from a high school and it’s Santa Cruz, so there are pedestrians of every kind.  It felt a little like being on display.  Trucks honked.  Buses flow by constantly.  Traffic backs up.  People walk by and stare.  People stopped to talk.  It was fun, but I was so happy I brought my caution tape and my headphones.
Image 3

After prepping the area, I measured and blocked out the Invisalign advertisement portion.  After rolling the wall green, I had my images reproduced at the required sizes and transferred them on to the wall.  Now, it’s a giant coloring book page that needs to be painted in.

P1100623High School students who had seen me start my mural in the morning with bright green saw me that afternoon while I was taking picture and they offered to take pictures of me with my new painting.

This was a two day project.  I still had braces, Invisalign ad, and outlines to get up there, which seems like the smallest area of the whole project but can take the most time to get perfect.

Santa Cruz Orthodontics 95% completion

Before I tore off the tape, I got the approval from my clients and  I sealed the painting.  Nothing feels better than ripping tape off of the perimeter of a painting.  We had happy campers at the closing and a check.  

Over the years, the lime green background and colors of the mural have held up really well.  It’s had two instances of vandalism, but I think that’s to be expected as there’s a high school a block away and plenty of vagrants roaming Santa Cruz.  I’ve had to touch it up once, but my clients were so pleased with this project, they’re now considering an update with yours truly.

Santa Cruz Orthodontics Bart
Santa Cruz Orthodontics Bart
Santa Cruz Orthodontics Invisalign
Santa Cruz Orthodontics Invisalign
Santa Cruz Orthodontics Signage
Santa Cruz Orthodontics Signage




PHASE 2 AND BALL WALL at John J. Montgomery Elementary

This project located at John J. Montgomery Elementary School in the Evergreen Elementary School District was a second phase to a previous series as well as a face lift for the Hand Ball Wall.  Here’s a taste of the first phase – which we’ve featured the California Standards, civil rights leaders, diversity, goals, etc.


Elementary School Narrative Mural
Elementary School Narrative Mural
Elementary School Narrative Mural
Elementary School Narrative Mural


Elementary School Narrative Mural

This project took all summer, but was worth every minute.  We started the first week students were out of school and went through the first week of the school year.  This is a client and school that I love, so I was more than happy to return.
P1280029Our second phase in the courtyard was comprised of 3 distinct murals finishing the other three walls across from the original murals.  We had to match our previous style choices, beef up the brightness and color, and we had a couple new messages in mind.  I say we, but I am referring to myself and the principal/client – whose input I solicited at times, and was given at any time she wanted and thankfully so.  I hear my clients.

The first of this second phase murals said good-bye to a well-respected PTA president who did a great deal for the school and passed away last school year, but we also incorporated our California Standards/subject matter, common core learning symbols and feature our first black president as our civil rights focus on this mural.  We like Barack Obama for reminding students to not be afraid to be the first one blazing a great trail.

11907188_10102772037716054_4742356694877149924_nThis next mural in our second grade is nestled between a couple of kindergarten classrooms.  This mural celebrates the kindergarten curriculum with bright bold imagery – their favorite books, lifecycles, alphabet, numbers, colors and shapes.  This mural also helps our youngest students understand the goals we hold for them.  I used some of the same blue from the school’s trim within the work, which initially seemed subtle however some of the teachers did catch on.


John J. Montgomery 8 of 8
John J. Montgomery 8 of 8

The third mural in our second phase was by the principal’s office.  This one ultimately says good bye to a well loved principal, acknowledges the teachers and celebrates anti-bullying and common core while incorporating our visual narrative and subject matter.  Rosa Parks was our civil rights leader for this mural.  Each of my murals at this school incorporate a version of its mascot – the Gliders built by John J. Montgomery, the school’s namesake.  This one was a newsprint design from the early 1900’s.

P1280372The Hand Ball Wall was exceptional in its scale – 15 feet tall and 20 feet wide.  Because of this, I was able to use the district’s scissor lift instead of trying to accomplish it all with my ladders.  Phew!  The lift made it possible to ultimately reach my deadline.

One side of the wall faces the upper grades.  The other faces the lower grades.

The lower grade side features California state information, flag and missions, as well as the California Distinguished School District logo.  We’ve featured big beautiful poppies throughout.  “Knowledge is power” is the principal’s motto, so we’ve brought it into the foreground above the large book.  The blue butterfly is a symbol that reminds students to try to focus in class, as blue butterflies had conquistadors lost in the rainforests of Central and South America.  A magical paintbrush is featured in the upper lefthand corner next to this mural’s Glider.  A large apple is a reminder to eat right before school.  The ruler is the original number line, a mystery to many students and a crucial tool in mathematics that I use daily, so it’s near and dear to my heart.

P1270983The upper grade facing side of the Hand Ball Wall tells the story of the History of Aviation and Space travel from the Renaissance to present.  Selfies can be taken from the moon.  Orville Wright can be seen in flight.  The Sofia and Hubble telescopes are featured.  Airplanes, helicopters, Space shuttles and flying machines throughout time are featured.

John J. Montgomery’s Glider is featured on this side, both as a mascot plate and as a floating article about how his flying machines were inspired by the birds native to the Silicon Valley.  He also worked in the tech field laying telecom cables in the early 1900’s from San Diego to San Francisco, eventually making San Jose his home.

After a refinishing of the benches in the courtyard as a thank you, I consider this school officially finished.

The benches were a strange collection.  They’re from various dates and were various colors of wood grain.  This was fun.  It took a lot longer to sand down than initially anticipated but so worth it.  After finding the perfect colors to unite the woods, I painted the metal posts and staged the benches just in time for Back to School Night.  This was something the principal had spoken about doing herself theoretically, but I was able to handle that for her.

montgomery 2015 copyShe means/meant so much to this school and community.  Now her mark on this school is everlasting and sparkles.  This second phase compliments the first phase while adding common core and other strong messages throughout.  “Knowledge is Power” is a redundant theme, as is the inventor and invention of the Gliders.  John J. Montgomery’s ultimate message is that there’s always something we could improve upon and letting the imagination soar, making modern flight possible.  Her message in tandem leave us all feeling like anything is possible with an education and an imagination.

This was an incredible project to work on over the summer.  The staff and students were super supportive.  We finished exactly by our deadline and being able to finish the benches made my client tear up.  Totally worth it!



Falafel’s Drive In

This project from 2012-13 called upon me to use a lot of creative license and a lot of symbolism to create a cohesive, continuous story the City of San Jose and the Falafel’s Drive In.

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by Lila Gemellos
by Lila Gemellos

Murals in the Media 407502_2875523243220_1335492265_n

Girl’s Flower Bedroom

Designed to be cost effective and colorful, this little girl’s flowering meadow brings this room to life.  This is a 2-3 day project, with the client already having painted the walls and accents.

Girl's Room- Designed for active play and imagination
Girl’s Room- Designed for active play and imagination
Girl's Room
Girl’s Room


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Shaved Hawaiian Ice

SHAVED Hawaiian Ice contacted Lila Gemellos as renovations for their specialty dessert shop were wrapping up.  Gemellos was asked for something that incorporated Hawaiian surf culture with San Jose’s rich History.  SHAVED also asked for some hip-hop undertones and graffiti motifs.

SHAVED Hawaiian Ice 1597 E Meridian Ave., San Jose, CA 95125
SHAVED Hawaiian Ice
1597 E Meridian Ave., San Jose, CA 95125

More Pictures

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Aasha’s Pediatrics

At Aasha’s Pediatrics, I removed large vinyl stickers, sanded and filled, repainted the interior walls and created fun, large scale murals that help appointments, especially shots, go smoother.


beforeafter exam c
before/after exam c
beforeafter exam B
before/after exam B
beforeafter exam D
before/after exam D






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