Where’s Pauldo?

It all started while on my first zoo job at the Milwaukee County Zoo. They asked me to paint lichen on a tree trunk in a rhino hornbill exhibit in the aviary. While I was making the green-and-gray blobs, I realized one of them looked sort of like a silhouette of a person, so I added a tall collar and a pompadour and, voila — Elvis! Continue reading

Science City at Union Station

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Philadelphia Zoo Rare Animals

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Philadelphia Zoo Primates

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Milwaukee County Zoo Lion House

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Milwaukee County Zoo Australian Building

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Henry Vilas Zoo Small Mammals

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Henry Vilas Zoo Train Tunnel

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Henry Vilas Zoo Aviary

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Henry Vilas Zoo Carousel Building

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Erie Children’s Zoo

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Erie Zoo Kiboka Tree House TV Studio

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Denver Zoo Primate Panorama

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Columbus Zoo Manatees

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Brookfield Zoo Great Bear Wilderness

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Chincoteague Visitor’s Center

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Animals

One of the gifts that comes with the zoo side of my job is making the acquaintance of all sorts of exotic animals. Much of what I’ve learned from being on more intimate terms with these animals has surprised me. A good example would be how I learned to speak to tigers. Continue reading

Primate Behavior

Brookfield Zoo’s Tropic World exhibit is housed in a huge building, sort of like a zeppelin hanger, built in 1982-84. It was then the largest indoor zoo exhibit in the world. Unfortunately the French architect failed to include skylights; hence, no plants would grow inside, and hence its nickname among the staff, “Tragic World.” Continue reading

Sam

I was introduced to Samantha in 1991 when the Erie Zoo hired me to do scenic murals in the assorted animal exhibits of the main building, which included Samantha’s day room. The faux-rock guys had preceded me and turned two walls into natural-looking rock formations with artificial plants. Continue reading

Cobbs Creek Community Environmental Center

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Hidden Features, or The Art of Camouflage

I was into camo long before it became fashionable. I’ve been a collector of all sorts of camo from all sorts of countries. Understanding the principles of camouflage (counter shading, breaking up the outline and mimicking the background), learned in the Marines, has been of surprising utility in my mural career. Often I’m presented with a wall that is less than ideal for creating an illusion. The perfect wall for a muralist is utterly simple: flat, white, curved corners, no obstructions, no angles, no electrical features. Most zoo buildings are existing structures that must be retrofitted to create a believable natural environment. Consequently, the muralist winds up with unwanted architectural features such as soffits, columns, pipes, walk doors, jogs in the wall, windows and skylights. My job is to make them go away. Continue reading

Airplanes

The first commercial flight I took in 1957 was as a boy with my family, from New Orleans to Los Angeles. All of the men on the plane wore suits, I wore a coat and tie. My sisters wore frilly dresses. We checked our luggage and walked from the terminal at Moisant Field (now Louis Armstrong International Airport), across the open tarmac and climbed the rolling staircase into the fuselage. Continue reading

Boomer

The Milwaukee County Zoo was my first, and remains one of my most loyal, zoo clients. In 1992, they asked me to paint murals in their Australia building. The hallway called for a “sunset over the Outback” mural about 9 feet tall by 124 feet long. Windows looking into the animal exhibits were located in the opposite wall. Beyond that stretched 124 feet of exhibit wall on which they wanted a mural that transitioned from arid Outback at one end to deep rainforest at the other. Continue reading

Language Barrier

In 1993 I was doing murals in the main building of the Lake Superior Zoo in Duluth, Minnesota. The building featured a café with a deck overlooking the small valley in which the Zoo was nestled. They wanted a mural on either side of the two serving windows in a back wall, and they wanted a mural of a wildlife preserve in India. …

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Whale of a Tail

I was doing murals for the Daytona Beach Marine Science Center in Florida in 2001. They had chosen a spot to lay out the prize whale skeleton, and they wanted the wall behind it to host a full-sized whale’s tail rising out of the ocean. It was an ideal location with one small problem: a red box with an emergency light, smack-dab in the center left half. Continue reading

Turkey Hunter

In my occupation one meets a lot of exotic animals and sometimes really out-of-the-ordinary people. In 1995 the Smithsonian in Washington hired me to do murals for a Duck Stamp exhibit. Apparently Duck Stamps are like a Federal license for hunting migratory water fowl. Continue reading

Attack of the Giant Centipede

In June of 2008 I was hired by Taylor Studios in Rantoul, Illinois, to do murals for the new Audubon Insectarium in New Orleans. The project had been delayed for years by the City’s recovery from Hurricane Katrina. I was particularly glad to land this job because it was in my home town and I hadn’t had the heart to go back and see the devastation since the storm. Continue reading

Tale of the Tree House

In 2012 I spent a week working at the zoo in Erie, Pennsylvania, over the cusp of October into November. In size Erie has a relatively small zoo, but in quality, energy and ambition, Erie ranks with the best and biggest. For the first time, I was designing and supervising the building of a TV studio set. Continue reading

Audubon Insectarium

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Red Oak Nature Center

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Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

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Philadelphia Zoo Reptile House

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