The varicolored greens of a tropical sea teeming with aquatic life make a brilliant backsplash to Jan and Tim Taylor’s backyard pool.
Jan Taylor, a watercolor artist and retired business teacher, created the tile mosaic last summer to artistically cover the 100 square feet of rough concrete foundation flanking the north side of the pool. The wall was formerly covered by an ivy plant that hadn’t weathered the winter well.
After tearing out the ivy, Taylor knew she wanted to turn the wall into art with a water mural, coordinating with the pool. She considered painting the scene but decided on the more complex tile mosaic instead.
First she sketched the scene on the wall with chalk, and then resketched it when rain washed it away. Then Taylor created her tropical ambiance with more than 12,000 pieces of bathroom and kitchen tile, mostly purchased at discount from the Habitat for Humanity store, and spending less than $500 on supplies.
The larger cost was time.
“It seemed to take forever,” says Taylor, adding that it took all summer to complete the mural, from June until Labor Day. “Painting would have taken a week.”
While Taylor usually worked in the cooler mornings and evenings, some days she glued tile all day, baking in the absorbed heat of the south-facing wall and the summer sun. Those days she wore a swimsuit so she could take breaks in the cool pool with water that mirrors the green hues of the mosaic. She also enjoyed help from her husband Tim, who cut a lot of tile, and from a visiting friend who helped glue the pieces to the wall for two weeks.
Some of the fish were inspired from a salt-water aquarium and Taylor looked at fish pictures on the Internet for ideas. As a result, the mural has a touch of realism that makes you want to put on a snorkel and see more. But the aquatic life depicted, with fish and sea flowers conceived in Taylor’s imagination, is also a fanciful foray that captures the fun she had creating each creature.
Taylor chuckles as she points out one of the pelicans diving for a fish and the octopus waving from behind a rock arch. The two dolphins she fondly calls Gloria and Sparky, who look as if they are smiling in greeting to the two mermaids, the Baltic mermaid and the Mediterranean mermaid.
The face of the Mediterranean mermaid was the most challenging says Taylor. But she also loves her best. With a glass tiara, olive skin and vibrant red tail, the Mediterranean mermaid swims in vivid contrast to the cool greens of the sea.
“I like bright, shiny colors,” says Taylor, “the more garish the better.”
After dabbling in various art forms over the years, Taylor learned how to tile concrete stepping stones with her friend Correen Morrill, taught by Morrill’s artist daughter, Cari Morrill. Taylor enjoyed the medium so much she kept adding stones to her small yard, such as a memorial koi stone for the former fish pet from her outdoor pond.
Morrill, who made several stepping stones herself, says she was amazed each time she visited and saw Taylor’s progress. “I thought it would take years,” says Morrill. “But she was just rolling along.”
Taylor has considered extending the mural across the rest of the foundation, perhaps with a beach scene to complement the sea scene, but for now will stick to the simpler stepping stones.
“I didn’t want to be a slave all summer,” she says.
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