Photos by Brian Addison. Scroll through the gallery above.
Fresh since ’82, Long Beach (by way of Denver) artist Zach Howard has a beautifully natural knack for the fantastical—one that Renaissance Long Beach General Manager Pam Ryan instantly noticed when she saw Howard’s swimming elephant mural at East Village Arts District’s Rogues Gallery along Alamo Ct. at 3rd St.
Impressed with Howard’s mix of detailed surrealism and street art flair, she approached him for a project at the Renaissance: to create a massive mural that stretches along the hotel’s massive lobby/restaurant railing above head. After a series of Long Beach connections—first through Jose Cordon at 1897 and then to ArtX where Howard has often worked at—Ryan finally connected with Howard (not to be confused with the other Zach Howard who also happens to be an artist originally from Denver).
Howard soon began researching and talking with friends to discover that Long Beach had, at one point, “sunk into the ocean.” Not literally but during the massive 1933 earthquake—one that caused some $40M in damage and killed 115 people—the structures that were built on or near deep water-soaked sand slid into destructive oblivious. Though slightly macabre, Howard fell in love with an artistic idea: Long Beach underwater.
“I just thought it was super cool,” Howard said. “It’s all 1950s—most of it—with Pacific wildlife… It had this big clown head in the original design but I didn’t end up going with it and used the turtle instead.”
Howard soon found himself drawing out the initial concept before mocking it up on a computer. Soon, the overall design for the 30-foot long and 6-foot high mural was ready to become a reality.
“Once I got up there, it was actually much taller than I expected it to be,” Howard said, “so the bottom portion is just entirely free-hand and improv.”
The blue’n’purple stretch—with subtle hints of yellows, oranges, and reds—beautifully compliments the hotel’s bright light fixtures while providing viewers hints of current and past Long Beach icons. The Queen Mary. The old Nu-Pike amusement area. Bikes.
All in all, Howard spent full three days—morning to night—painting the mural, along with a week of coming in to touch up. Come October 15, the public will be invited to the Renaissance for its official unveiling along with a meet-and-greet with Howard (and we promise you, he’s one of the chillest, most humble people we’ve ever met).