Dipping her brush into a pot of deep cerulean blue chromium and guiding it across her iceberg-strewn canvas, Celine Berry admits this project is a dream come true.
"I've been swimming at the Crystal Pool three times a week for about 18 years, so helping to create part of a big, new mural is wonderful," said the budding artist at Vancouver Island School of Art.
She is one of 17 students spreading aqua-coloured pigment and creamy ocean spray onto 28 huge panels that will come together in late February to form a new waterscape at the Crystal Pool.
There are a dozen giant panels measuring 1.2 by 2.4 metres and 16 panels half that size. Together they will form a giant mural mounted near the children's wading pool.
"The public is welcome to come and view the mural in process," said school director Wendy Welch, who added the project is sponsored by the City of Victoria, which is paying each student an honorarium of $250 for full panel, $125 for half.
The mural is taking shape in the school's lower level at 2549 Quadra St. The painting should be finished by Jan. 31, to be followed by varnishing and installation in late February.
Each panel is being carefully prepared to prevent water, moisture or chlorine damage. Plywood is covered with paper, then primed with five layers of gesso -- a mixture of glue, filler and pigment -- with careful sanding between each application.
About $1,800 worth of Golden acrylic paints -- the paint of choice for mural artists -- are being used and finally several layers of varnish on top.
"We'll be doing some shiny, some matte, to give different reflections that relate to water."
Welch explained the city approached the school because the pool's existing mural badly needed replacing. "At first the task looked totally daunting, but I never say never."
The biggest challenge, in this first large commission for the school, was getting a group of artists to work together on a single coherent scheme and submit a group proposal.
She came up with an overall theme of water in a blue colour scheme, and inspired students by showing them examples of Jennifer Bartlett's In the Garden series. Each student conjured their own ideas within those parameters.
"We had 115 submissions from the students, which we then shortlisted." Each student is responsible for one panel, although some are doing more.
City of Victoria's Terri Askham, manager of culture, sport and neighbourhoods, said it was time to replace the old mural.
"It was coming up to 20 years old and we wanted to replace it with something fresh and bright, that involved community participation. The last one had whales and underwater scenes. This one is going to be more abstract."