Mural painting at Cuesta College: Lots of exposure

Loretta Robinson, a student in the mural class, adds finishing touches to adiagram of the human eye, as Mona Lisa’s famous orbs seem to watch over her.
Loretta Robinson, a student in the mural class, adds finishing touches to adiagram of the human eye, as Mona Lisa’s famous orbs seem to watch over her.

Having your artwork laid bare to the public eye while still in progress is an unnerving experience.

“When you’re painting here, it’s exposed to everybody,” noted Loretta Robinson as she worked on a mural of Cuesta College’s Art Gallery’s exterior wall. She is one of a handful of students in Marian Galczenski’s inaugural mural class.

As their final project, the students were applying the finishing touches on the mural, as passersby looked it over.

“It was an adjustment to make,” Robinson said. “It’s not private anymore.” But the returning fine art student has benefited from the experience. “It’s kind of freed me up,” she said.

Starting a mural class was Galczenski’s brainchild, and although initial enrollment dropped significantly, she anticipates full classes in the future. Her 22 years’ experience of teaching fine art full time at Cuesta gives her the confidence to make such a prediction. Plus, students, teachers and visitors enjoy watching the wall transformed, and many have expressed interest in taking the next class.

“Everyone loves watching the progress,” Robinson continued. “They’ve been watching us all semester.”

At first the project was intimidating, according to Robin Brown, another returning art student. “The scale of it, number one, is just enormous. Initially, we were all stunned by how big it is.”

The mural covers a wall 84 feet long.

The students refer to 8 1/2 -by-11-inch drawings for color and detail.

First, the drawings were enlarged, then projected onto the wall, and the students traced the outlines.

The instructor collaborated with student Leslie Stone for the art and concept, appropriating images by well-known artists. “The concept is vision,” Galczenski said. “You’ll notice the motif of the eyes is throughout.”

Nearly everyone will recognize Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa’s eyes, and others might know Van Gogh’s eyes from a self portrait. Andy Warhol’s eyes are painted vertically, making them less identifiable.

In keeping with the vision theme is a diagram of a camera lens’ innards, based on the cellular structure of the eye, the rods and cones that perceive value and color, Galczenski explained. A telescopic section of the night sky is also represented, “allowing us a view of the universe in a different way,” she said.

The class is a mix of older women and young men fresh out of high school.

“This is my first painting class, said Bryan Reinhardt. “I kind of taught myself how to paint.” Always fascinated by murals, as a kid he painted them on his bedroom walls. “So, of course, I had to jump on the train and do this, too.”

For Jon Ellery, who had taken art in high school, the mural class intrigued him, “I just kind of stumbled on it,” he said. “It looked kind of interesting.”

Aaron Adamski, whose artistic pursuits are photography and drawing, is taking the class to get some painting experience. “It’s nice to work with people on something and finish it together and see each others’ work.”

Galczenski said the class has an academic angle as well. As part of the curriculum, each student created and presented a professional proposal, giving them a taste of what is needed to land a job in the real world.