Friday, February 26, 2010

Flowers & Fairies

When I was a little girl, my mother painted murals on my and my sister's bedroom walls of castles, fairies and magic.  I imagined myself inside these paintings, fantasizing about being a princess, flying through the air, escaping to another land. My mother is a great artist. She was always painting, creating, sewing, sculpting art and cooking when I was growing up...and still does!

One of the murals my mom painted in the mid-'70s in our room. The classic theme of moon, stars and sun.

Another classic theme: fairies, castles and a magical rainbow. I loved these as a kid.

So, it was fun to paint this "flowers and fairies" mural for this soon-to-be born baby girl. It was a small room, but I think I was able to pack in quite a bit of imagination!

The focus point is the little baby snuggled in the flower's leaf. Whimsical fairies, butterflies and bumblebees join in on the fun.

It's hard to see in the photo, but the fairy wands and sprinkles of color shooting out of the tips.

I had a tight deadline for this one, plus big brother wanted a mural, too. So, I tried a looser style in my painting technique. I tried not to worry so much about the smaller details and went for broad strokes of color. I also painted more of a contrast between highlights and shadows to create a bigger punch. Of course when you're done, you can always think of ways to improve it!


When painting a mural, try to remember most people will be looking at it from across the room, not up close. That's why sharp contrasts in color help create a better illusion of depth, light and dimension. And think about using color for shadow instead of the dull grays and blacks. It can really make things pop!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Public Art in Yolo County

I had noticed a new mural on Main Street the other day. I mean, it's been there for 6 months or so, but I really looked at it the other day. It made me remember other murals I've seen in town. I wondered how many other there are in town and who are the artists that painted them. Let's take a little tour of my little town, Woodland. You might be surprised, like me.

16 Main Street, artist Maceo Montoya. The mural emphasizes the importance of good nutrition, physical activity, and promotion of healthy lifestyle choices.

Once I found out about the Montoya artists, Malaquias (father) and Maceo (son), I felt kinda stupid. Why didn't I know about these well-known artists living in my town? I'm sure everyone else did. Even worse, I have seen the murals around town and I didn't even bother to see who the artists were...until now. Sorry guys!

Beamer Park Elementary, 525 Beamer Street, artist Malaquias Montoya. The mural is inspired by one of the elementary school's favorite folk songs, "De Colores," which celebrates color in spring, birds and rainbows. - UC Davis News

Here's a little background:
Among the most prominent living Chicano artists, Malaquias Montoya's work is in the collections of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum in Chicago, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and more than a dozen other museums, libraries and universities. He is a renowned artist, activist, and professor  of Chicana/Chicano studies and art and art history at UC Davis and his students help him paint the murals during their class.

Freeman Elementary School, artist Malaquias Montoya.

His son, Maceo Montoya, grew up in the small town of Elmira, California. He comes from a family of artists and is an educator and author, as well. He graduated from Yale University in 2002 and received his Master of Fine Arts in painting from Columbia University in 2006. He has completed numerous public art commissions, including a mural at Yale University’s La Casa Cultural Center. He has also worked on murals with the Eastside Arts Alliance in Oakland and Taller Arte Del Nuevo Amenecer (TANA) in Woodland, where he has worked as an instructor. He presently lives in Woodland where he paints and writes.

6 West Court Street, artist Maceo Montoya. As a director of the project, Mr. Montoya has been working with students ranging from middle school to high school to develop a design for a community mural project.

These are only a few from the Montoyas, I'll post more murals from them soon.

We have more public art murals in town by other artists. We had two historic murals hung outside the historic Woodland Opera house. They were canvases instead of being painted directly on the wall. Unfortunately, they didn't stand up to the wild storms we get sometimes.

Mural on historic Woodland Opera House, Woodland, CA. Building pictured was the terminal for the Sacramento Northern interurban electric railroad.

These are the two canvas murals before they were blown/taken down. I can't find who painted them.

I found this Elephant mural as I was driving home. It used to be the Crocodeli, but now it's The Elephant Hut. I tried to find out about the artist, NorCal Custom Murals, but I couldn't even find a website.

The Elephant Hut Deli, Kentucky Rd. Painted by NorCal Custom Murals.

If you want to see these murals, and more, come see "The Art of Public Art” – showcasing the art and artists of public art installations around the county. Gallery 625, 625 Court St, Woodland, 530-406-4844, Reception: Friday, April 2, 5:30 pm.

Also, when you are out and about in your town, snaps some pictures of YOUR city's public murals and post them on

Saturday, February 20, 2010

North of the Line Cafe for S.T.E.P.

This inspirational mural is for the S.T.E.P Agency in Sacramento. This is the biggest mural I've painted so far. It's in their large multi-purpose room where most of their clients hang out, eat, having meetings, etc. They wanted to make the room more inviting while creating a visual that encompassed their philosophies and principles.

The start of the mural. The only part painted on the bottom half are the tree roots.

They were great clients because not only were they very prepared, they knew exactly what they wanted in the images and quotes.

At the same time, they allowed me some creative freedom in how the images would be symbolized and tied together. 

I did a very detailed sketch of this mural, even doing some close-ups to use in my opaque projector

There are many different kinds of projectors, but this one got good reviews for my price range. After using it, the only downsides I've found are that the projection area is a bit small and it isn't as bright as I would like.

I used the projector for most of the mural since it was so big. I needed to make sure I got the spacing correct. Plus, it was very helpful when drawing the text. I used paint pens for filling in the text. It made it much easier to create the fine lines and curves of the words.

There was a lot of climbing up and down ladders since the mural was on the top half of the wall.

Even though I didn't know sign language, it was great to have the clients of S.T.E.P. come in and say "hi" and check out my work.

You can see the whole mural in a Flash scrolling picture (second thumbnail in on the top row) if you go to my portfolio website, Griffmobile Designs.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Hero Character Development

Thanks to suggestions from my Facebook page, I got a kick start to my heros brainstorming sketches. I've come up with mural ideas for the fish and the dog. I'm thinking about adding some text to the mural, like a short description of their powers, or maybe just their superhero name. No, I haven't come up with those. I will see if the client already has ideas for names.

At first, I was drawing the fish as a swimmer, but then I was told a superhero fish HAS TO be able to walk. Duh! 

Here she (yeah, I think of the fish as a "she")is in her natural environment. She is the protector of small sea critters! The turtle is suppose to look happy or relieved. I might have to work on that.

Next is the superhero dog. He flies, he saves, he enjoys a good bone at the end of his day. Notice the bone belt, hehee.

His mural will be set at the end of the day, as he surveys the land, satisfied with all his good deeds and his tasty bone.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Few More Birdies

Happy Valentine's Day! The family and I had a nice day working in the garden, then a bike ride to the park for slides and swings, Beabug's favorite thing to do right now.

I was also able to finish up the "birds on a branch" murals in the bathroom. I did a couple quick sketches before I started drawing on the walls. I should have planned out the whole thing first, but I decided to "wing" it, hee hee.

A few quick sketches by mommy in pen, and a couple sketches by Beabug, in the top left corner, in crayon. She has one of my old pads of paper that she draws on with her colored pencils (crayons we are still working on drawing with them, instead of eating them). She gets very serious while drawing; leaning in, scribbling intensely and constantly demanding a fresh piece of paper. What a budding artist!

The finished mural behind the toilet at my husband's request so, "the men can have something to look at."

I thought I'd add a little one to enjoy on the way out of the room! Maybe I should add a little quote, "Don't forget to tweet out the light!"
Okay, maybe I'm not the best writer...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Odd Superheros Unite!

I've been commissioned to paint a superheros mural in a kids' playroom. Here's the twist, they want "different" characters, like a bear, a dog, a duck or goose and maybe, a fish. Sounds fun, right?

What should these superheros do? They want the bear to be holding up a crumbling wall. Maybe the dog should be on a hill, with his cape flowing majestically behind him.  I'm thinking the duck should have super-sonic sight, flying over the earth. What about the fish, though? What should the power be for the superhero fish?

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Prowling the seas, maps and more

I was in my third trimester with The BeaBug when I was contacted by Pamela Turner about doing some illustrations for a children's science book she was writing. The topic was about animals from the website I had been working on,

She asked me about creating some maps and diagrams for her book, and I thought, sure I can squeeze in one more job before giving birth! Turns out The BeaBug decided to come a month early, so I spent a week in a hospital bed, finishing up some of these maps!

Anyway, everything turned out great, including the beautiful baby girl and the maps for Prowling The Seas: Exploring the Hidden World of Ocean Predators by Pamela S. Turner. It was published in late 2009 October by Walker Books for Young Readers.

Sooty Shearwater birds are extremely long-distance migrants who tend to fly by themselves instead of in a flock. These birds can travel up to 45,981 miles a year!

Leatherback turtles are very old. In the last three decades, 95 percent of the leatherbacks in the eastern Pacific Ocean have disappeared. The World Conservation Union (IUCN) lists leatherbacks as critically endangered. Their biggest threat: humans, who catch them accidentally in nets and on fishing lines, and who develop their nesting sites.

Bluefin Tuna fish are warm-blooded giants: up to 1,500 pounds (684 kg) and 15 feet (4.58 meters) long. That’s another human longer than the tallest human being. They can hit speeds up to 60 mph and dive to 600 feet.

If you would like to see more of my illustrations, please purchase a copy of the book. It's a really amazing look at the life of these animals ( including a white shark) which will fascinate any young reader.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Birds on a Branch, Pt. 2

I was able to finish up the mural last night. It was relatively easy since it was one color and a simple design. I think to finish off the room, another small mural on the wall behind the toilet. Maybe two birds flying?

These are some of my supplies. I use a large fishing box to carry around my main supplies like pencils, erasers, paint can openers, acrylic paints, and paint brushes. I started out with a smaller box, but each new one keeps getting bigger! It's very convenient and much cheaper than an artist box.

I use a mix of latex and acrylic paints. I mostly use the latex for large sections of color, but it tends to be translucent so I usually mix it with some white acrylic. When I go get a batch mixed up at Home Depot, I always check out there "reject paint" area. There tends to be some pretty interesting colors that people didn't like, or returned.

For this mural, I had a small can of brown latex paint that was almost the color I wanted. I mixed in a little of my warmer browns and oranges.

You can see it still wasn't opaque enough, so I had to paint two coats. Luckily in this case, latex and acrylic dry quickly. Once I got through with the first coat, I was able to go back to the beginning and start the second coat right away.

The finished mural! I think it turned out pretty well. I have a couple sketches of fluttering birds, I'm thinking about putting those on the opposite wall. A nice outcome for a fast mural, don't ya think?

Friday, February 05, 2010

Free Museum Day in Sacramento!

It's free museum day tomorrow in the Sacramento area! It's free admission, all day long, at 26 Sacramento area museums. This is a great annual tradition which provides a fun activity for the whole family, and ya get some education, too!

Birds on a Branch, Pt. 1

My neighbor is having a baby soon and she was looking for a way to decorate. She found some really nice decal murals, you know, peal and stick. They are actually really cute, whimsical and loose.

Since most of my walls are still blank, (I know, I know, I'm a muralist, but it was a brand-new house and I wanted to enjoy that!) I started looking to see if I could find one I like. Then I thought, heck, I should just paint it myself! So, I started my faux-decal "birds on a branch" mural in our guest bathroom.

No matter how simple the design is, it's always a good idea to sketch it out first. The idea in your head my look differently on paper.
Sometimes I use a projector, but most of the time I draw it by hand directly on to the wall. I find this works a little better because it allows flexibility in the spacing of the elements. A projector works well for me with very large, or detailed, or precise murals.
This mural is going to be a silhouette, just one color, so it should be a fairly fast paint. I probably just jinxed myself.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Hi Everyone -

I am a Sacramento area artist, designer, mom and wife. I hope that you find my musings about my artistic process, my whimsical style and my goofy, but loving family interesting enough to stick around and see what comes next!