Prehistoric Coal Forest

I did these two murals in 2006 for ThemeWorks, Inc., one of the best in the business, at their facility in High Springs, Florida. It was for a museum exhibit of a prehistoric coal forest, and it featured some novel mechanics I’ve never seen before or since.

The first mural was of the view looking down the shaft of a modern coal mine, painted on theatrical scrim, which is a fine black mesh material. When lit from the front, the image appears solid. But with the front lights turned off and the 3-D ancient coal forest diorama behind it lit up, the scrim and the coal mine just disappear.

As if that is not tricky enough, the mural I painted of the giant ferns and strange vegetation of the era featured logs, deadfall and a lot of vertical tree trunks. Once I was done with the mural, the ThemeWorks crew chose three areas each about the size of a TV screen which were bordered on all sides by some 3-D feature, such as a log and some branches, that hid the edges of the cut. They then installed TV screens in each hole. They sent the cut-out panels to a video production company which used the cut-out images as background for animating extinct giant insects moving across the screen.

When the animated sequences were played on the three screens installed in the mural, visitors saw the diorama, and my mural, come alive with moving creatures. I never saw the finished product after it was installed but heard the results were spectacular.