Paradise Camp Fire Murals
A series of murals I did to honor the victims of the 2018 Camp Fire tragedy in Paradise. Please reach out if you’re interested in high resolution photos, or to collaborate with me on upcoming projects at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beauty from Ashes
It was January 1st, 2019. Shane was aware of the fires that had occurred near the town he grew up in, but the gravity of it all would not sink in until he received word from childhood friends that they had lost their home. This friend and his wife reached out to Shane to see if he would be interested in painting what was left of their home.
Having sent the photos, all that was left standing was a chimney in a wide open space. Shane knew immediately what he was going to paint, that he needed to paint on the chimney.
Shane waited another three weeks as emergency workers finished clearing the area, and allowed residents to return. Once on location, he spent several hours finalizing the mural, then shared it on social media to help raise awareness. He had very little expectations, and certainly did not know what would happen next.
This initial mural was shared and reshared by families affected by the fires, and eventually picked up by national news. To Shane, the most powerful comments were that people saw beauty in the area for the first time since the tragedy. This mural is called “Beauty Among the Ashes.”
A long time friend of Shane’s reached out following the fires on social media. They had a wall left standing from what was their home. The only caveat was that its location was not near any public spaces, it was hidden. It was exactly what Shane was looking for at the time because it would draw people into areas they would not normally be exposed to.
When it came time to paint, Shane wanted to do a portrait of their daughter, Eleanor. As he started to paint Shane had doubts that the family would like it. But, after they viewed the finished painting it was surely meant to be.
Eleanor had lived a very playful life in this home. Her favorite place to be in the house was in the kitchen because it had a big window where she could view the cherry blossom tree outside with purple colors during spring that reflected into the house. This was her favorite place to play.
The mural Shane painted happened to be of Eleanor facing the kitchen where the big window used to stand. Outside, a charred stump of the cherry tree still marked the place where she used to play. Eleanor had not come back to the location until after Shane painted her portrait on the textured remains of her home.
She has since been interviewed by news teams from CNN and NBC. Shane had not met Eleanor until after the painting was finished. Initially shy, she warmed up to him and in excitement exclaimed to Shane “I’m kind of a celebrity right now!”
Helen Pace Memorial
Growing up in Chico, CA, Shane used to work for a drywall company. The owner of this company lost their mother-in-law to the fires. Her name was Helen Pace.
At the end of January, 2019 Shane created this mural to honor Helen Pace. It is a portrait of her on a wall from the remains of her daughter’s home. The family received this mural as positive step and was interviewed by various news outlets regarding their loss, as they were well known in the community. It was a powerful way for the family to redeem their loss.
Finding a Church to paint was important for Shane, having a strong background in Christianity. He reached out to a few churches in the area, but they were not interested in his vision. The idea in his mind persisted, and soon a Worship Pastor at Hope Community Church reached out. This was the location he was seeing in his mind! Or was it?
Arriving on location, it seemed like there wasn’t anything left to paint. Everything had been leveled. The main sanctuary was gone, and lots of twisted metal and siding lay all about. Walking around the location, Shane checked all angles… when he saw it.
A square piece of scorched concrete that once was used as a baptismal lay almost intact before him right in the middle of the building. Shane felt this would be meaningful for what he envisioned. The mural would be a painting simply entitled Jesus. Although the walls had fallen all around, what remained standing behind the baptismal was the cross which once stood affixed to a wall now standing on its own. Shane later found out the Worship Pastor who reached out was married and baptised in that spot.
A gentleman reached out to Shane via social media with a wall he wanted him to paint. It stood 4 feet tall, and sixteen feet wide. It was made with large rocks that had deep, cutting edges to them. At first viewing, Shane lacked vision for what he would do with it. This is not a typically ideal canvas to paint on, as the texture needed to be addressed in the art.
Shane really wanted to honor the owner of this wall, but could not find the right idea. It was 11PM at night at the time, Shane spent all day working when he was sent another gentle, persistent reminder from the owner that his wall would be available to paint on. As a Christian, Shane in exhaustion, prayed to Jesus for inspiration, for clear direction. Leaving his laptop and turning in for the night, he went to find rest with his wife.
Then at 7AM, Shane turned over to see his wife sleeping before him. He instantly knew what he would paint, and quietly got his phone to take a photo reference. Quickly mocking up the photo reference over the wall, Shane got everything ready to paint. Shane feels the message of this piece is open to interpretation. The final outcome is a beautiful, peaceful image of his wife sleeping in the snow. There is an almost black ring around her face creating a white halo.
In what shane calls a creative trifecta, this mural Inside Building was created nearby Hope Reborn, and Reflecting. All about 100 yards from each other. Painted in the beginning of March, they are visible off of Pearson road, and need to be seen on foot. This one in particular, Shane made to be hidden, when one looks into the window of this building the eyes of the woman are looking out. The woman with the haunting eyes was painted around the same time as the other two murals in the immediate vicinity at the beginning of March, 2019.
This mural, ‘Unexpected Hope’ is painted on a van parked in front of what was a smog shop located right off of Clark road in Paradise, CA. Hardly anything remained there except this vehicle after the fire.
A local that Shane met got permission from the owner to do the installation. Shane had seen this vehicle while driving through the area and wanted to transform it into a beacon of hope. He ate lunch often right across the street from it while working on other projects. Painting began around February 1st, 2019.
Seeing the newscasts of the Paradise fires, Shane noted three stark images in the aftermath: broken chimneys still standing in the open air, walls, and the vehicles. Since he had already painted the other two, it was very important to find a few vehicles.This mural called “Presence” would be his first vehicle installation in Paradise, CA.
The family that owned the property gave permission over social media. They mentioned they had a vehicle on the property and after seeing photos Shane knew it was what he was looking for.
The family came to meet and Shane got to hear their evacuation story about how close the fires got to their home.The family recalled that they could hear trees explode from the immense heat mixing with the rich sap inside of them. By the end, their house was gone. But, this vehicle on their property remained a presence.
“Tomorrow’s Dream” was a powerful vision for Shane. He had got inspiration from other artists using plastic wrap as a canvas and wanted to incorporate the same medium into his work at Paradise, the look is compelling for the message he wanted to convey.
The perfect location was where a home once stood overlooking a ridge into a beautiful valley. Shane wanted to create a mural painted this mural in the same spot that captured the spectacular view the homeowner used to see.
During painting, Shane slipped down the ridge, falling about 6 feet and was fortunately okay. Once steadied from the fall, he wrapped plastic around two trees about 18 feet apart, framing the view. The burned trees of the valley below can be seen through the beautiful face painted there.This mural was not meant to last long and after three weeks of abuse from the weather and elements, he took it down.
Shane can’t help but think when he goes to these locations, to reflect- what it would be like to be put in the shoes of the owners who lost their homes- their lives. And to dream the best of what tomorrow may bring them as they rebuild.
Rising from the Ashes
Shane grew up with a friend that lost her home to the fire. Shane had found out about this and, unlike most of his murals, reached out to her with an ideal. Walking around the location, Shane spotted a shed on the property, as not much else was left. It was overlooked at first as a good spot for art because of warping from the immense heat it sustained. But, after artistic meditation, Shane decided on painting it. So, it retains the simple name ‘Shed’ and features another woman’s face in keeping with the overall theme of hope and beauty among the ashes.
The mural called ‘Hope Reborn’ is painted on a broken wall right off of Skyway and Pearson road in Paradise, CA. It is a mural accessible only by those looking for it, it is not readily seen from the main roads.This was intentional, as most of Shane’s murals were out in the open up to this point, and he wanted this to be a surprise for those willing to search.
Shane walked through rubble, nails, and bent metal to get to the chosen location. Trees and branches hid the wall, most of the building was crumbled to pieces. He was given permission by a local contact who was born and raised in Paradise. Shane gave her his ideas and she found this location for him to make it a reality.
Holding Onto Hope
Driving up the Skyway from Chico, you see a building on your left. A burned down shop stood as a frame, with its insides completely wiped out. Shane saw many different textures in the rusted metal and scorched ruins. And having been through the area for several months working on other projects, it caught Shane’s attention. So He began planning a piece around it.
Shane planned that the mural would be done in what remained of a front office. It would be intentionally hidden unless someone was looking for it. Having permission, Shane painted a girl inside of the building in keeping with a now growing theme for his murals in the area. It symbolized hope, innocence, and beauty among the ashes. This one would be called Holding Onto Hope.
The documentation and painting of this mural was done by NBC Universal. It became an ideal location because they were worried about the weather preventing the news from being filmed, and fortunately it was indoors.
Sitting not 100 yards from the mural Hope Reborn, entitled ‘Reflecting’, this mural is more visible from the main road. One can see it while driving through an open area along Skyway and Pearson road. Shane was given permission by a local owner to create this unique mural.
Painted on the corner of two walls, burnt wooden beams and twisted metal stick out on either side. A lot of different textures are present in this one. Shane carefully blended the painting into the scorch marks, allowing the surrounding remains to frame it. This is the first mural using a little color. If you look red is added into the woman’s face.
NBC came to walk with and interview Shane at this location. This interview which documents the making of this mural can be found online here.
Shane was looking for a church to paint on. After driving around he found one, a Seventh Day Adventist Church. A lot of structures still held up after the Paradise, CA fires. With many concrete angles, it inspired this piece.
Shane received permission to paint. Scouting the location he drove around it to view from all angles. From the back road looking in there was a central structure that seemed inviting. It had patches of smooth plaster amidst the rough texture. Shane liked the textures and hidden nature of it. Because this location was quite large, Shane needed to create a path through nails, twisted metal, and concrete slabs to get to his desired spot.
The creation of Beauty Arises was documented by the LA Times as well as a local Sacramento news team. Shane heard afterward that the pastor of the church was grateful for the art. For a lot of locals it became another beacon of hope.
Many people visited this and the series of other murals like a treasure hunt, going with family members to view and document them. Many came to focus on beauty and hope right in the middle of destruction.
Reflections of Serenity
The owner, lost everything on her property except for this Silo Shed, reached out to Shane through Facebook 5 months after the fires. Very eager for Shane to paint something, she conveyed how much her property meant to her. She said if Shane only stepped foot on her property he would immediately understand her passion. When photos were sent of the silo shed Shane had immediate inspiration to paint.
Stepping onto the property Shane took time to really experience what he was seeing. It is always important for him to do this because there are so many different angles. It is right off of a windy road in the middle of a lot of burned trees, many fell over but those that still stood, stood strong in the heavily wooded area.
What would be the most impactful angle for the mural to be put on the shed? In the distance the frame to the house stands like a ghost. Listening for a bit, a creek could be heard in the distance, which brought the owner many days of serenity, peace. Two charred benches and a little table rested where she once sat and enjoying coffee in the morning, while reading a book.
The mural was painted so that the beautiful woman on it would be looking toward the creek. From this angle, passersby could view it from the nearby road and it is called ‘Reflections of Serenity’. The creation of this mural was documented by a team from the University of Notre Dame which can be found here.
Ron Howard, an American filmmaker and actor, known for his work on movies such as A Beautiful Mind, Cinderella Man, and most recently Solo: A Star Wars Story, reached out to Shane after his team found the murals. They are working on a documentary and wanted Shane’s murals to be in it.
Aptly named, Ron Howard’s Mural, Shane was commissioned to recreate a mural in front of film crews. It was shot in the entryway of a house. “It looked like a movie set” Shane remembers.
Shane received permission from the owner who is 85 years old, named Doug whose story was short. A firefighter showed up and told Doug he had little time to leave. So instead of packing his bags, Doug jumped onto his late wife’s motorcycle with only the clothes on his back and took off. Upon return, it was apparent that everything had been lost.
To create this mural Shane used a couple poles set up in the middle of the wreckage. He wrapped a wire around them and attached them to the wreckage. He then wrapped the poles with plastic to preserve the view that stood behind it, and painted another woman’s face using spray paint.
Standing in a burned down auto garage in Paradise, CA, Shane Grammer found the inspiration to share hope. As he drove past burned out buildings, seeing how much had been destroyed by the fires, Shane wanted the location before him, which was hidden from most of the public to be found.
Inside the auto garage there were many different textures.Tools and equipment lay strewn about in the aftermath of the heat.There, directly ahead of him in the garage, was a roll up door, and for Shane, this had to be the focal point.
During his interview with the LA Times at this location, the weather took a turn for the worse. Shane was constantly mopping up water in the area surrounding the rollup door as it had began to downpour rain. Soon a large pool of water had collected in front of the door inside the building. What was seen as an act of nature to prevent him from completing this piece, became a part of it and soon, the pool of water made a near mirror reflection of his art, which added to the quality of the mural.
Having never met the owners personally, Shane received permission to paint from a friend that knew them, which took a heavy toll on Shane emotionally. Owning his own business, spending years purchasing tools and equipment, and experiencing this owners’ business frozen in time, it was heartbreaking. He could only imagine, not understand, what they went through. It brought about deep introspection, and so, this piece is called ‘Introspection’.