Pulling It All Together

Days 8 and 9

With everything in place, it’s now time to add any lettering and to place in the coded message. I’ve integrated sign language, pictographs, braille, binary code, illuminated lettering, semaphore, and more into the work.

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I add highlights to glass and metal items to make them shine, add texture to the signal tower, punch up the the contrast where needed, and drop in shadows to add dimension.

Arctic DriftAll the while I’m  listening to
Clive Cussler’s ARCTIC DRIFT.
Action-packed and just what I need.



And then it is all done!final leftfinal middle

final right


It’s All in the Details

Days 6 and 7

Day 6 Made it to the end of the mural and completed the blocking in process. Now it’s time to finish detailing. This is my favorite part of the process, but I’m also looking for ways to better transition elements from one to another. In some cases I have to add an element.In others, it requires some color shifts using glazing. The wonderful thing about glazing is that it allows light to pass through the top layer and refract off the layers underneath. This adds luminosity and depth.

Day 8 a







Aristotle  & DanteI’m now listening to ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE by Benjamin Alire Saenz. The book has garnered many awards, and I can see why. The voice is so strong in this novel, which is about an angry young man whose brother is in prison and with the help of a know-it-all friend goes looking for the answers.


Loosening Up

Day 4 and 5

Day 8I don’t want to make the mistake of getting bogged down in details at this point, so today I block in some of the larger items–the telegraph office, Alexander Graham Bell making the first transcontinental telephone call, and an arc of phones through history. Sometimes I work freehand, and sometimes I like to pencil items inusing watercolor pencils. They come in a variety of colors and erase with water–most of the time. The important thing is to chose a pencil color that is compatible with the item to be painted.

Finished DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE. What will be next?

Turning the Corner

Day 3
Day 4

I literally turned the corner today and am now up to the development of sign language and the 1860 Pony Express.

Although there is an abundance of pipes, outlets and cinder block to contend with, the surface is ideally suited to  dry brushing. Works for me, especially since this portion of the mural is filled with scenes incorporating dust and smoke.

Listening to Laini Taylor’s DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE. It is an imaginative young adult fantasy full of angels, and chimera and written by someone I met years ago at a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conference. Such a gifted writer!

Smoke and Bone

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Day 2b




Day 2
With the mural blocked in, today I began with some glazing and ragging to imitate stone. The trickiest bit is blending large areas of one color into another. Acrylic and latex tend to dry too fast to blend wet into wet . I don’t use extenders. I just paint quickly!

Paper stencils worked beautifully to create the pictographs and some changes in scale to the palace and signal tower helped to add depth and interest.

History of Communication Mural for a School

This week I launched into a mural for an elementary school computer lab. The theme for the 3-wall project is the history of communication, which is great because I’m also currently working on a picture book about Alexander Graham Bell. So yeah, kind of serendipitous.

The mural project actually began a few months ago with intensive research and a sketch to scale. Early on I hit on the idea of making the mural interactive by hiding clues within the imagery. The clues use pictographs, hieroglyphics, Morse Code, sign language, binary code, and more. (No worries, kids. There will be a Decoder Book!) To add to the fun, I’ll be posting progress reports throughout the project.

Calabash Mural Day 1

Day 1 – Cleared the work area and blocked in the background color gradations. I like listening to audio books when I work. Today I finished listening to “Marbury Lens ” by Andrew Smith. Trippy and transformative!

Garage Door Makeover

Carriage house-styled garage doors are very popular right now but can be very costly to install. Recently I had a client who wanted to have the look of wood without having to replace her existing metal-paneled doors. Fortunately, I was able to use the existing color as the base. The next step was to glaze the doors with a warm wood tone. While the panels already had some wood-like texture, it was not well defined, so for the third step I used a dark eggplant and black glaze and a woodgraining tool to add interest and really bring out the texture. The results were amazing.