As the first rays of morning sunlight peak over a brick wall on the back patio of a cafe, an artist is putting the finishing touches on what he says will be his last mural.
The scene he is painting depicts a golden eagle soaring over the Yosemite Valley Floor with the iconic mountain range stretching across the portrait. The perspective captures the view from the park’s lookout point, a colorful introduction to the majesty of the national park.
The artist is Ron Sundquist, a Clovis resident, photographer, and historian. The patio and wall he paints on are part of the On The Edge Cafe in Clovis.
At 40 feet wide and 17 feet tall, the mural is the largest in town. It is a project that Sundquist has been working on for the past month, although the mural is an addition to a piece Sundquist had painted 13 years ago. All in all, he said he has spent hundreds of hours painting and refining his work.
The On The Edge Cafe owners Scott and Julie Glenn are also portrayed in the mural sitting at a table as the landscape sprawls behind them.
“No one color overpowers another,” Sundquist said as he looked fondly at his near-complete masterpiece. “Except the sunrise. I wanted that to be bright up there, because that is the focal point. It’s a new day. It’s a new day in our lives. Sunrise behind Half Dome.”
Sundquist said his mural is influenced by the City of Clovis’ “Gateway to the Sierras” sign that hangs above Clovis Avenue between Fourth and Fifth streets and that he wants the scene to encapsulate the essence of Clovis as an introduction to the city for its residents and visitors.
The mural also draws influence from California’s Spanish missions and New Orleans architecture.
But, the finished mural would not have been possible without the life experiences of its artist.
Born in Minnesota, Sundquist attended Catholic boarding school before joining the U.S. Air Force at 18, during which he was stationed at Fort Snelling in Hennepin County, Minn. and the Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Del.
In 1976, Sundquist moved to Reedley with his parents, Esther and Clarence, where his mother managed the Hotel Burgess. After Reedley, Sundquist moved to Fresno for a few years before settling in Clovis in 1982 where he held various jobs as a dishwasher, fry cook, and an architectural renderer.
He later took up work at the Clovis Museum for 16 years. During this time, Sundquist began learning about the history of Clovis from individuals such as George Middleton and Susie and Fred Osterberg.
After beginning as a volunteer for the museum, Sundquist worked his way up to the position of director, before leaving in 2001.
Sundquist said the mural is what he wants to leave as his legacy. For a man with such deep roots in Clovis, his magnum opus captures the spirit of his greatest passion –– his community.
“Everything I do, it’s for the love of my community,” Sundquist said. “This is what I wanted to leave as a legacy for the City of Clovis, as a legacy of beauty that I’ve had in my heart for all these years.”
Sundquist has been painting various murals throughout Clovis. His first commission was from Manny Perales, one of the owners of the Yosemite Falls Cafes and the High Sierra Grill, to paint murals in his restaurants.
Sundquist later painted three panels that hang above the museum’s entrance door in 2006. He said he wanted to do something for the museum he loves and the people therein. The panels depict historic figures and landmarks of Clovis.
Now, Sundquist works part-time as a photographer for the Clovis Roundup newspaper.
Photography has been a part of Sundquist’s life since he moved to Fresno, learning the tricks of the trade from the Horn brothers, founders of Horn Photo.
“The Clovis Roundup is a high spot in my life,” Sundquist said. “The positive, the good news in our community is represented. Our paper makes you feel good.”
As a photographer, Sundquist has the opportunity to attend various events in Clovis and capture scenes of his community, archiving his city’s history as it unfolds.
Sundquist is not sure of what the future holds, but his legacy will live on through his work in the city for which he holds so much love.
“It’s a long life, just enjoy what you’re doing,” Sundquist said. “I’ve enjoyed every brush stroke.”