Next time you visit Towne Center Books on Main Street, enter the back way for a special treat. A recently painted mural, designed and created by artist Lucy Bell, shows books releasing beloved "Old Mother Goose" characters.
Bookstore owner Judy Wheeler liked Bell's suggestion to paint a mural at the back entrance to the store and gave her free rein.
"I wanted there to be books and I wanted it to be colorful, but I wanted it to be meaningful to the store," Bell recalled.
"I asked Judy what made her open a bookstore and what inspires her and what was her favorite book as a child. She said 'Old Mother Goose' and reading it with her dad, which seemed like a sweet memory and a good mural subject," she continued.
"I started going through the rhymes. Many are so dark so I tried to pick the ones that are lighter but people know and recognize."
The three sections of the mural show Mother Goose; the cow jumping over the moon from "Hey, Diddle Diddle"; and "Three Blind Mice."
"I did not want the three blind mice to carry a carving knife," Bell said with a laugh. "I combined the 'Three Blind Mice' with 'Hickory Dickory Dock.'"
Bell graduated with a degree in fine arts from UC San Diego in 2020 -- "the class of COVID" -- and moved home to Pleasanton, where she'd graduated from Amador Valley High School in 2016. Last summer, she ran an art camp out of her garage for second-graders to help them be creative during the pandemic.
"I've always loved art, I took all of the art classes Amador offered," Bell said. "I majored in studio art -- I like the traditional painting, drawing and sculpture. I do a lot of oil painting."
In 2018, the Pleasanton Art League awarded Bell a scholarship. She considered majoring in environmental studies, she said, but decided to stick with art.
"I like nature works, and I tend to paint women and people around me -- the California environment, lots of birds lately," she added. "My style of painting is more abstract figures, influenced by cubist."
Bell has been creating works with envelopes lately because of letters and messages going back and forth between friends during the last year, she said. Her work is currently on exhibit in two Santa Cruz galleries, and she was in the Livermore Art Association's "New Dawn" online art show.
Bell started to work part-time at Towne Center Books as a book seller at the Livermore store late last summer, and she was discussing art with a customer who told her about a mural program in Livermore, which she considered.
"I was telling Judy about this, and she said, 'I want a mural!'" Bell remembered. "It was a pretty ugly wall behind the store, and lots of people go through that side."
First the old cream-colored surface had to be power washed, then Bell applied a blue priming coat and went to work on the whimsical characters. The last step, before sealing the mural, was adding a QR code that links to information about it.
"I thought that would be a good way to make it more interactive, so people can understand the inspiration and know what the rhymes are," Bell said.
She is applying to various graduate schools for the fall, including some in the University of California system and others farther afield, including Canada and the U.K. In June she will be a resident artist with the Grünewald Guild in the Cascade Mountains in Washington.
"I ultimately would like to be an arts professor because I had great experiences with my arts professors," Bell said. "A job that allows me to be creative is my goal."
"Old Mother Goose" is Bell's first mural.
"I think mural work is really important as public art," she said. "It was very physical -- I didn't realize how physical it was going to be. I'd painted on canvases that are large but this is my first mural."
"I just wanted the experience of doing a mural but then Judy offered to pay," Bell added. "And every day I was like, 'I'm so lucky to be painting all day.'"
People stopped to talk and watch as she painted. Some insisted she was just touching up a work that had been there a long time, but others remembered the old wall and were happy to see the fresh mural.
"Downtown Pleasanton has a lot of public art and I am happy to be a part of it," Bell said.