By Nick Sestanovich
Since its installation in July, motorists driving down Interstate 80 near Dixon have definitely noticed the mural of a farmer with one arm draped around his yellow Labrador retriever and the other arm pointing out all the agricultural land near Dixon. This 20 x 20-foot mural, painted by Pismo Beach artist Colleen Gnos, will remain a permanent fixture along the highway.
However, for those who want to own a copy of the design, the artist will be selling small matted prints through Dec. 17 with a portion of proceeds going toward the California Community Foundation’s Wildlife Relief Fund.
The mural, titled “Stewards of the Soil,” is part of a long line of projects for Gnos, who had the desire to become an artist at a very young age.
“I had pretty much made up my mind when I was 4 years old that that’s what I would do,” she said. “I had other interests like astronomy and entomology and marine biology, but I always gravitated back to art.”
Gnos has made a name for herself on the Central Coast with her variety of paintings. She has done oil paintings of musical performances, beach scenes and mermaids on canvas and surfboards, and she has created public murals on the sides of utility boxes, buildings and even the lifeguard towers at Avila Beach. She said she spends about half her days working on commissioned artwork and the other half pursuing her own projects.
“I make that time for myself,” she said. “It’s really nice to have that at a time when I have really high energy after my coffee, instead of working at night– which a lot of artists do. They have a second job.”
Gnos grew up in Dixon and had previously painted the murals inside St. Peter’s Catholic Church. She was commissioned to paint “Stewards of the Soil” and drew upon inspiration from her youth. Her father was a farmer, and the family always had yellow labs.
“For me, that’s what Dixon is,” she said. “That’s what the heart of America is: growing up in a small town.”
Gnos’ mural was intended to bring a connection to farming and the natural environment.
“I think a lot of people drive by, see the crops growing in the field, but I don’t know if they give it much more thought than that,” she said. “There’s actually a human element behind farming where people are cultivating and harvesting and it gets to your table somehow.”
Additionally, Gnos said she had been hooked on painting larger scale murals since she was creating theater backdrops in college, so the project was a natural fit. She took inspiration from Salinas artist John Cerney, who has also created cutout murals of field workers and installed them along Route 101.
Gnos began with sketched renderings and sent them out to her mailing list to have them vote on their favorite designs. From the top selection, she created a rendering which she entered into the Dixon May Fair. She gridded the image onto 4 x 8-foot panels, and her husband cut out the shape. She painted it in her studio in increments over the course of several months and then transported it up to Dixon, where concrete was poured, hardware was put up and the mural was attached to the support beams.
“It’s enjoyable to see the scale and see it come out,” she said. “It’s always a surprise how it’s gonna turn out.”
As with several of her pieces, Gnos will be selling matted prints of “Stewards of the Soil” in 11 x 14-inch and 16 x 20″ varieties as part of a special holiday sale through Dec. 17. The images can be purchased as giclee prints, fine art prints and cards for 15 percent off when people enter the code “GNOSART” at checkout in her online store. Orders over $150 can be shipped for free upon entering the code “SHIPFREE.”
“These larger images aren’t something someone can buy off the wall and take home,” Gnos said. “It’s nice to have a small memento of it.”
Additionally, a percentage of the proceeds will go to the California Community Foundation to assist those affected by the recent wildfires.
Purchases can be made at Gnosart.com.