Updated: Aug 3
As he stared at the interior of his new bistro — black ceiling, gray walls, and all — Chef Didier Ageorges considered how he could enliven the new location of Pascaline French Bistro and Patisserie in Santa Rosa. He envisioned a large mural on the walls to create an uplifting, inviting ambience reflective of the delicious French food Pascaline is known for.
Didier thought back to a painting hanging in his home. He had previously commissioned me to create this artwork, which depicted various rainforest flora and fauna from his travels. He decided the bright colors and vivid botanical details he loved in the piece could be just the right touch for his new bistro. I soon received an email from Didier asking if I could come and visit the space.
Seeing the bistro location, I couldn’t be anything less than excited. The 10-foot high ceilings, painted anthracite gray, conveyed elegance and modernity. But they would also require a sizable amount of brushwork, directly on the walls—a method I’d never personally tried. When I created my installation for the Joyce Ellington Branch Library in San Jose, I painted the design on MDF panels which were then mounted on the walls. This project would be twice as large, and all the painting would have to be done right in the bistro. In our conversation, Didier mentioned that he wanted to incorporate floral motifs with cheerful orange and green colors.
I went home to think and pray about it. As I reflected on Didier’s vision and this new challenge before me, I considered the fact that I had been painting large poppies for the past two years. It was as if God had prepared my artistic skills for just this project.
One of my favorite Scripture verses came to mind. Paraphrased in The Message version, it reads “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on our own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.” Reflecting on these words, I decided I would create at least a few concept sketches, and then see how Didier liked my design proposals.
Concept sketches #1-3
With Didier’s primary colors being orange and green, naturally my first composition had to feature Golden poppies. I added a small covey of quail to provide a whimsical touch, and as a subtle reference to “Le coq” since this is a California-French bistro!
In my second design, I wanted to add some movement. This design was inspired by the tenacious, windswept poppies along our Sonoma coast. I used a transparent overlay to experiment with the size and placement of organic rings in the concept sketch. These not only symbolize the cyclical nature of seasons, but provide visual anchor points (as opposed to a single conventional focal point).
My last concept was inspired by the paper cut compositions of Henri Matisse. These often featured natural elements, such as leaves and flowers, so I further developed this motif using pieces of Sonoma County, including poppy flowers & fronds, quail & feathers, and of course, grape clusters! The quail darts about as if seeking shelter under our native shrubs.
Didier responded to my sketches promptly. The winning sketch was the first poppy composition, but he asked if I could extend the flowers to a space above the window as in the second design. With his feedback, I reworked the composition, and received the go-ahead every artist loves to hear: "It is beautiful! Ready to start.”
Despite how long I’ve been an artist, working on this mural was full of ‘firsts’. I’d never painted artwork with house paint, and never used such big brushes. The Benjamin Moore waterborne paints I used didn’t have the traditional names of professional acrylic paints either. Instead of cadmium orange, chromium oxide green, yellow ochre, there were “Electric Orange”, “Citrus Blast”, “Merlot Red”, and “Barefoot in the Grass.” The colors were fluid, luscious, and fun to work with — helpful when some of the poppy blooms were around 2.5’-3’ in diameter! I found I actually enjoyed this new adventure of large-scale painting.
L: House paints, ready for action; R: Lucy on the job
The entire mural took about three weeks to complete. When it was finished, Didier loved it. Audiences were also full of positive feedback. "Your poppies really set the vibe for the place!" one gracious commenter said.
I love the mural too. Being able to create the poppies at such a big scale really allows the viewers to see the details on the flower. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Georgia O’Keeffe.
“I decided that if I could paint that flower on a huge scale, you could not ignore its beauty.”
Timelapse of poppy painting
Taking on this project was an exercise in trust, and daring myself to try new things — but what an awesome experience! I think I accomplished my task: to bring color and nature into a formerly neutral space. I hope it invites customers to pause, take in the poppies, and enjoy the moment with their family and friends alongside Pascaline’s wonderful food. Thanks Chef Didier for trusting me with such a bold project!
Learn more about the wonderful Pascaline Fench Patisserie and Bistro here. My mural is featured in the location at 1021 Hahman Drive, Santa Rosa, CA 95405.
The completed murals
Like my art, but have a vision for a special bespoke piece of your own? Learn more about how you can commission my work for your home, office, or commercial space here.