A vibrant new marine life mural has been added to the “gallery” of outdoor canvases in the Florida Keys.

David Dunleavy art dolphin Islamorada

Artist David Dunleavy poses with his huge mural entitled “Dolphin Rodeo” at Tavernier Creek Marina in Islamorada. (Photo by Andy Newman, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Sea life artist David Dunleavy recently completed a gargantuan “Dolphin Rodeo” mural on the sides of two metal boat storage barns at Tavernier Creek Marina in Islamorada.

And it really is gargantuan — the large-scale painting, featuring a bull and a cow dolphin fish leaping to feed on flying fish, stretches an astonishing 252 feet wide and 32 feet high. The New Jersey-based artist says the bull and cow are the largest dolphin fish (also known as mahi-mahi) ever painted in the world.

FYI, dolphin fish — not to be confused with dolphin the mammal — are popular gamefish found off the Florida Keys. They delight anglers with their bold colors and their ability to leap at the end of fishing lines.

artist painting dolphin Islamorada

David puts the finishing touches on his 252-foot-wide by 33-foot-high dolphin mural. (Photo by Andy Newman, Florida Keys News Bureau)

They’re also popular as lunch and dinner entrées on many Keys restaurant menus, with their hearty white meat prepared as everything from grilled dolphin sandwiches with seasoned mayo to garlicky dolphin piccata with pasta.

David Dunleavy reports that he worked seven or eight hours per day for 23 days to create his vivid illustration at the marina (which can be found at mile marker 90.8 bayside), and used more than 400 gallons of paint.

And because the marina is located just off the Florida Keys Overseas Highway, his aquatic artistry will be visible to countless numbers of southbound motorists for many years to come.

artist painting dolphin mural Florida Keys

Artist David Dunleavy clears his paint spray gun nozzle while putting finishing touches on his massive dolphin mural. (Photo by Andy Newman, Florida Keys News Bureau)

“Dolphin Rodeo” is the 62nd in a series of outdoor sea-life murals David has painted in the U.S., the Bahamas and Australia. It’s his fourth mural in the Keys, and has earned the distinction of being the largest outdoor artwork ever created in the island chain.

Islamorada is the sportfishing capital of the world, and there’s no better location for this mural,” said David shortly after completing the piece. “I want to inspire people to put down their smart phones, go out and experience sea life, whether they go fishing, paddleboarding or scuba diving.”

Another of David’s outdoor murals has been making a splash in the Upper Keys for nearly 10 years. Two exterior walls of Islamorada’s Florida Keys History of Diving Museum were the “canvas” for an undersea vista that he painted with marine life master Guy Harvey. Dedicated in February 2005, the mural includes manatees, a whale shark, finfish and endangered species found on the Florida Keys’ living coral reef.

giant lobster Florida Keys

“Betsy” the giant lobster, crafted by sculptor Richard Blaze, stands in front of the Rain Barrel Artisan Village in Islamorada. (Photo by Bob Care)

“It’s all about teaching people about conservation and protecting our oceans for future generations,” said David of his work.

David Dunleavy is not the only artist to have created public outdoor art in the Keys.

Others include marine-life artist Wyland, painter Rick Worth, Seward Johnson (whose sculptures include a flirty life-sized figure of Marilyn Monroe outside Key West’s Tropic Cinema), Debra Yates (creator of a color-block tile mosaic on the seawall at Smathers Beach), master sculptor John Martini, and Richard Blaze — who crafted “Betsy,” a 40-by-30-foot sculpted Florida Keys spiny lobster that greets visitors to Islamorada’s Rain Barrel Artisan Village.

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