"The Vanishing" Mural - Creating Awareness for Local Species at Risk

"The Vanishing" Mural - Creating Awareness for Local Species at Risk

Up until a few years ago, I had a dream that I would focus on making a living until I was retired and then spend the rest of my years using my skills to help protect and support the well being of wildlife and our planet as a whole. 

I didn't know exactly how this was going to roll out, but I knew my painting practice would be involved and educating the public about how we can take better care of our our family here was going to play a big role.

Like many people, when covid lockdowns became a part of our lives I was living alone, out of work and had A LOT of un-interrupted time to contemplate life and what is really important to me. This is when I realized that I didn't have to wait for the time to turn my passions into my daily reality... I had the time to start right then and I decided to make it happen. I figured when life is so unpredictable, we just can't wait for the right time to make our dreams come true... that time may not come, so NOW is always the right time to put energy into passion.

During this time I was exploring new painting techniques, giving myself the freedom to just play and do what felt good with my art practice and it soon became clear that I needed to shift my business focus more on to making my own art and aligning with dreams. So nature, energetics, freedom and equal value for all species came into my paintings.

In the last couple of years I was fortunate to make some amazing connections with the Chilliwack Mural Festival and was not only invited to design and facilitate two large public mural projects for the festival but they also connected me with a local business who was looking to have a mural painted on their building exterior. This was on the terms arranged by the Mural Festival that the artist would submit a mural concept of their own choice and it would be created upon approval of the the building owner and city officials. I was very excited to have the opportunity to design my own mural concept for the first time as all of my previous mural projects had all been commissioned for my clients specific needs.   

So I took the opportunity to use my voice and take a larger step towards creating awareness and supporting some of the local endangered species of Chilliwack.

My spouse, Todd is a wildlife biologist and is also very passionate about wildlife conservation and restoration, so he happily helped to educate me about the local species in need of attention. There is a long list of species and time was going to be tight to be able to execute this project on my own, so I decided to narrow the species down to three, although none of my chosen species are any more important than the others. I chose them based on my ability to illustrate their diversity of habitat.

They include;

- The Short Eared Owl lives in open areas, such as fields, meadows, and edges of marshes and rivers. It migrates over a vast area, overwintering in the Fraser Valley and more south. Much of it's habitat has been developed for human use.

- The Coastal Giant Salamander is found in the cool, clear streams and the forests of Vedder Mountain and the Chilliwack River Valley which have been disrupted by human development and logging.  

- The Phantom Orchid In the Fraser Valley, this plant is found in mature forests often in areas with a sparse ground cover on slopes facing south or west which have now been widely developed or disturbed for logging. 

More information about these species can be found here.


The following images illustrate my process from concept to finished mural painting. 


Mural concept art - my digital sketch.

Mural concept sketch


Here, I modified the concept art and photoshopped the image to fit the building facade that was chosen after the concept art was approved. The door was an interesting work around for the design.


Applying the base colours with a roller.

 Rolling on base colours of the mural.

There's almost always some kind of extra challenge when it comes to creating art outdoors; changing weather conditions, accessing and protecting the working surface, bugs and dirt sticking to paint, and having and all kinds of random human-made surprises! This time, along with excessively high temperatures, constant forest fire smoke and getting constantly harassed by wasps, lol, the texture of the wall was an added challenge. I decided to let the wall show me how to paint it and I ended up using various brush techniques to define shapes, working with the deep stucco patterns and even highlighting some of the existing shapes to emphasize background patterns.

 Painting mural details over the textured wall.


I was very fortunate to have had the assistance from Todd on most days, helping me with equipment, moving around scaffolding, helping with painting and keeping me safe while working in a neighbourhood that is home to many people struggling with severe drug addiction.

Todd and I with the finished painting.




Even though my intention for this project was to create more awareness for the local wildlife challenges I learned just as much about the challenges that the local human population is enduring and the love and care that the community of Chilliwack offers to help each other.

So many people also stopped to offer supportive words and gratitude for having some colourful artwork to brighten up the neighbourhood. It was a huge eye opener to witness how having public art  that is accessable to everyone in a community is appreciated and how it can effect people on a very deep level.

I had so many beautiful experiences with total strangers while painting this mural... One lady stopped to tell me that she loved the owl in my mural so much she was using it in her mind as a meditation tool, to help her feel better. I mean, what a gift to hear that my art could effect someone else that way. My intention with the artwork was not only to point out that the other species around us are vanishing due to our choices but to bring a feeling of love and preciousness for all species around us. It was the humans that reflected that back to me... we really are capable of great love. 

Lise Oakley (Chilliwack Mural Festival Director) and the business owner/employees (Valley Cycle Locksmiths) were all amazing to work with, preparing the wall properly, offering any help that I needed and genuinely caring for my well being. I have been inspired through my extensive time around both groups of people how much they care for and serve their community members. I'm so very grateful to have had the opportunities to get to know them all.

You can learn more about the Chiliwack Mural festival here.

Visit my mural in person and check out an amazing local business here.

If you would like to learn more about how to help the local species at risk in Chilliwack, the City of Chilliwack has created a great resource here that also covers solutions for invasive species and climate change.


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