Bird Brains

Shorebirds exhibit murals in the Aviary at Milwaukee County ZooI was painting a beach scene for a flightless shore bird exhibit for the renovation of the aviary at the Milwaukee County Zoo in 1993. The Zoo folks seemed pleased with what they were seeing, commenting on how realistic the sand dunes looked. “Like you could just run up them,” they said. Continue reading

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

Milwaukee County Zoo Lion House

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Milwaukee County Zoo Australian Building

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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


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

Milwaukee County Zoo Aviary

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