Painter of plaster
With his latest mural artist Scott Teeple continues to make his mark on Chico
Working from the top of a 30-foot metal scaffold that sways with each movement he makes, Scott Teeple meticulously brushes paint onto an odd concrete wall jutting above the sea of pitched, flat and angular roof lines that cover the block of buildings in downtown Chico bordered by Main and Wall and Third and Fourth streets.
Begun in September and delayed repeatedly by rainy weather, Teeple’s latest work is a depiction of Chico’s original City Hall, built in 1872 within 50 yards of where he now paints. The project is the first of Chico’s new matching-funds efforts for the city’s public arts program, in which the artist jumps through numerous regulatory hoops and collects money from sponsors—in this case some of the downtown merchants who have stores on or near the block where Teeple is working. The city then matches that money to pay for the project—a total of $8,200 for this one.
But here, high above the rooftops, standing in the brilliant January sun, the 55-year-old artist is more interested in talking about Chico and his collection of murals painted on the outside and inside of buildings that, collectively, make his work easily the most viewed of any artist ever in this arts-heavy town.
With the possible exception of those irksome taggers, most people don’t gaze upon the wall of a building and see a potential canvas. Scott Teeple does, however, and the results of this unique way of looking at things are all over town.
His first work was the completion of another muralist’s piece—the tethered astronaut floating on the wall of the Morehead Building on the north side of Third Street between Salem and Broadway.
He went on to paint the forest scene on a wall bordering the parking lot behind what is now Washington Mutual Bank; the faces of John and Anne Bidwell (now partially covered by the palm trees planted by Chevy’s) on the west side of the Perche No! building on Second Street; Robin Hood in the Sherwood Forest (using Chico State University geosciences professor Greg Taylor as a model) on the south side of the Campus Bicycles building at the corner of Fourth and Main streets; two bicyclists riding along the south side of Melody Music at Fourth and Main; the Gianella Bridge at Mangrove and Fifth avenues; the trompe l’oeil windows above Collier Hardware; the painter rolling out the sky and clouds on the side of the old Sierra Paint building on First Street; a laid-back polar bear on the side of the Fafco building in the Hegan Lane Business Park; and a rendering of the Third Street Language Houses on the side of the Mid Valley Title and Escrow Company building on Main Street across from Jack’s Family Restaurant.
Teeple’s interior work includes the blue whale diving on the wall inside the Albatross restaurant, the Basque sheepherders above the bar in Pat ‘n’ Larry’s, and much of the work on the busy walls of Madison Bear Garden.
The surface Teeple is working on now is not exactly in a high-profile location. It is best viewed looking north from the steps outside the Chico City Council chambers. But the odd-shaped wall rising from the rooftops caught the artist’s eye.
“I was kind of casting about for ideas and inspirations. At first I was going to paint some really bright sunflowers or something just to dress up this ugly old wall that’s been here for so long,” he explained.
Before he started the process, however, he noticed the plaque on Main Street, embedded in the wall between The Underground and Mr. Lucky, commemorating the site of Chico’s original Town Hall. Teeple’s painting is about 50 yards behind the site, directly above the town’s first hoosegow.
“Randy [Taylor], who owns Body & Bath, has like 600 photos of old Chico, mostly in postcard form,” he said. “He gave me the picture, I really liked it and I thought it was perfect for this location.”
He reasons that most folks in Chico, even the old-timers, probably don’t even realize the wall exists.
“I want it to be sort of like a jewel," he said. ‘Something you have to take some pains to find. But once you do, it makes for kind of a nice little addition to the downtown landscape."