Finishing up by Justine Lee Hirten

After seven weeks of planning, research, designing, and painting, this project has been completed. You can come see the mural any time during open hours at the Connecticut Audubon Center at Fairfield, Mon - Sat, 10am - 3pm. Thank you for following my project!

Painting the second row by Justine Lee Hirten

Same process as before, all new plants and animals.

Painting the first row by Justine Lee Hirten

Once the transferred images are on the wall the paint can be applied. I use housepaint and work a little bit on each panel at a time, moving down the line as each layer dries.

Here are finished panels, still with the white transfer lines still in place. They will be erased and only the paint will be left behind.

Paint by number by Justine Lee Hirten

Each section of the mural gets a color key labeled with abbreviations for the different paint colors so we have a guide, almost like a paint-by-number. Up on the ladder we can keep the key handy so we know exactly where each color goes. This system allows me to have help from volunteers by giving them a clear guide to follow (thanks volunteers!)

Getting it on the wall by Justine Lee Hirten

Each section of the mural gets printed actual-size on an oversize printer, each is about 2 feet wide. The print-outs get taped in position on the wall, and then white transfer paper is placed underneath. As the image is traced over with a pencil or stylus it presses white pigment onto the wall. This is the line drawing which will be painted in with color.

Research by Justine Lee Hirten

Thanks to completing the Master Naturalist Program at the Audubon Center, and to working in wildlife rehabilitation for the past 7 years, I am familiar with Connecticut's local species. Still, compiling a list of 80+ plants and animals to fill the wall was a big project. Editing everything down to fit 40 panels was difficult considering all the great options.

Each panel gets designed and rendered in Photoshop; each panel combines plants and animals and I tried to make meaningful pairings for most of the panels. Goldenrod attracts ladybugs, the adults and larvae of ladybugs feed on the aphids that hang out on the goldenrod.

Starless Night by Justine Lee Hirten

"Starless Night" is the name of the deep indigo I have chosen for the background to make the colorful panels pop off the wall.

Paint swatch poetry: Starless Night, Glamorous, Watermelon Slice, Splendor Gold, Laser, Salamander, Treasure Map, Beachside Drive, and Floating Lily.

Eventually the remaining wall sections will be painted with colors from the palette to fill the room with color.

Beginnings by Justine Lee Hirten

The Kaelin Discovery room is one of the Connecticut Audubon Center in Fairfield's activity spaces used for children's programs and summer camps. This mural project is part of renovations to this space which has seen a lot of use over the years and needed repairs and updating, this project will completely transform the space with vibrant color and imagery. My proposal was to fit as many of Connecticut's familiar species into this space as possible, so I designed an illustration based on folk art and quilt-making that could bring all of these plants and animals together in a stylized grid. It was important to me that it be bold and clear so children could easily recognize the plants and animals on the wall.

Public art gives us an opportunity to speak out for a cause, it's my hope that children using this space will be excited to recognize these animals and plants on the mural from their backyards, neighborhoods and activities or nature walks here at the Larson Sanctuary; building a familiarity with these species and seeing them as a part of our community is the first step toward fostering respect and compassion for the wildlife that shares a home with us in Fairfield and the surrounding area. Connecticut is undergoing both reforestation and continued human development which brings people and wildlife into close contact and potential conflict, it is important that we preserve our natural spaces and learn to live harmoniously with them.

Throughout the spring I will be working at the Audubon Center on Burr Street in Fairfield, if you are local you are welcome to stop in and visit during open hours (10am-3pm) to see the artwork in progress. The mural will be completed by June 1st and a reception for its unveiling will be announced shortly.