I've got mixed feelings about painting murals. Love them; hate them. Can't paint them in the privacy of my home. Anyone walking by has an opinion, shared or not. The presence of any pausing to look over your shoulder can be... well, unnerving.
I usually stop mid-stroke when someone enters my space. Don't want to hear their opinions. Okay, if they have something positive to say, then maybe. And anything negative? Well, I usually beat them to it in some nervous babble about this or that to touch up/repaint/rethink/redo and sometimes they agree.
Which I hate. Or love (After all they are agreeing with my assessment).
But then there's the love... The excitement of filling a blank canvas with
color. The high of painting, feeling whatever cosmic thing it is that animates the mind/soul/heart/body connection, the thrill of seeing form, color, texture take shape, emerge, come to life!
But really, mostly love.
The big blue sky Mural
The largest mural I ever painted was on the top third of my kindergarten classroom wall. I painted a turquoise-blue sky featuring a parade of animal-shaped clouds. Somewhere there's a photo of me up on a ladder in paint-splattered overalls working on that wall. I was fearless then. Well, why not? It was summer & I had practically the entire school to myself, blasting music as I climbed up & down a ladder with paint & brushes in hand. (No photo. Yet. Determined to find that photo though... eventually.)
Artist note: Wall paint on wall paint. Didn't even wash the walls first.
The door mural
Before the Big Sky, sometime around 1999, I painted a windowless door leading to the playground for another teacher. She wanted a painting of a window looking out to a landscape. Never was great with landscapes so no surprise my favorite parts were two details at the bottom (dog & cow).
Painting with an audience, even one made up of 6, 7 or 8 year olds, can be intimidating. But really - and I know this - it was all just in my head.
I was in a somewhat defensive mode back then... Recently licensed to teach, but working a low-pay position as a "Para" while looking for a real teaching position had gotten to me although I strived to stay positive.
I loved being recognized as an artist & being paid to paint, but didn't want to be the proverbial starving artist bringing in minimum wages.
Artist note: Acrylics on plain previously painted door. Door prep: Cleaned years of smudges, dust and dirt before painting.
The ABC mural
For a while, I worked in the childcare room at one of the city's recreation centers. After our supervisor found out I was an artist, he asked me to paint an ABC themed mural up along the top walls.
The best thing about this mural was coming in when the childcare was closed and just hanging out for hours painting, listening to music. I painted this one in complete privacy. It was my very first paid mural ever. I had such fun coming up with the images, even made coloring pages to go with it.
Artist note: Researched animals the old-fashioned way (Google search didn't exist yet) - with books! Did pencil studies on paper, then pencil sketches on previously painted white wall. Drew letters using rulers & yardsticks. (Notice the pencil marks? Didn't want to try to erase them until paint was fully dry, then forgot. Got no complaints though!) Acrylic paint with rag handy to wipe up any drips asap.
The Tree Mural
Long story short... 20-plus years after painting the door, the very same teacher hired me to paint a tree mural for her backyard fence. She had seen some of my art on Facebook & messaged me her request.
(And yeah, offering a much better pay rate!)
Love/hate re-emerged before the first stroke. It had been years since painting any kind of mural.
WTF was I thinking? Why did I agree to do this?
What if she hates it?
What if I mess up?
What if __________? (Fill in the blank.)
At first she said to paint whatever I want.
Me: You know I've been doing a lot of nudes lately...
We settled on a tree. She showed me some images found online. I started to feel better. Okay. I guess I can do that...
Things always work out. The day temps were in the high 90s - painting out in the sun would be challenging. Then her husband reminded her they'd need to replace the fence in a few years.
I actually felt relief. Okay. No worries. Won't be painting any mural afterall.
But she brilliantly recalled they had removed a section of fencing previously and hadn't tossed it yet. Maybe that could be set up in the garage... Funny how nervous I felt. But still, having something to work from made me feel safe. I knew I could duplicate the image if nothing else. I could use the money, so heck, I'd just do it.
I asked her to have it prepped with primer. She had her son do a coat. It probably would've been better with two or more coats, as the wood was quite weathered and rough, but I liked the rusticness of it and dived in.
At first, I felt like I wasn't doing much art - it was more like copying another artist's work. But then, I started adding my own colors and details. My confidence grew along with feelings of excitement, joy, confidence... Love.
Artist note: Rough surface ruined a few of my finer brushes. As mentioned above, one coat of primer worked, but 2 or more coats would be better. Painted with a mix of wall paint and regular acrylics. Once these three sections are put up (on top of the remaining fence), I'll come by for any touch ups, then they will cover it with a protective coat of something. Haven't gotten that far yet! (Will update this post once I know.)
Deep into my career as an elementary school teacher, I started asking myself if I was still an artist. Can you be an artist if you're not doing any art? Am I a writer if I'm not writing? For me, ARTIST is a verb. Writer too. Do what you love and JOY will come. Maybe money too, but I've discovered without joy, everything else is meaningless.