A good friend of mine did something amazing for her baby and I was so impressed, that I asked her to do a post about it for us. What follows is the heart-warming tale of filling an infants visual field with apex marine predators since the dawn of time.
My parents were both chemists when I was growing up, so it’s not surprising that I’ve always had a geeky love of science despite eventually choosing to study fine art. So when I moved into my new house last year, a few months before having a baby, I knew that I wanted to do a mural that was science-y (yes it’s a word, shut up), nerd-tastic, and awesome.
But there is a world of possibilities for science-themed murals. Planets and constellations! Molecules! Numbers! Dinosaurs! Ocean life! How to decide?
Eventually I decided that it’s hard to get any cooler than dinosaurs. What kid doesn’t love dinosaurs? My daughter might grow up to think that I’m tremendously nerdy and un-cool, but there’s no way that she could hate dinosaurs. That would be scientifically impossible. But I wanted to combine this with an ocean theme, since we had a running joke that the baby was, in fact, an octopus. (It’s a long story.) Still, that was easy enough. There are plenty of super-awesome aquatic dinosaurs and other creatures from pre-history to work with.
So I set to work in planning the mural. I decided that there would be a progression of time going around the room, with the starting wall as the Triassic, then Jurassic, then Cretaceous, and the last wall as modern. I also decided that I would research average fossil size and attempt to depict creatures relatively to scale in comparison to one another. (Though I wasn’t meticulous in measuring my drawings once they went up. There’s only so much trouble you’re willing to go to when you’re pregnant.) The timeline aspect of the mural had the side-effect of making the mural even nerdier than I had originally intended, as the theme could now be described as “evolution of prehistoric ocean life”.
The problem with all of this? I bit off a bit more than I could chew. A mural is a lot of work even when you’re not pregnant, and instead of a few months, it wound up taking close to a year; after the baby was born, it was almost impossible to work on it for more than fifteen minutes, since the only free time I had was when the baby was sleeping… in the room with the mural. D’oh.
Still. It’s finished now, and I am absurdly pleased to be able to show it off for the approval of the internets.
One of the big challenges was finding a way to make all these prehistoric creatures look friendly instead of abjectly terrifying. Or at least not at all cuddly. Ammonites are pretty cool, but I can’t exactly say I’d want to snuggle up to one. Or a giant squid. Or especially a super-giant shark. An amusing conversation I had early on when I was designing the mural was with someone who convinced that I was going to traumatize the baby. Pfffff. To that, I say what is every kid’s favorite dinosaur? Tyrannosaurus Rex. That or Velociraptor.
However, they might have had a bit of a point. I inadvertently made most of the frightening things wind up lurk behind furniture. Bassinets take up a lot less room than a crib, and I wound up hiding certain things. Like a shark. And Cthulu. But that is as it should be, I suppose, since we all know that Cthulu will rise up from the depths of the sea to devour us all. Ai ai Cthulu fhtagn!
Megalodon wound up in the corner on purpose, since it was the result of an argument between my husband and I. He insisted that it be included. But it didn’t fit my time scales! It was way after the Cretaceous, but way before the modern era! So finally I shoved it in a corner that I staked out as being between the two. Where it also wound up lurking, which is only appropriate for a 50 foot long prehistoric shark. (*cue Jaws music*)
Perhaps what I enjoyed the most was squeezing in geeky references (besides Cthulu) to amuse myself. You’ll spot the TARDIS in the first picture. (It seemed appropriate to have it on the oldest wall segment.) I also had Nemo on the modern wall, and Spongebob down near the floor. Originally I had also planned to include Aqua Man and a yellow submarine, but I decided that perfect is the enemy of good enough. A year was quite long enough for now, although there’s nothing saying I can’t go back and add more later.
So who can say what the baby will think of it when she’s older? I just hope that I can teach her that science and creativity need not be opposites.