This is Pt. 2 of a three part series about what went in to completing my first mural. “Pt. 1 of 3 – Inspiration” tells you about what led me to want to do a mural – read it here. To view the actual painting process, stay tuned for next weeks entry, “Pt. 3 of 3 – Completion”.
In the summer of 2010, my friend recommended that her parents hire me to paint a mural. At that time, I had never painted anything other than flat color on a wall. At least, not to my recollection. (With my long-standing artistic background, it’s possible that I was painting wall versions of the Mona Lisa at two and got my diapered baby bottom bonked in response.) But despite my lack of experience, I had interest, passion and the drive to complete a mural project – something I had wanted to do for the past 18 years.
Over the years I had researched types of paint, how to elicit needed responses from clients – everything from soup to nuts to ensure I would be prepared to provide them with the best piece possible. I mustered up my courage and gladly accepted the offer.
Although I knew my clients and a relationship was already present, I was nervous. Yes, even someone who has had art on display for 11 years, received an invitation to be part of an exhibition in New York City’s Chelsea district and is a Signature Member of the International Society of Acrylic Painters can have doubts when facing new projects. I was not immune.
Once the clients and I started talking over the phone, I realized there was nothing to be afraid of. They wanted a simple, decorative mural of intertwining vines with leaves to frame and accent an alcove at the end of their hall – what I would call the perfect first project. Not too big, but with enough possible variations to keep my interest. I felt confident I could this pull off with relative ease, so I accepted the challenge, and scheduled the first meeting.
I met my clients in their home; a husband and wife team who have worked their whole lives and were treating themselves, remodeling their home to provide a touch of luxury. Part of the project they’d already completed was installing an alcove at the end of the hallway. A mirror was placed in the back of the recess, and a vase of flowers placed inside. Though they liked the look, they felt it needed something more to draw the eye and frame the alcove opening.
Although clear they wanted vines, they weren’t clear on the width and density of the stems, the shape of the leaves and whether or not to include flowers or grapes amongst them. I offered to do online research so I could bring back images to help guide them in their choices, took precise measurements and snapped photographs of the wall. We set up our next meeting after I ensured I knew what direction the clients wanted me to take.
At the followup meeting I presented the images I’d researched and found them to be very helpful. Complex leaves were ruled out in favor of something simple, curving and refined. The idea of grapes and flowers were jettisoned after explaining they would compete with the alcove rather than accentuate it. Armed with more details, I returned to the studio to produce several black and white sketches for them to consider.
Prior to sketching, the first step was to create a scale paper template of the wall using grid paper as a guide. I used scissors to trim the outside edges and cut the alcove out with an Xacto blade. Although I’m not positive, I think the template was approximately 1/6 to 1/8 of actual size.
Once I had the template, I traced it to create a small scale drawing of the wall. Using my notes and memory of the recent meeting, I sketched several compositions. I knew I would benefit by taking the time to create several sketches to take to the next meeting. That way the client had a variety of images to compare and contrast, which would expedite the process. I returned for another meeting, getting feedback and returning to make the suggested changes. The next time around, we were finally ready for color.
At first the wife said she wanted the vines and leaves to be colorful, which would provide more visual “pop”. However, both clients then pointed out an image with more subtlety, saying they liked it more subdued. So I left to create a variety of color images to compare and contrast.
Before my heavy-bodied acrylic paints could be mixed, I needed to decide the actual wall paint I would be using (and would need to match when creating sketches). So it was off to Sherwin-Williams, where 30 minutes of picking out potential paint colors ensued! When I got the paint chips home, I needed to mix my heavy bodied professional acrylics to best resemble the colors I had selected, so my sketches would be as true-to-life as possible. If it was too far off, they might not like the end result which could send me back to the drawing board … literally. With about 20 hours already invested in the process, I was not interested in wasting any time.
After two more meetings we had settled on colors and sketches … or so I thought. When I arrived to confirm we were on the same page, the clients said they had decided they wanted something very subtle, like the tone-on-tone in a jacquard fabric they had purchased for window treatments. So …. back to the drawing board after all, and back to the paint store for more paint chips. The next time around we finally arrived at an option they were both happy with. They wrote a check for materials and it was back to Sherwin-Williams! …this time, to actually buy supplies. The good news was that when I next set foot in the house, I was actually going to start painting. Oh happy day!
The Journey to (and Through) My First Mural (Pt. 3 of 3 – Completion) has now been posted. Read on!
Text and images © Amy Buchheit 2011 All Rights Reserved