Mission Mural

I spent much of this weekend helping to paint a giant mural on a new building at the corner of Cesar Chavez and Mission Street. I did it as volunteer work for Precita Eyes, a San Francisco community mural arts organization that has been such a strong presence in the Mission District for so long you can hardly turn a corner without seeing their work brightening the streets. When I moved to the city almost nine years ago, one of the reasons I came was for the murals. My favorite project in college was delivering a lecture on Mexican Muralists, and in researching the likes of Orozco, Siqueiros and Rivera, I fell in love with the medium, in particular its ability to tell a story. The messages murals convey can be political, historical or simply beautiful, but whatever the artist’s intent, it becomes art for the people. It is not hidden away in a museum or a private collection, it is meant to be seen by the masses. Murals invite and incite reaction. They are difficult to ignore.

Since coming to the city and giddily roaming the streets trying to discover all the murals in the Mission, I have jumped around living in one neighborhood after another and working on many mural projects with students and on my own, but I’ve finally come full circle and moved back to my old ‘hood. Working on this project with Precita Eyes feels like coming home. Its content is a celebration of all things “Mission” – Carnaval, mariachis, low-riders, the Mexican bus, the actual Mission Dolores, and the now iconic Cesar Chavez (appropriate since the mural is located on Cesar Chavez Street). At such a busy intersection, we had tons of traffic (both foot and car) while we worked and everyone had an opinion. Most were positive; people honked and yelled “Great job!”, “It’s beautiful!” or stood and admired close up. One woman walked by muttering loudly about “tired old subject matter…can’t they paint anything else”, which I have to admit I thought when I first saw the design. The building we are painting contains a bunch of condos and a new Walgreen’s, about one step above a Starbucks on the gentrification scale, and here we are painting a mural about the old, authentic Mission, the things people come here wanting to see. It made me think of this great KQED Forum discussion on Mission murals, where a man named Oscar called in to complain about how murals cheapened buildings and they would never do this in the Marina. All I have to say about that is that’s one of the many reasons why I prefer not to live in the Marina. But Oscar is entitled to his opinion. No matter what you think about murals, you think something when you see one, and that’s what I like about them. Nobody can tell you your opinion is wrong.

The mural we painted today is for you. Go check it out. It’s not done yet, so maybe you’ll see us out there still working on it. Whether you think we’re beautifying or cheapening the place, it felt good to be leaving my mark on the Mission in such a traditional way (I mainly worked on the mustachioed maraca man in the parade and the red-orange background). It has been a practice since primitive people made drawings on the walls of their caves, and there’s nothing like it to satisfy my urge to create.


Up, Up and Away

Here is a nursery mural I did last month for a baby boy due around Christmas. I just got pictures of the room with all the furniture in place.  It turned out so great, a perfect room for one lucky little boy.

And here is a rocket ship growth chart I also painted for the room:


A Tree Grows in Tiburon

Last weekend I had the opportunity to paint a wall in a gorgeous ranch style house in Tiburon. The design was a long time in the making, starting with my client’s desire for a beautiful cherry blossom tree. We worked together to get just the right tree to fit the funky space in the living room and the minimal oh so mod feel of the house. And I think we got it right (with a little help from the awe-inspiring Fromental).


Maurice Sendak is my hero


I went to see the Sendak show at the Contemporary Jewish Museum the other day. I had to whiz through because I was also there for a Litquake event, and I had Little Man with me (his first art exhibition! – this kid will be so much more cultured than I ever was). As a huge fan of Sendak’s work, (so huge I painted Little Man’s nursery with a Where the Wild Things Are mural), it was a treat to get to see so many original illustrations from his books. The show included some sketches showing his process, as well as many of the finished watercolors and drawings exactly as they ended up in the books. There was a video of Sendak, and a nook that begs you to sit and pore over his complete library. I’ll have to go back and spend more time.

The show is up until January 19, 2010,  and there are special events related to the exhibit to check out with kids older than my 3 month old.

I also want to spend more time looking at the rest of the museum, which had some really neat interactive projects like the StoryBooth.

Other cool Sendak fan sites: We Love You So, Terrible Yellow Eyes

I’m going to see the new Spike Jonze Where the Wild Things Are movie this week. Can’t wait!


Where The Wild Things Are Nursery – Completed

Where the Wild Things Are nursery

Earlier I posted the mural I painted in my son’s room, and some of the fun things my family made or bought for the room (quilt, gum paste characters, etc.), and many of you gave feedback, and wanted to see it when it was finished. Well, here it is. Now all I need to put in it is a baby.

Where the Wild Things are nursery muralHere’s the mural again, with a glider graciously passed on to us from a friend who tells me I will live in it for awhile.

Where the Wild Things Are nursery Here’s the crib with the changing table/bookcase built in. Space is at a minimum so I’m stoked on the combo piece.

Here are some details: his closet filled with all the clothes, blankies and shoes he’s received as shower gifts and hand-me- downs already, a Where the Wild Things Are growth chart, fun art prints we’ve been collecting, and Where the Wild Things are character dolls. This little boy is set!

nursery closet Where the Wild Things Are growth chart

nursery prints

Where the Wild Things Are toys

Where the Wild Things Are - Max toyWhere the Wild Things Are toys


“Little Engine That Could” Nursery Mural


Over the weekend, I painted this 89 square foot mural in a 2 year old boy’s bedroom. His favorite book is “The Little Engine That Could”, so they wanted something based on Loren Long’s illustrations. They also said he loves animals, so I took different elements from the book, and added the cows in the background, and their family’s dog in the foreground to make up this composition. It turned out great, and the boy and his older brother (almost 4 years old) were SO into it! I was amazed by their engagement as they watched the process and made up stories about the trains (“Which one are you in?” “Mine is faster than yours”, etc.). The best was hearing the 4-year-old tell his mom, “Can you believe she can paint so good?” Ah, music to my ears.


New Nursery Mural

I just painted my friend’s nursery. She wanted silhouettes of birds and to tie in the pattern and colors of the carpet.  She won’t see it until she gets back after the new year. Can’t wait to see her reaction, and to see the room with all the furniture in place!