My name is Emily Poole, and I am the designer and painter of the murals at Tsunami Books that were installed in November of 2018 in celebration of the store’s renewal of the lease. I am a local artist as well as a member of staff at Tsunami. I have lived in the state of Oregon since 2016, having moved back to the best coast after graduating from the illustration program at Rhode Island School of Design.
When Tsunami store owner Scott asked me to do a mural for the front of Tsunami books, he told me I could do whatever I wanted: the scariest request an artist can receive. However, we decided on two things immediately: This mural had to be about the books, and it had to be about the community. To me, being first and foremost a wildlife artist, community is an entity that extends beyond its human members to include its larger ecosystem… and what that ecosystem is reading.
The long, horizontal format of the space I had to work with suggested the need for a shift or progression of some kind across the mural. I chose to work with the change of seasons in Oregon. On every hike up Spencer’s Butte or walk through the Friendly Street neighborhood gardens, I’ve taken photos of my favorite things that sprout, fly, and crawl. I dove into these archives to select the species of Eugene and the surrounding ecosystems that are visual signifiers of the cycle through the year.
For each panel of the mural, I also chose a small handful of books widely defined as classics, with an emphasis on American authors and Oregon and Northwest locals. As any book lover would suspect, this was an impossible choice. For every book on the mural there are a thousand that equally deserve to be there—dozens of hours were spent combing the store shelves, poring over book lists, crossing and uncrossing titles. The final selection is, I think, decently representative of a cross-section of this country’s best loved books.
And so: on the far left of the mural, winter opens into the deep woods with ferns, lichens, and a pacific wren calling high in the trees. Among the mosses lurk Sometimes a Great Notion and Crime and Punishment, two books that absolutely must be read in the wintertime.
Spring begins with the emergence of skunk cabbage, followed quickly by the bloom of wild iris and rhododendron. The cartoonishly bright and sprawling growth puts one in mind of Wonderland.
In summer, salmonberries and huckleberries ripen while lilies and beargrass bloom in the high mountains, and rowdy blue jays take over neighborhood feeders. There is no better time for a road trip with beat-up copies of On The Road and The Monkey Wrench Gang.
Fall arrives in a splendor of orange leaves, chanterelles and pumpkins ripen, and gaggles of turkeys wander through yards filled with sunflowers. As soon as it’s cold enough to camp under a blanket with tea for days on end, it’s time to start your second, third, or eighth reread of Harry Potter.
The mural was painted on seven four foot by four foot panels of clear plywood, just barely small enough to squeeze into my home studio space. I began the painting process with a careful planning session to determine my color palette, maximizing my color options while minimizing the number of paint cans needed to do the job. I toured every paint store in town, collecting discounted house paint from the mistint racks. Then began a dedicated few weeks of painting, a heavy portion of which was spent researching book design and typography. The design of each book spine corresponds to an actual edition of the book; whenever possible, I attempted to reproduce the design of the first English language edition.
After a protective coating to shield the mural from the afternoon sun, the panels were installed by local carpenter Chris Cassidy. As I write this, during its first summer greeting customers by the front door, the mural is augmented by a bed of marigolds and echinacea below. Perhaps someday the painted shelves will expand onto another wall of the building to accommodate all of the excellent suggestions we’ve received for flora, fauna, and titles that should also be immortalized.