Paint Encinitas column: Reflecting on a year of murals


I’m a huge fan of reflecting on the past year and setting intentions for the next one. One exercise I enjoy is making a T-chart on a blank piece of paper and writing down five successes, five failures and what I’ve learned from each (and safely burning it afterward).

Near the end of 2013, I had a vision to beautify Encinitas with murals. In January, that dream assumed the name Paint Encinitas and found itself as a baby cooing, helplessly.

During those early months, I shook a lot of hands. I was interested in meeting everyone, especially an eccentric, hyper-creative artist with an otherworldly vision: Santos Orellena.

Santos’ colorful, geometrically wild mural at Coffee Coffee in Leucadia was larger than life to me; a true gem in the community, commanding my attention upon each new passing. This mural would serve as a blueprint for Paint Encinitas’ first mural installation at the Royal Liquor store just six blocks north.

As if I had won the lottery, Santos took me under his wing and became a silent adviser for Paint Encinitas, aiding in its incubation and determined evolution. He gave my idea “office space” in his gallery, and even his assistant, Lina Echeverria, as a resource. You could say that the gallery became my second home, curating deep connections and friendships that I had never expected.

Not a lot of people know Santos as I do. In fact, he remains a mystery to many, including me at times. Truth be told, in the art world he’s a rock star, and if you are lucky enough to be culled, he is a tough mentor. They say successful people say “no” more than they say “yes.” If so, Santos is one of the most successful people I know. When he feels done with a project, he has no problem pulling the plug immediately — which is why his gallery doors shut so abruptly last month with no farewell or even an explanation.

He is not being specific about his plans, but I imagine they will involve painting and traveling.

Regardless of him leaving abruptly, I’m grateful for the legacy he has left us: one that has helped pave the way for mural arts in Encinitas in a whole new fashion.

Paint Encinitas went on to install two stunning and thought-provoking murals with artists Skye Walker and Taylor Gallegos, paint two movable murals with Julie Ann Stricklin and Oscar Fernandez, create three community engagement events at Mandala Daydreams, Royal Liquor, and Mozy Cafe, and support countless other art and cultural happenings around town with Encinitas Friends of the Arts, Art N Soul on 101, Rancho Encinitas Academy, Leucadia 101 Main Street, Cardiff 101 Main Street, 101 Artist Colony, the city of Encinitas, and EUSD Farm Lab.

Santos reminded me that Paint Encinitas was much bigger than myself. What I’ve since come to realize is that it is much bigger than Encinitas. It is a global movement with good-intentioned, loving people around the world beautifying neglected walls with inspirational art.

And it’s all in an effort to create some of the biggest and most accessible outdoor galleries imaginable. Being born with the murals are rising art leaders, everyday people with a mission.

I carry this with me as Santos unlocks the birdcage to a bright future and Lina locked the doors of Santos Fine Art Gallery for the last time.

There’s another saying: When one door closes, another opens. Just when the loss of an era was settling in my bones, an opportunity in alignment with what we had been looking for this whole year would make its way to me like a message in a bottle, appearing with impeccable timing.

It read: Beautify Earth, a 501(c)3 nonprofit with the goal of painting 1 million murals in five years. They are an organization that has been paving the path for mural arts on a global scale for the past two or so years. saw all that we have done with Paint Encinitas, and without hesitation opened its mothering arms to us, providing us now with a way to take in tax-deductible donations and giving us an invaluable network of support.

As we let go of our successes and our failures from this year, we have every opportunity to take away new lessons. My biggest success this year is the countless deep and real connections I made in my community. I learned that even the biggest dream is attainable as long as you do the work.

I know that the course of my life has been forever changed this year, and that nothing is ever done alone in this mural arts world.