Tuesday, January 15, 2013

First Mural in First Month of 2013

A Spontaneous Brain-Storming Session

I went to Edmonton in early January 2013 to visit my daughter and after I arrived she and her housemates asked me if I wanted to do a mural on their 14' x 8' living-room wall. Or maybe I came up with the idea, the details are just a little blurry about who conjured up what but the end result of our brainstorming session was...there is a prominent crack in the wall, on the right-hand side that might be integrated into a design rather than simply mudded over. 

Suddenly, it's all about the crack

This crack ran vertically up the wall from a 1/4 inch base to a hairline at the top. Could the crack be made to feature in the design? 

A Haunting Image

I'd seen a three-page fold-out in the December issue of National Geographic that showed one of the world's tallest tree and was intrigued with the haunting image.

So I suggested that the tree, which soars to over 380 feet (38 stories) over the canopy of the old-growth forest below, be the theme of the mural...as it would doubtless create the illusion of plunging space 'within' the wall to add more dimension to the modest-sized space.

1st Mural in 1st Month of 2013

Once we had all agreed to the basic gist of the design, the project was rapidly launched by the first 'study' glaze to start the separation of light from dark.

The first sketchy orange glaze will quickly separate the light from the shadow.
In this case, the best way to proceed was to paint directly onto the wall with a large brush, unaided by a preliminary sketch in pencil. This is a great way to keep a composition fresh and vibrant, as it becomes a record of the 'physicality' of the brush-strokes or a recording of the artistic process in its raw form.

You can see where the crack in the existing wall becomes a visual and even tactile anchor for the positioning of the giant Sequoia that springs up and high above the lofty heights of the old-growth forest canopy far below. 

As usual, the job at hand is to separate the light from the dark. The dark must be a foil for the objects of light. so it makes sense to paint at first the designate 'negative space' or the darkness where objects appear as light against a dark surround. Conversely, when an object is seen as a dark shape set off against a lighter field, it must be perceived as a 'positive'. 

The early glazes are kept lively and fresh to  be later clarified to a certain degree using as the mural-painters approach of large fluid strokes.

Keeping the early glazes fresh as large, loose and free-flowing as possible to coax out the images with as much expression as desired. Subsequent glazes will provide ample opportunity to refine the visual fingerprints until they ring with authenticity.

You can see the giant Sequoia towering above the canopy of the old-growth boreal forest with just the first three glazes in progress. What is dark? What is light? Herein lies the difference.

It's called "global glazing" for a reason. Each progressive glaze is applied throughout the entire mural as required so that the whole wall progresses in a wave. There would never be 'micro-managing' of isolated details, rather everything is painted with equal attention continuously.

Ilara Stefaniuk-Gaudet was largely responsible for the 'negative space' in the old-growth boreal forest . 

Ilara Stefaniuk-Gaudet was largely responsible for the 'negative space' in the old-growth boreal forest and beyond whereas I had set it up with those first few defining glazes. Much more to come! 

Only the top of the crack was left visible from the base of the giant trunk where it emerges from the depths of the canopy. Beneath this the crack is filled.

I requisitioned a pail of crack-filler to BURY the crack-in-the-wall below the visibly lower trunk of the giant Sequoia. That way, it would appear to spring out of the canopy, invisible in the old-growth boreal forest. Beneath this the crack is filled and buried to enhance the visual oomph of the integration of the self-same crack into the texture of the ancient trunk above to its very tapered tip. Working with the anomaly of the surface can yield stronger results than merely covering them over, in some cases.

Everything is painted on a larger scale in mural-painting as this close-up of Ilara working on the negative space shows.

The mural-painting technique is specific in that everything is painted with larger-than-life strokes. Anything else would defeat the purpose of the medium and genre. While a mural may certainly look lovely at close inspection, the visual impact must be greatly enhanced at a distance.

Building, always building transparent glazes until the 'negative space' is positively separated from the light, leading to 'native' or local colors.

There's nothing like a pre-booked return train ticket to ensure that a project stays on a tight schedule. Stay tuned for the following post in the next couple of days that will show the mural being completed along with a more in-depth look at the meaning(s) embedded in the 'Dare to be Different' mural...

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