Rory Canfield | Painting Tahoe one wall at a time

Rory Canfield in front of the mural “Wild Lupine.” | Courtesy Rory Canfield

Walking down Brook Avenue in Kings Beach heading east toward La Mexicana, one passes by a row of dullish-looking buildings. But tucked into a parking lot square across from the popular Mexican market is a bright, two-story wall featuring a colorful landscape of Tahoe lupines with a beaming orange and yellow sun cascading on them.

The wall belongs to the Lady Luck skate shop. The wall has become a new popular attraction for residents and visitors alike. The project of painting it came about when Kings Beach local Rory Canfield was sitting in his car near the shop and thought, “That wall could use some love.” He approached Lady Luck owner Bradley Sherman and asked if he could paint a mural there. Sherman and he began collaborating.

Canfield shared some concepts with Sherman and drawings that included a color markup and an outline, but he didn’t get overly detailed in order to allow some creative freedom and see where the process would take him.

“I like to be surprised. I wanted it to take me on a journey,” Canfield says.

He came up with the idea to have 6-foot-tall lupines dancing and swaying under the sun, using at least 15 colors to create the Tahoe-esque scene.

“My car was full of paint,” he says.

For two weeks in early August, Canfield spent eight to 15 hours a day painting it. He rented scaffolding to put three coats of primer on the wall before he even added color.

“I spent a whole day just priming it. The wall just soaked it up,” Canfield says.

Canfield formed the outline and filled it in, all the while interacting with people who walked by and were curious about what he was doing. Some even contributed to the piece.

“The great thing about doing community work is that people will put their own time in —investing in it — and then they tend to watch out for it and protect it,” Canfield says.

Canfield admits that he had some challenges with the project, mainly painting in the middle of one of Tahoe’s hottest summers and trying to make the mural accommodate a pipe and three windows that run across the wall.

Finally, when he got to the point where he felt like he could walk away, Canfield completed the piece.

“My inspiration was to bring smiles, create something bright and cheerful that was a little bit different. I could’ve worked on it for another year. There’s always ways to refine it, but sometimes you just gotta walk away,” Canfield says.

“Rory said that all the magic is gonna happen in the last five hours and then, boom — it all came together,” says Sherman.

After its completion, Canfield’s mural got an overwhelmingly positive response on social media and people began seeking it out.

“Some people came to take pictures and say thank you. The community response has been awesome,” Canfield says.

“Four or five people a day are here taking pictures of it; you see where we’re at — it really needed something,” Sherman says, standing in the parking lot in front of his shop. “Rory is more than we could ask for in an artist and, of course, my shop is benefitting from it.”

Shop employee Max Coolidge adds, “People come in all the time and comment about the mural. It’s the place to get a nice picture taken in Tahoe. I think it’s one more beautiful thing for Tahoe to enjoy.”

Next, Canfield wants to continue working with the community to bring art, color and creativity to more of Lake Tahoe.

“I really want to do more work in this community with businesses and the city,” he says. “Let’s just paint the whole town.” | tonicarts.com, rorycanfieldfineart.com