By Jesse Eastman
The natural world is full of unintentional art – the glow of the sunset, the shimmering light reflected from a cold mountain stream, or the ancient lines and layers of a sandstone bluff. Seemingly never satisfied, we humans have added our own art to the canvas all around us. Sculpture, music, photography, dance, performance, the list goes on and on. At Fort Collins Nursery, we are doing our own part to take part in this expansion of the beauty that surrounds us. We help you do it every day when you add plants to your life, whether it’s a shade tree or an orchid. We support organizations like the Museum of Art Fort Collins and the Fort Collins Symphony with donations and sponsorships. Most recently, we turned our own building into a canvas for a massive mural.
For years, the front of our store has been a showcase of flowering plants during the spring and summer, but when fall rolls in and plants go dormant, much of the brilliant color that normally adorns our shop disappears. We’ve toyed with the idea of painting a mural there for a while now, but the opportunity hasn’t been right.
That all changed earlier this summer when I was walking to get a haircut at Scissors & Sinners Barber Shop and I saw an artist painting a mural on the side of the building. I was impressed with the artwork being created, and I struck up a conversation. He told me how to find more of his artwork, and after seeing the fun and colorful work he created, I was convinced that this was the serendipity I was waiting for.
Meet Joshua Finley, a Denver-based painter and musician. His journey to muralist includes many miles touring with a band, drawing posters for each gig, and eventually applying his talents to larger and larger pieces. Over the next several weeks we worked out a plan for a mural that would be eight feet tall and over 40 feet long. It would showcase the many plants that make the northern Colorado Front Range unique, and it would tell a bit of a story about who we are as a business.
Joshua was quick to point out that he knew almost nothing about plants. I provided a list of various plants he could look up as inspiration for his mural, and he got to work. When he provided the first proof, I was astonished. Not only had he created something that was rich, engaging, and detailed, but his depictions of plants were botanically accurate and easily identifiable. Plant nerds everywhere rejoice!
The project really picked up steam when he got out his brushes and the color began to explode across the wall. Each day brought new sections to life. What started as a mess of yellow soon gained detail and depth, and a daffodil was born. Black and white outlines disappeared, replaced with anthurium, aquilegia, and allium.
Still a work in progress, Joshua is taking advantage of these final warm sunny days of autumn to wrap up his project. Once it is complete, we will layer on a protective clear coat so that this mural will continue to intrigue and delight for years to come.
Beyond being a fun piece of art that dresses up our store, I’m thrilled about what this mural does for anyone who cares to get lost in it. It is a reminder that even though things can get a little grey and dreary, we have the power to create our own color. When we imagine life and beauty, we create a spark of joy that will brighten our day, and if we’ve done well, it can brighten someone else’s day, too. We hope you’ll come see our spark, maybe it will inspire you to add your own splash of color to the world.
Joshua Finley is a Denver-based musician and artist. You can find more of his artwork on Instagram by searching for #finleymurals.
Originally published on November 2nd, 2020. Updated on March 3rd, 2023.