The Art of Murals- Part II
It's hard for me to imagine how anyone can plan out there life and have any of it go according to plan.
My journey has been anything and everything else but planned. After graduating college I decided to move back to California and see what I could do pursuing a path in Art. I had no idea how to go about that and what it would take to even get started. All I knew was that I loved to paint and I wanted to continue growing as an artist and develop my skills. Before I even moved back I began having conversations with a friend of my brother who was also an artist. At the time he was painting murals in the house of one of my all-time favorite teachers. The murals were mind-blowing. The house turned into a psychedelic vision quest complete with dogs floating in space helmets and a massive gorilla reading passages out of "The Arabian Nights." It was an incredible transformation of a whole home and I was immediately drawn to learning more from this artist. Jesse would very quickly become one of my best friends and a mentor for me in my art journey.
My first mural project came a few months later when I was asked if I wanted to paint a Bruce Lee mural in the garage of that same house. At the time the garage was an underground Dojo for all the guys we hung out with and it was an awesome setup to train and do art in. So naturally I was stoked to have an opportunity to paint in that legendary house. It was on that wall that I learned a lesson about paint and walls and the complex nature of wall preparation. I did not realize the wall was essentially sheetrock with a thin coat of primer over it. Well when I got started painting on it my paint soaked right through the wall and it became a monumental task to get any of the paint to stick without getting soaked through. I was wasting a ton of paint and making very little progress. Eventually Jesse offered to help me out and suggested we collaborate on the piece. He said since the wall didn't have a solid primer coat on it I would be fighting an uphill battle, so he suggested we spray paint the background which he ended up doing in less than hour and use that as a primer to then paint the portrait over. It was on the portrait that we both set to work on. We started with a rough outline and then both jumped in and started filling it all out together. It was an insane experience to go through so early on in my art career. I soaked in all the little tricks and techniques he used to deal with obstacles along the way. Our styles even though we were on different levels of understanding in art, surprisingly fit really well together and after 10 hours of painting the finished result became the mural you can see above. Bruce Lee's hand alone was over 8 feet tall! It was an awesome feeling to think that we were able to complete a mural project that size in a single day. After that I knew I didn't want to do anything else but art. I was absolutely enthralled with creation.
What makes murals so challenging is not necessarily just how big they are. As I learned on the Bruce Lee mural the initial texture and surface of the wall makes a huge impact on the difficulty of the job. Any porousness in the surface will create a huge problem for most any paints, and texture dictates what kind of brushes you need to use and how much paint it will take to cover the wall. Then comes the surrounding workspace near the wall.
It is so important to have some mobility and constantly changing your perspective when working on a mural in order to have a well proportioned finished piece.
I can't tell you how many projects I worked on where I thought I was killing it with a portrait or whatever I was painting, just to stop, back up, and look at it from afar and find the head was too small or the arms were too long, or whatever it might be. By moving a lot throughout the process I learned to mitigate that issue by viewing my art coming together from as many angles and perspectives as possible. Early on I dealt with many issues having enough space to work especially in people's homes because they would be carrying on with their day-to-day activities all around me and it made it quite difficult to find any real flow with the process.
The next challenge then was the size and shape of the wall. It would be nice if all murals were in big open spaces and just on one flat surface. Those aren't the projects that I got though. No, the projects that came up for me were over staircases, over library shelves and desks, in doorways, over living rooms on balconies, in tight hallways and in compact bedrooms. All of this I had to deal with before even getting into the technical skill of actually painting. When it comes down to it the painting is the easiest part.
All these issues I learned about through basic trial and error on the job. I always acted like I knew what I was doing no matter where I was working because I figured if I could keep my clients confident in my ability then somehow I would figure out how to get the job done. I learned to become a very good and efficient problem solver with murals. There are always so many variables to deal with that murals require a lot of adaptability as an artist. All those early lessons made me much more comfortable in painting in less than ideal situations. They would be key to my success moving forward as I continued to challenge myself over and over to keep pushing my own limits in what I thought I was capable of. Each new mural presented a new chapter in my education. I never went to school for a formal education in Art, but I did learn how to problem solve for myself no matter what the scenario and I feel that is the most important education for anybody. Knowing how your own mind processes and learns new things is critical in being successful in any endeavor you may choose to pursue.
Murals have had a profound impact on my life. Even after 10 years I get excited when I get asked to do a mural project. I enjoy the challenge that each one presents and I know I will always learn something new. More than anything though I get great satisfaction in knowing I was able to transform a solid barrier into something different. It's one thing to walk up to a wall but quite another to walk up to a mural. A mural draws you in and invites you to stop, take some time and observe. Whether its on a public street or residential home or in a business, murals have the power to completely transform the mood and energy of the surrounding environment in any space. They truly "break" down walls and help the imagination soar.
I am incredibly grateful to have walked this path and I still have no idea where it is leading me but with each new project I meet new people and transform new environments. With each mural I "break" down one more wall that separates me from the world around me. So my hope is that this path will continue to open up more roads for me so that I can continue to see this wonderful, magical world as it should be, with no borders, no limits, just endless possibilities.