LAURA JOHNSTON

•••••• artist ••••••

My First Mural - for Palomacy Pigeon & Dove

Bay Area Adventures, Adventures, TidbitsLaura JohnstonComment
Nearly finished, sprinkled with late afternoon shadows.

Nearly finished, sprinkled with late afternoon shadows.

Instagram is an awesome place for discovery. Since moving to California I've discovered more through IG than anywhere else, from artists to events to restaurants to hiking spots. Sometime last year I stumbled upon Palomacy Pigeon & Dove Adoptions and was so excited to see such a group. As a bay-area newcomer it seemed to solidify something about the area. This is an amazing place with so many passionate people working in many different disciplines; within arms reach you can find an expert or enthusiast for pretty much anything. I'd never heard of a pigeon rescue group before, probably because there aren't many, which speaks to another wonderful aspect of the area - an entrepreneurial spirit that if it doesn't exist, start it. 

Shortly after discovering Palomacy they posted a call for mural artists and ideas. My interest in murals was already piqued from all of the colorful art in the area, and that coupled with my desire to get more involved in the community meant it came with perfect timing. 

My final sketch for the mural.

My final sketch for the mural.

I expressed interest and pitched a design to the group. The mural was to be on two separate (corner-connected) surfaces, so I designed the sketch as two parts linked together by the flying pigeon and landscape. Each segment was about 5x8' for a 10x8' total wrapped mural. Everyone loved the design and after a few tweaks we scheduled a Saturday to paint.

Me working on the hills. I freehanded the design in light yellow paint and we just worked from that + my sketch reference.

Me working on the hills. I freehanded the design in light yellow paint and we just worked from that + my sketch reference.

Ruthie painting in the black chalkboard section. They'll be able to use this for quotes and news/info... how fun!

Ruthie painting in the black chalkboard section. They'll be able to use this for quotes and news/info... how fun!

At one point the founder of Palomacy, Elizabeth, came by to see our progress and said she admired how fearless I was with my art. It struck me as a particularly fabulous and unexpected compliment, as I don't think of myself as fearless and was certainly feeling nervous about the mural beforehand. I had never even worked on a mural, much less designed and led one. How was it going to go? I tried not to think about it too much and chased the thought away with "Just show up and take it from there" each time I started to worry. I figured once I was there it would be great fun and go fine. And it was - everyone I met was kind and calm and ready to help as much or as little as I needed, which was comforting because I am not used to delegating my art. In fact, it was an awesome lesson in that, because there is no way I would have gotten as close to completing the mural in one day had it not been for everyone's helping hands!

Debbie, Ruthie, and I standing in front of the mural about 5 hours in. Ruthie was smart to wear long sleeves! I got burnt (but luckily the sun was only out for part of the day!).

Debbie, Ruthie, and I standing in front of the mural about 5 hours in. Ruthie was smart to wear long sleeves! I got burnt (but luckily the sun was only out for part of the day!).

Earlier on in the painting when Ruthie and I tag-teamed the gradient in the blue sky. If you paint, you're probably aware that creating a smooth gradient in a quick-drying medium is pretty tricky. Add to that a giant space and by myself it would have been a real challenge!

Earlier on in the painting when Ruthie and I tag-teamed the gradient in the blue sky. If you paint, you're probably aware that creating a smooth gradient in a quick-drying medium is pretty tricky. Add to that a giant space and by myself it would have been a real challenge!

Debbie and Ruthie working on the sky and sun rays! It was tricky getting the lines straight on textured wood.

Debbie and Ruthie working on the sky and sun rays! It was tricky getting the lines straight on textured wood.

Seeing it start to really come together with the addition of the flowers around the bottom!

Seeing it start to really come together with the addition of the flowers around the bottom!

The mural is located on Palomacy's main aviary in Ploughshares Nursery in Alameda, CA. I'm so excited to say that now you can see a bold pop of color from the street as you drive up - it's incredible the excitement and life that color can breathe into a space, even a space already filled with beautiful plants and birdies! Elizabeth and Debbie even decided to paint the benches in front of the aviary as the mural was in-progress, which really makes the whole space so inviting and fun.

Finished!

It ended up taking a Saturday and a half, and I'm really happy with how the mural turned out. Best of all is that the awesome folks of Palomacy love it! I learned a lot about the process of creating a mural, how long it takes to tackle something this size, a better idea of how to delegate tasks, and a lot about pigeons, too! I even got to hold a few of them. :) I'm not sure how much mural-ing is in my future, but I think I do want to at least create something colorful for my own garden. And if another opportunity falls into place, who knows! #seewhathappens