Last week, I finished my largest exterior mural to date in Napa Valley, California. Each morning, I took the winding mountain drive from Glen Ellen to Provenance Vineyards, arriving just as the sun was rising over the vines.
Spanning two sides of a conspicuous red building off of the historic St. Helena highway, the abstract painting measures 60 ft. wide and 25 ft. high. I lived nearby at a guest house during the two weeks I worked on this painting. The stay felt more like an artist residency in wine country. Moving up and down Provenance Vineyard’s wall on an articulating boom lift, I had a bird’s eye view of the spectacular landscape changing in the light as golden hour faded into evening.
At the start of this project, Provenance Vineyards approached me with an open mind. They left room for true experimentation in determining the destiny of their blank outdoor walls. Together, we inched our way towards agreeing on final digital renderings of the painting. We aimed for the mural to stand out from the landscape while maintaining a visual harmony with the surrounding Napa Valley community.
I was drawn to Napa’s bright Cerulean Blue daytime skies, which appeared flat against the receding lines of the surrounding Moss Green vineyard rows. I wanted the composition of the mural to lift the viewer’s eye upwards, connecting the wall to the sky and giving a feeling of weightlessness.
It’s easy to lose track of where you are when you’re up close working on something of colossal scale. I marked off a grid system on the wall with chalk lines and the help of my assistant, Sorell. These lines gave me reference points to accurately translate the small-scale two-dimensional renderings onto the massive three-dimensional wall.
First, I outlined large swaths of the wall before filling in their respective hues. These shapes act as the foundation to support the structure of the composition as it grows. By day five of this project, my pace slowed and my focus narrowed. I began placing more delicate painted lines to help direct the eye across the piece.
The bright pink stripes you see on the left side of the mural took over seven hours to complete. Making clean marks with a steady hand while carefully navigating around the branches of bordering trees in an articulated lift is no small task, much less a stationary one.
At this stage in my career, I’ve spent hundreds of hours painting large-scale murals, but I still find myself picking up new skills with each project. This painting gave me the opportunity to use an articulating boom lift for the first time. It’s essentially a construction lift with an extending arm. Whatever equipment it takes to make it happen, a large-scale painting should look effortless and natural, as though it came to life in one sweeping movement. In reality, this project came to life over the course of 75 hours.
It’s gratifying to zoom-out hundreds of feet on an artwork like this. The mural is big enough to be seen driving past on nearby St. Helena highway, but the colors and forms change drastically as you drive into the winery. You’ll find new details and vantage points as you approach, until you’re standing right beneath it.
A big thanks to everyone at Provenance Winery for making this experience into one that I won’t soon forget. I enjoyed learning about the historic vineyard and getting to know every aspect of the winemaking process, from bottling to distribution. I’m proud that my art gets to be part of that legacy, and a complement to the delicious wines that Provenance produces.
Written by Heather Day. Photos by Grace Sager and time-lapse video by Jonathan Mitchell.
Thank you Provenance for commissioning me to paint this mural in Napa Valley. Thank you Sorell Raino- Tsui from ABG Art Group for assisting on this project.