It’s always exciting when my art allows me to travel to new places. In August of 2020, I had the opportunity to work on one of my most accomplished projects to date: a home mural in Fairhope, Alabama. My clients, a newly retired southern couple, were in the process of building their forever home to settle into from Virginia and seeking a way to personalize it with an artistic touch. As lovers of nature and the scenic landscape of the south, they had a desire to bring the outside world indoors, specifically in their twenty-foot tall entrance hall to make an impressionable welcome into their home. It was another opportunity for my paint brush to illustrate nature. How could I say no?
Usually when I began murals, the space is already established. Being that my clients were building their home from scratch, initially, there were no walls or staircase to start with. We communicated via phone and email and had two on-site visits before my brushes ever touched a wall. After gathering measurements of the foyer, I realized that this staircase would be my largest canvas to date with the highest scaffolding that I’ve ever worked on.
Above from top down, left to right: two views of the entrance hall under construction,
my favorite pine tree on site, later featured in the mural,
photographing the nature on the property for inspiration
As the home construction progressed, so did the artwork. My clients, who are bird lovers, had a list of local birds, as well as plants, that they wanted illustrated in the entrance hall. Some of these feathered creatures I had never heard of previously, so it was great to be introduced to some new-to-me bird species. The husband-and-wife duo are Auburn alumni. Thus, the Golden Eagle, which the university flies over their football stadium just before kick-off, was incorporated into the highest point of the mural in honor of the couple’s alma mater.
The pandemic shifted just about, well, everything, pushing our timeline back a few months. I finally made it to the eastern shoreline of Mobile Bay for good toward the end of the summer. The couple was kind enough to let me settle into their guest house, bringing a new meaning to artist-in-residence. However, September brought Hurricane Sally and October brought Hurricane Zeta, impacting my home state of Louisiana as well as my-home-away-from-home in Fairhope. Unexpectedly I hunkered down with my clients through both hurricanes and and thankfully, we weathered the storms. Sally took out power to the home for about two weeks however, so once again the project was on pause.
Despite the setbacks, there was plenty of beauty within my visit. I brought this mural to life utilizing my interpretation of the artistic expression, chinoiserie; something I’d never done on this scale before. This European art style, which is heavily inspired by Chinese and East Asian motifs, was fun to explore. I worked meticulously on this mural for over two months, and when I wasn’t painting, I enjoyed the nature around me. Since the property overlooks Mobile Bay, I visited the beach and took in the majestic pine trees, wild growing magnolias, and gazed at the shorebirds along the warm coast. This scenery inspired new patterns for some soon-to-come wallpaper styles.
The ultimate beauty was perseverance. Even while setbacks persisted, the art progressed, and I learned to really trust the process. Each challenge brought an opportunity to grow and ultimately made the finished piece that much to appreciate. When it was all said and done, this grand entrance felt like a grand feat. The clients were thrilled and in awe of the finished product, a proud moment for any artist. The departure was bittersweet. While I was sad to leave, my heart was full knowing that I accomplished what I set out to do and brought some happiness to others along the way.