Birth of a Dolphin

Blank wall, the beginning

The wall is eight feet high and twenty feet long. The right end is a corner with another wall extending six feet to the right and ending at a cabinet.

The wall is now light green and lighted by recessed ceiling lights. All decorations have been stripped from the wall as it waits for the artist.

Day One

The wall has been transformed into a seaside aquarium.

The sunlight streaks through from the top and disappears midway to the deep blue bottom. Lighting focused on the upper portion of the water enhances the depth.

Outlines of dolphins can be seen but only one shows life.

The first dolphin has been partially created. The trunk, face, tail are light gray while the dorsal fins are a darker gray. Though incomplete, she is moving slowly to the left. She is now alone in the sea.

The sun shines brightly through the surface and lightens the tone of her back.

End of day one.

Day Two

This photograph shows the ocean floor with the beginning of the undersea environment under development.

A coral reef rises very slowly upward from its beginning in the center of the view, ending at the left side of the frame. The coral is shades of gray and incomplete.

The artist is painting the coral area with a complete change of color from the deep blue of the sea and the sea will now been seen as the area above the coral. The lower area of the coral is black, depicting the loss of light from the coral above it.

Rising up from the coral is vegetation. Using broad strokes, the artist creates the reeds of seaweed in shades of green with blue accent, rising up from the coral towards the surface. Some of the reeds are corkscrewed but most are as straight as palm leaves.

The sea behind the reeds of seaweed is easily visible. The first dolphin swims quietly into view from the right.

End of day two

Day Three

This photograph shows the ocean floor with development of the undersea environment continuing but not complete.

A coral reef now extends entirely across the bottom of the seascape. This view includes the total breadth of the work, 26 feet. The solitary, incomplete dolphin floats just above the emerging vegetation and coral reef.

Using broad strokes, the artist continues to create the reeds of seaweed in shades of green with blue accent. The reeds extend upwards towards the surface. Some of the reeds are curved and some of the reeds are straight.

End of day three

Day Four

The dolphin's playful personality begins to emerge as her facial features develop. An eye and the smiling mouth are now visible.

The coral base extends to the bottom of the mural, and completely across the bottom. Additional seaweed has arisen.

A pair of angelfish, dark with white stripes, swim towards the dolphin, as though recognizing a friendly neighbor.

Three additional fish now exist in the seascape. One is black, one red and one yellow.

End of day Four

Day Five

The nuclear family is complete with two adult dolphins and two young dolphins.

They swim quietly in their developing environment.

Now a playful seal engages the family from the distance.

New sea growth is found emerging from the lower bed.

End of day Five

Day Six

Several members of our association have come forward to add their talents to this mural project.

In this photo, the artist, Daniel Toney, is shown with LaSharon Williams on his left, and Adrianne Riccommini on his right.

These are but two of the many members of this small community, who welcomed the opportunity to help with this mural.

Our café with certainly be more interesting when this mural is complete.

Final Day

Having returned from another assignement, the artist lead the assisting members in the completion of the mural project.

The aquarium is complete.

All of the inhabitants are alive and well, and their environment is vibrant with vegetation and growth.


The leader, teacher and artist for the mural aquarium project is Daniel Toney. Mr. Toney is an experienced practicing portrait artist working primarily in western Pennsylvania. He is a graduate of the Pittsburgh Institute of Fine Arts.

Participants in the project are from the members of the Mental Health Association of Northwestern PA; several hundred strong.

The photographs are work of Andy Wheeler, proud to be a member of the MHANP.

©2005 Mental Health Association of Northwestern PA

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