Every Little Black Dress Needs a Bit of Bling

By Morgan Bricca October 29, 2014
Pabu 1


I love clean, modern aesthetics. The cluttered, overstuffed design of past generations no longer makes sense for the complex, jam-packed lives we live. Our cell phones keep us connected to constant activity and make sure we never have a dull moment. Sanctuary-inspired environments honestly thrill me.

Bishop Pass, the designers of the recently opened Pabu, a Japanese restaurant in downtown San Francisco, embraced a clean, pared down aesthetic for their new interiors. The design was inspired by elements of air and earth. Tall ceilings with big windows and Japanese lanterns celebrate air. Unfinished concrete walls, solid fir beams, black basalt counters bring in strong earth elements. The elements work together to create a clean, minimalist environment so that the focus can be on the food.

And you really want to focus on the food! Pabu is the eighth Michael Mina restaurant in San Francisco. He runs about twenty “destination restaurants”, all. The list of awards the Mina Group has won is impressive and extensive. I didn’t read the whole list, but enough to know that eating at a Mina restaurant should be on your bucket list. Maybe next time you are in Jackson Hole or Las Vegas

Bishop pass reached out to me at the tail end of construction of the restaurant. The project was almost finished but they needed some artistic elements on the walls to finish the space off. It was as if they had designed a flawless “little black dress” but it needed a feminine yin element, a bit of bling, to balance out the solid and serious bones of the design.

At first they had hired a street artist to create urban, graffiti style cherry blossoms. The artwork was black and heavy. Akin to wearing combat boots with the little black dress. Cool, but not the look they were going for.

We started with coral colored blossoms behind the sushi bar. My aim was to create a piece that was dynamic and structurally interesting that would dance with the right angles in the space. The tree element extends out the far side of the bar, creating a delicate but dramatic visual element when you walk in the front door. Bling!

Pabu 2


We chose white cherry blossoms branches for the space above the five booths around the sushi bar. I focused on the structure, the twists and turns of the branches, and exercised restraint to keep the buds from all turning to into blossoms. The “ghosting” in the background was used to “erase” the graffiti art of the previous artist, but it worked really well to create a soft depth to the compositions.


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Japanese Landscape for the Bar

The back wall of the bar featured a huge wall that received lovely light from the full wall of windows along the north side. Bishop Pass wanted something soft and elegant that would not overwhelm the space. Keeping with the guiding design direction of air and earth, I created a sumi-e inspired landscape with the massive peaks painted in ghost greys to give the feeling of atmosphere. An elegant crane watches over the scene in the foreground.

Working over the raw concrete was very much like working with watercolors. Any bit of paint was quickly absorbed into the surface and could not be erased. For me it was like doing aerial tricks without a safety net. The concrete turned dark when wet, so I couldn’t see how the colors were going to set until they dried a few hours later. The variation in the greys I used was so slight I couldn’t visually differentiate them so I had to track the colors in my tray by memory. Oh yes, and working on a lift where you have to track the colors and lines over a large span while managing my driving skills around the finished carpentry… Truly, it was like painting blind, and without a safety net, and it was AWESOME. I love a challenge. Bring it on!

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One of the highlights of this project was that I was working the week before the restaurant opened, so they were testing the kitchen production and offering the full menu to Michael Mina staff. The food! Wow.

It was also a pleasure to work with Michael Mina. He is full of passion and enthusiasm for what he is creating. He was kind and supportive to his staff and I could see why he was enjoying so much success.

Michael Mina says, “My philosophy on cooking is my philosophy on life: create balance and harmony”.

That’s exactly what I aimed to bring to Pabu with my artwork.

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Enjoy your Halloween! I will try and remember “balance and harmony” before I dive into the candy bowl.

Warm Regards,

Morgan signature

Looking Forward… Go Giants!!!

Next Wednesday evening I am giving a talk in Palo Alto at the Pacific Art League called “Seven Essential Steps to Launching an Art Business.” Please forward the invitation to your creative friends!


Morgan Bricca

Morgan Bricca

Morgan Bricca is a mural artist living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her clients run the gamut from professional creatives, including architects and designers to building owners, school administrators and community advocates. When she is not making art, Morgan enjoys sipping boba tea with her kids and taking naps on the couch.


Our entire staff enthusiastically appreciates the artistic transformation of our clinic. The kids here for medical services LOVE the murals as well. One of our young patients returned from emergency psychiatric services for a self-harm issue and when she came into our office she had a huge smile upon seeing the mural. It is amazing to all of us how immediately a depressed patient responded to the mural art.

It has been a pleasure to work with you. We love both your work and the positive environment and spirit you have instilled in our kids.  Once again Morgan, thank you so very much from the bottom of my heart.

Warm regards,

Chia-Chen Lee
Juvenile Hall Medical Clinic Pediatrics

Review for Juvenile Hall Mural Project by Chia-Chen Lee

Morgan blew it out of the water.  As a general contractor, I would say my decision to hire Morgan for this mural is one of the best decisions I have made in terms of impact of my work.  Every kid will remember this mural as long as he or she shall live. Watching a child see the mural for the first time is an experience words can’t describe. It’s mesmerizing to them. Adults too, for that matter. It’s a show stopper.  So much better than I could have ever imagined.

I would go out of my very busy way to recommend Ms. Morgan Bricca on every possible level, with no hesitation. Please feel free to call me if you are considering hiring Morgan but can’t quite take the leap. I will be glad to push you in.

Chris Carver
Aquatic Management Group
Raleigh, North Carolina

Mural artist review by Chris Carver

Morgan offers a unique collaborative approach with her clients. On our project, she struck the perfect balance; she listened to our ideas and feedback but very much maintained her role as the creative expert, making us feel comfortable the entire time.

I would absolutely recommend Morgan with no hesitation. With all that she has done, she is going to find the right approach for just about any client.

Jonathan Meyer
VP, Marketing and Community Relations
San Mateo Credit Union

Mural painter review by Jonathan Meyer

We absolutely love our mural! I anticipated that it would add beauty and a much-needed “nature element” onto our campus, I never could have imagined what a huge impact this would have on our school. I have seen countless children, parents, and teachers walk by in awe, totally captivated. Not only does it make our campus a brighter, more beautiful place to learn and play, it reminds our entire community of the tremendous importance of art. This is a gift beyond measure, especially in tech-obsessed silicon valley. Once again, you have exceeded my (already high) expectations!

You are so fun, inspiring and professional to work with and your projects in our kinder yard and now this mural have been my most satisfying collaborations on PTA.


Christy Flahavan
PTA President
Springer Elementary School

Mural Artist Review for Springer Elementary School by Christy Flahavan

The real value and pleasure of working with Morgan was that we connected with her. She was very personable, very sincere, very collaborative, but not one to sit back and let us lead it in a wrong direction. We trusted her completely from the past work she had done for us, and told her, “here is a wall, do something with it – surprise us.” It’s like dealing with a friend.

The murals she has created for us make our home more intimate, warm, and personal. I was surprised at how quickly she worked, how easily it got done, and how watching the process was enlightening. It just flowed; it was like watching a very large masterpiece being created before our very eyes. It was especially interesting when she got into the tonality and the tints. For us, it turned out better than we could have expected. I absolutely recommend her without a doubt.

Mural Painter Review by Sandy Bland

Morgan, the mural you created for our building has been a major attraction for both locals and visitors in Downtown Napa. The transformation of an eye sore, to a work of art, has been nothing short of amazing. I feel a little guilty receiving so many compliments for your work, however that doesn’t stop me from stealing part of your credit. Your attention to detail and sensitivity, bringing the Wappo tribe into the process, unified Napa’s residents with its history. This public recognition of the Wappo Indians is long overdue, reminding us all of a different time in the Napa Valley when nature and people could live harmoniously.

Every day, as I watch children and adults transported to an earlier time in the Napa Valley, I appreciate your ability to be the vehicle for their journey. I hope soon you will return to sprinkle some more fairy dust on another wall, so I can watch your magic talented creations at work.

Thank You,
Michael L Holcomb

Mural Artist Review by Michael L Holcomb

Hi Morgan,

We had an end of the school year party at our house and everyone raved about your mural. I see your name and date, 2012, on it and can’t believe it was 4 years ago.

Just wanted you to know it brings me joy every day.

Josh Weinstock

Mural Artist Review by Josh Weinstock

I have worked with Morgan on five mural projects at our house over the past six years. I love her work and she is a pleasure to work with. Once you see how transformed your space is by the first mural, it is easy to start seeing other rooms that could benefit from a “Morgan”.

Susan Wojicki
CEO, YouTube

Mural Painter Review by Susan Wojicki

Morgan’s work is exquisite. She loves what she does, works extremely fast, and is a true pleasure to work with.

David DaPonte
Architect, HKS

Mural Painter Review by David DaPonte

Without fail, anytime someone comes to our house who hasn’t seen the painting, they comment on it and how much they like it.

Adam King
Director, Intel Corporation


Mural Painter Review by Adam King