So long, Scott

Beloved Chico muralist passes away

Scott Teeple touches up his mural of Chico’s original city hall in this file photo from 2002. The mural can be best seen by facing north while standing in front of City Council chambers at 421 Main St.

Scott Teeple touches up his mural of Chico’s original city hall in this file photo from 2002. The mural can be best seen by facing north while standing in front of City Council chambers at 421 Main St.

CN&R File photo

Scott Teeple, the painter of plaster whose murals grace the walls of a number of Chico buildings and residences, died last Sunday, July 10. He succumbed to cancer while in a Veterans Administration hospital at the old Mather Air Force Base in Sacramento. He was 64.

His longtime friend Mick Needham, a fellow artist and owner of Needham Studios Stained Art Glass, said he had talked with Teeple June 9, just before leaving on a trip to Illinois.

“He told me he was real sick and going down to the Veterans Administration in Sacramento,” Needham said. “He knew something was wrong. He’d had a physical but it didn’t show anything.”

Teeple came back home June 23, but, feeling worse, headed back to the hospital two days later. His condition continued to worsen. Needham said Teeple told his family, including his daughters, Megan and Emily, and their mother, Mary, that his health was declining rapidly and he preferred they not see him that way.

A couple of days before he died, friends said, he quit taking phone calls.

“He thought it was counter-productive, and he was always a pretty private guy,” Needham said.

Teeple was a prolific artist whose high-profile work includes the portrait of John and Annie Bidwell on the west side of the Second Street building that now houses Chronic Tacos. That is probably his best-known mural, but some say it was also among his least favorite.

Longtime friend Phil Lind recalled how Teeple criticized the piece, and one night, years ago while sitting in LaSalles, mentioned he had some paint in the bed of his pickup parked nearby. “He suggested we go out and whitewash it,” Lind said, laughing at the thought. “I had to talk him out of it.”

Friends say Teeple was born and raised in Orange County, that he joined the Army in the mid-1960s and served two years. He came to Chico in the early ’70s to go to Chico State and never left.

Needham met Teeple in 1973. At one point Teeple worked in Needham’s downtown shop doing glass etchings.

“He was a very talented guy and lived life his own way; he did what he wanted to do. He totally lived on his artwork and always only had enough [money] to make it,” Needham said. “There was no advertising, no promotions. I remember we would meet and commiserate about our poverty.”

Lind backed up the notion that Teeple lived paycheck to paycheck.

“I remember he had a check for $14,000 for painting the Skunk Train on the side of a building in Willits. He acted like it was going to last him for years. He was like a kid in a candy store,” Lind said.

Teeple’s work includes the Robin Hood in the Sherwood Forest on the south side of the Campus Bicycles building on Main Street. He’s also the creator of the old Gianella Bridge at Mangrove and Fifth avenues. He painted it soon after that structure, which spanned the Sacramento River on Highway 32, was torn down in the 1980s over the protests of some preservationists.

One of his favorite pieces, he once said, was the trompe l’oeil windows above Collier Hardware at First and Broadway. It includes an orange cat reclined in the windowsill, watching the traffic and pedestrians passing on the sidewalk below.

He also painted much of the work on the busy interior walls of Madison Bear Garden and in 2006 the portrait of Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey in the office lobby of attorney Joe “DUI King” VanDervoort.

“He used to hang around the office a lot, just drinking coffee and reading,” VanDervoort recalled. “So I would just say, “OK, why don’t you paint another for us?”

In time, VanDervoort’s law partners—both present and former—came to grace the walls in the lobby.

Teeple finished his last murals on the walls of Sierra Nevada Brewery’s Big Room about six months ago.

He also brushed a depiction of Chico’s original City Hall on a concrete wall jutting up from a pitch of rooflines that can be viewed by looking north while standing on Fourth Street between at Main and Wall.

For a story in this paper at that time, Teeple reasoned that most folks in Chico, even the old-timers, probably didn’t even realize the wall existed.

“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.”