Sitting on the fence
Artist Ellen Silva stumbled upon the practice of painting on parts of recycled fencing, and fans love the effect. Photo courtesy Ellen Silva 

The walls of the Odd Fellows Hall currently pop with vibrant nature-inspired art painted across an unlikely canvas.

“I primarily paint flowers and birds,” said Ellen Silva whose bright murals can be seen all over Half Moon Bay. “Coming from a muralist background, I use tremendously vibrant color. There’s a real contrast between the bright paint and the dark wood.”

The dark wood in question happens to be recycled fence boards. The popular paintings on an unexpected medium comprise half of Silva’s exhibit and have been a surprising success. Silva has sold 96 of them in the past three years.

“During an open studio at my house a friend brought over a fence chunk and suggested that I paint flowers on it,” said Silva. “Before I had finished the one, someone came around the corner and said, ‘I want to buy that when it's done.’”

The rest is fence-painting history. Silva’s recycled fence art hangs proudly in homes as far away as Northwest Canada.

“Some people put them indoors, but they are protected by varnish against the weather,” said Silva.

Silva also has a background in graphic design and has worked in the field for 35 years. In addition to being a graphic artist for the city of San Mateo, the San Carlos Chamber of Commerce and the San Mateo Public Library, she also volunteers as an artist in the local schools. Her mural projects, painted with the assistance of elementary school students, can be found at El Granada Elementary School, Sea Crest School, as well as Pescadero and La Honda elementary schools.

“I’m a freelance graphic designer, painter and muralist teacher,” Silva says with a laugh. “I’m campaigning for the hardest working artist on the coast.

“I paint to connect with myself and my community,” she continued. “I see my art as a way to create joy and hope in my own world, and hopefully in others as well.”

Silva’s artist reception is scheduled from 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday, July 29, at the Odd Fellows Hall, 526 Main St. in Half Moon Bay. For more information on Silva’s art, visit

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