In January of 2020, I was commissioned to create a mural for Monmouth County Park System's Huber Woods Environmental Center, Middletown, NJ. The Naturalists, Exhibit Committee, Graphics Department and myself discussed a mural depicting the woods and trails of the park. It would include the Flora and Fauna that visitors to the park would normally see when walking on the trails. The committee wanted the mural to be similar in style to other exhibits at the Center; it should a have a family friendly, warm and fuzzy appearance. The Naturalists were thinking of having an interactive element to the exhibit but at this point it was still under discussion. I received a list of species, both plant and animal. A dropbox was set up so that as I worked up a rendering if I needed images of specific trees, plants, animals and insects the Naturalists would load them there for my research.
I began working up sketches of a wooded area with a grassy foreground. As I looked over the photos especially of the trees, shrubs and plants I realized that specific plants were more showy at certain times of the year. For instance, A dogwood is more colorful in Spring and Holly in Winter. So I envisioned a scene that encompassed the four seasons. At some point in February I had a preliminary sketch ready for critique
At the critique and meeting the Naturalists pointed out characteristics of the animals and asked for a few basic changes. They loved the idea of the four seasons because they knew that one season would never be able to capture everything they wanted to depict. While I had been working on the mural the committees were also discussing the usage of the mural. The naturalists wanted to be able to use it for educational information and have a play element. At first they thought a matching game with a check off list but it needed to be reusable. The Graphics department researched a magnetic printed substrate that could be used. This approach allowed me to work to scale and when completed the fabricator would be responsible for scanning and printing. The Park System would mount the finished piece. The Graphics department would also create disks or shapes of the items that would be included in the matching game to be printed with the same magnetic material.
So with all parties happy I returned to my studio, in my basement and began work on a watercolor 18"x 24". All through February and March I watched the terrifying news coming from Europe and especially Italy knowing that it if it was there it would soon be here. Working in solitude and not knowing if this project would ever see light of day or if the world would survive, I found that I took comfort in painting Tulip and Dogwood trees in blossom. So I continued to paint. Listening to the ever worsening news. But slowly, we humans starting coping and finding ways to connect. Although I was not able to communicate with my contact in the Park System I continued working. At some point in May the offices slowly started to reopen, I sent jpegs of my progress and received feedback. I was able to complete the painting in June of 2020. I delivered it to the Park System. Below is the completed painting. I have not visited Huber Park. If anyone has seen the completed mural I would Love to see it and maybe take a selfie with it.