Sunday, April 20, 2014

Thoughts and Ramblings on Mural-ing

I'm going to try to stick to blogging every week. I started this when I was working as an Artist in Residence in the public schools, and this blog was a way for me to share lesson plans with others. I used to lay out detailed instructions for lessons about famous artists, and the process of making murals with children. It was great to be able to just hand teachers a link to this site, so they could remember the lessons I was doing with their students, and use them for long after I'm out of their classrooms. Now I'm not teaching anymore. So what is this space for? I think it's been a nice way to share my current projects, and also a way to force myself to reflect. So, this week I am without a project, but here are some thoughts I jotted down while I was painting murals up in Walla Walla:

Thoughts on painting murals:

• Best tool ever: 1" flat brush.

• Best part of painting: Putting in the highlights and the lightest lights at the very end.... I can hardly wait for this part, every time!! Painting edges where sky or background meets the object/foreground.

• Worst part of painting: Putting down the very first base layers: BO-RING. Also, looks like crap at first, which is slightly scary. Especially if I have to leave the mural in this state at someone's house before I come back the next time. I always feel the need to give a disclaimer: "Don't worry, I promise it will get better later! DONT LOOK AT IT NOW!"

• How to paint fast: Stop thinking. Stop judging every move you're making. Listen to podcasts on really interesting stuff, or songs with a lot of lyrics (Atmosphere is my fav for this). The words distract me from forming any inside my own head, which can lead to totally counter-productive self-talk/self-doubt, which slows me down. The key is to make creative decisions quickly, so that you are using instinct and feelings, rather than over-analytical thought. Now, this is not to say that some thought doesn't go into making murals - I do think about what I'm doing in the beginning during the planning/sketching stage, and also in moments where I stop and stand back from a wall to look at what needs to happen next. 

• Livin' your Dream: You have to DECIDE to do it, and then you have to WORK at it. Someone told me one time that you can do ANYTHING you want, but you can't do EVERYTHING you want. First, you have to DECIDE. It was really good advice for me at the time. A couple years ago, I was kind of floundering. I'd just gotten back from the Peace Corps, and was working in a grocery store bakery, trying to figure out what the hell to do with myself. It was everything I could do not to re-apply for the Peace Corps, or a volunteer position in Jamaica. I was interested in, and actively considering trying to build careers in all of the following: illustrator, tattoo artist, muralist, concept artist for animation or any kind of art for the entertainment industry, and art teacher. I was also poking around a lot on, looking for government jobs in everything from Peace Corps Recruiter, to pretty much anything with the EPA, or Fish and Wildlife, etc. (After Peace Corps, they give you one year of non-competitive eligibility for government jobs - it just makes it easier for you to get hired in one). I even went to a government career fair, and the Secret Service had a table. I took a pamphlet. I was pretty lost, OK? Anyway, point of all of this, is that I was going in a thousand different directions, and thought that the moment I picked one, I was closing all the other doors, forever. I eventually made a pro/con list of all my very top career choices. And I rated them. In the end, murals kind of won over everything else. I knew I liked being around people and working for clients I could actually meet in person, and personally help in a teeny tiny way. I liked being able to brighten people's spaces, and help tell their stories on their walls. Cheesy, I know. But I liked the human aspect of making murals for people. I also really, really like to paint BIG. I like the variety of work I get to do too. I remember being in the Peace Corps, and making lists of all the things I really missed about being in America. I missed burritos with green sauce. I missed my family. I missed the feeling of being in someone's house and making them a mural. The fact that I missed that SO much, and would paint murals for people while I was in Madagascar, with the crappiest of wall situations, really told me that mural-making was just that important to me. I really believe that just making that CONSCIOUS DECISION that murals were my most favorite artistic career choice, has set in motion everything that's led up to getting me some success at doing it now. I think that part was really important. It's crazy to be able to look back at all that, and see all the pieces leading up to where I'm at now, feeling like I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing. I feel really grateful for every little piece of it though, even the hard parts. 

Ok, ending this week's! Have a great week everyone!! :)

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