Vineyard Maps at Etude Winery
I was such a lucky duck to enjoy a beautiful week in Napa this month, painting in the private tasting room of Etude Winery. I had an expert team to work with, including art consultant Freda Scott and Lisa Wright, who manages all the creative for the parent company, Treasury Wine Estates. The maps blend art and function. The winemaker will use the artwork in the private tasting room to explain to wine enthusiasts how terroir, the natural environment in which a particular wine is produced, contributes to the aromas and flavors of the pinot grapes. I am glad there was not a quiz at the end of the project.
Every year, an increasing number of the projects I work on are in commercial or public projects. I am realizing how much I enjoy working in this space.
On the commercial projects I typically work closely with interior designers or other seasoned creatives, essentially artists practicing different crafts. This compounds the creativity and the fun. The critical feedback they can provide only ups my game and improves my work. With public murals I also have observers with no stake in the project stopping by and sharing their feedback or encouragement. This adds it’s own brand of fun to the project.
Another reason I appreciate the public and commercial murals is that these projects give me the opportunity to make the most impact across a broader audience. The effect on a viewer might be just taking a deeper breath, a pause, maybe a hint of delight. With a public mural this small effect is compounded across dozens or hundreds of people who encounter the work each day, over the course of decades. That is a substantial impact, and a legacy of art I would be proud to be a part of.
Creating Healing Spaces
My favorite subject to paint is inspiring celebrations of our natural environment. I imagine my creative oeuvre will have the most impact where nature is not, like urban spaces or healthcare centers, where patients might not have the access or ability to take a hike, or sit next to a real stream.
I recently read several evidence-based design studies showing that art reduces stress and improves well-being. One study, done at Westminster Hospital in the UK, found that the length of stay of patients on a trauma and orthopedic ward was one day shorter when they experienced visual arts and live music, while their need for pain relief was significantly less than for those in a control group. Visual arts and live music also reduced levels of depression by a third in patients undergoing chemotherapy.
It’s great to know that art and music are contributing to sending patients home to their families one day sooner. And making the discomfort of chemo easier to bear. It’s affirming to read research that confirms what I intuitively experience: art can make a big difference.
One of the murals that I am most proud of is at the Children’s Hospital in Oakland. The mural is in a doctor-patient conference room next to the pediactric intensive care unit (PICU), where they handle some of the most challenging cases in the state. Most of the news delivered in this room is pretty much the worst news you can give a parent in their lives. And yet, there is my mural. Every day that I am humming along in life, that mural in the conference room in the Children’s Hospital is doing it’s good work of giving those precious families some bright point to soften their very real and imediate pain.
If a picture can say a thousand words, this is why I choose murals. A framed print of something, isolated under glass would not have the same imapct on this room. The artwork I create is designed for a specific space and purpose, and I created the piece with the people who will use the space in mind.
I owe a big thank you to the commercial clients I have worked with this year. These projects have given me a broader platform for my art. Barron Park Elementary, Montclaire Elementary, Raleigh Swim Association, Stanford University, Tarragon Restaurant, Pabu Restaurant, Goodwill Industries and the folks at Etude: thank you. Redwood City and San Pablo: you’re next! In this harvest season, I see the fruits of my labor and I am so grateful for the privilege to do this work.
Bonus Round: Tell me about your favorite mural (doesn’t have to be mine!) and why you connect with it.