Tyler Faulstich has an artist's soul and an artist's genes to boot.
Up to this point, Faulstich, 26, has been a student, world traveler, artist and a son of Sequim.
But now that he's finished a 40-foot by 4-foot mural of the life cycle of the coho salmon, he's leaving his hometown for an indefinite amount of time. But he's leaving with a reaffirmed sense that art is his calling.
"My grandparents on both sides were artists, my father is an artist and my mother is very artistic in her own way," said Faulstich, the son of Jamestown S'Klallam totem carver Dale Faulstich and his wife, Heather.
"And even though I studied art in school and have always enjoyed drawing or painting, it wasn't until after school and after I started these murals that I decided art is what I am supposed to do."
Faulstich, a Western Washington University fine art and environmental studies graduate, combined his love of art with his devotion to environmental issues in the panoramic mural. It is made up of five panels, each portraying a different stage in the life of a salmon.
While the mural tells a story, it is also cyclical in that it begins and ends with the ultimate sacrifice of an adult salmon - spawning.
"You can see the dead adult salmon providing nutrients for the eggs as they hatch in the stream, then the juveniles moving downriver to an estuary and then out to the ocean," he said. "Then they come back upriver to lay eggs, die and start the cycle all over again."
Faulstich incorporates the local salmon species as well as a few local landmarks, such as Hole in the Wall at Rialto Beach on Clallam County's West End.
A teacher at Bellevue's Sherwood Elementary School commissioned the mural to help the students visually learn about salmon. A photo of the mural also accompanies many information bullets and educational snippets about salmon in a poster, which will be easier for teachers to use in class instead of the rather expansive painting.
Despite the mural's impressive size and detail, Faulstich was able to finish the painting within a month. He had some Australian motivation, his new wife.
"We were married and unfortunately she had to go back to Tasmania right away," he said. "So I worked all day, every day, to finish and on the day I put the clear coat on, I bought a plane ticket to be with her."
Faulstich said he hopes to find a way to combine art with environmental education in Tasmania as he has been able to do in northwest Washington.
"For me it's the perfect combination of my passions," he said while flanked on one side by his mural and the other by one of his father's carvings. "I hear it's tough to make it as an artist. But I've also been told by those close to me that it's possible as long as you keep with it."
Faulstich's mural can be viewed in person at the elementary school or an exact replica is hanging in Western Washington University's Huxley Environmental College.
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