West Seattle artist leads tour of her two-year masterpiece

Story and photos by Ellen Cedergreen
Reporting for West Seattle Blog

Tomorrow (Tuesday) night, West Seattle-based painter Jennifer Carrasco opens a new series of classes at C & P Coffee (WSB sponsor). And recently, she gave her students and fans a special treat: A tour of The Ruins, a private supper club at the foot of Queen Anne Hill, where her murals cover an entire room, spanning an area half the size of a football field, including the ceiling.

Carrasco was hired for the project in 1995, by project designer Joe McDonnel and partner Virginia Wyman. It took her two years of full time work — a year to design and a year to execute, in order to finish the murals. And in addition to the “Pacific Northwest Rococo” style murals, which were actually painted offsite (in acrylics) and installed later, Carrasco’s work can also be found in the entry hall to the club, and on a life-size horse just inside the doorway. The horse, a leftover department-store Ralph Lauren prop, is painted in gold and covered in flowers.

A group of around 20 were treated to a tour of the Ruins, as well as a presentation, where Jennifer outlined how she completed such a large-scale body of work.

She spent an entire year researching and sketching, before beginning work on the murals, and then she created to-scale mockups which would eventually be replicated in perfect detail on the larger panels; right down to the bugs. The panel’s subject matter is truly native to the Pacific Northwest.

Carrasco’s research sent her in several directions, but none were as poignant for the artist as when she got to pore over Lewis and Clark’s journals while a glove-wearing historian turned the pages for her.

At one point, hoping to create a historic replica of the night sky, Carrasco pursued records of Native American tribes, local to the area, hoping for some astronomical maps. But she came up empty handed because there were just weren’t any. So she improvised. The result is a stunning ceiling featuring giant tree-tops (conifers) against a brilliant blue night sky.

Carrasco works in a variety of mediums and will do any project, “as long as it doesn’t interfere with my values.” When offered The Ruins, she said the first thing that crossed her mind was: “Oh Lord, let this cup pass from me.”

(Above photo courtesy C & P Coffee; all others in the story are by Ellen)
She has been teaching an ongoing series of watercolor classes at C & P coffee, and is just about to begin a new series. The atmosphere is fun and light-hearted, but focused– and students work in a highly supportive, contemplative environment. The new classes are set to begin tomprrow and there are still a few slots left. All skill levels are welcome – more information at carrascostudio.com.

(West Seattle painter Japhy Witte, during the tour)

4 Replies to "West Seattle artist leads tour of her two-year masterpiece"

  • morcaffeineplease March 22, 2011 (6:25 am)

    Amazing murals! Wish I could have been there.
    Having dinner at The Ruins is on my “bucket list” but I know that’s a long shot.
    Jennifer is not only an immensely talented artist, but a wonderful soul, and has a green thumb. She grows the best winter squash this side of Yakima! :)

  • sophista-tiki March 22, 2011 (6:31 am)

    WOW, beautiful work in addition to the scale of the project. Going to go check out the watercolor class and see if I can swing a spot.

  • Traci March 22, 2011 (10:21 am)

    I found out about The Ruins while searching for wedding venues, and it’s been on my mind since. That place just seems so fancy and overdone. Carrasco’s work is gorgeous too – Now I’m extra jealous of people that have an “in” with The Ruins!

  • Jeri March 22, 2011 (3:07 pm)

    I was fortunate enough to participate in this tour and to be there surrounded by these gorgeous murals was amazing and so inspiring. If you ever have a chance to see this in person you need to jump on it!! Jennifer is a wonderful teacher too so if you can swing it, take one of her classes. You will learn a ton AND hear some great stories.

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