I was given the amazing opportunity to participate in this year's Mural Festival. I just finished (like, literally just today) and I figured there is no better time then now to write about the experience. A better time might actually be tomorrow, when my brain isn't in pieces and I have had time to gather my thoughts, but I've gotten SO many comments and questions over social media and it's driving me crazy not responding.
Also, about social media, thank you to everyone who has taken the time to comment or like, or just follow along on the mural making journey. I don't know what magical hashtag I used, but I suddenly have a whole lot more followers (or what I like to call Insta Friends). I've been ignoring social media for the most part, as I've been keeping my head down and working my ass off. So this is my ode to all those friends who have reached out. I'm going to do my best to respond to some of the great questions I've received.
First is what is VMF and how I became involved. I definitely encourage everyone to visit the Festival's website because they do a good job of explaining things. Basically it is a free public art festival that takes place in Mount Pleasant, in Vancouver. This was the second year. Artists are invited to apply in the early Spring. It is a juried show and the curation team narrows it down to about 50 artists. The founders and organizers work with the community, the city, and sponsors. They find the walls, organize permits, and get funding. It's a big job.
I was given a 30' wall on the Southwest corner of East 16th Ave and Main Street (she's a cute little thing). My wall is sponsored by the Vancouver company Unbounce, on the side of a wedding shop called Bello Wedding World.
When I was given the wall, I altered my design a little. I spent some time in the neighbourhood and ended up changing my colour scheme to incorporate more browns and pinks. I felt like that area of town had a lot of sandy coloured buildings and pinky signage. I played with these colours, but turned up the saturation a bit.
This was my very, very first outdoor mural. I used exterior house paint (supplied to the artists by Dulux Paints). I quickly learned that painting a mural, outdoors, on brick is not similar to painting on canvas, or even an interior wall at all. Sure I was still using paint, but it reacted so differently than I was used to. There is no easy way for me to explain this. Basically they are just different.
I used a grid method to map out my design. Then I freestyled the painting. I usually do not presketch my paintings. I use my intuition and my experience with painting to make it work. I found that on a mural-sized painting this was incredibly difficult to achieve. I don't have mural-sized intuition (ha!). So the whole thing ended up needing a lot more planning. Stepping back, looking, painting, repeat. A lot of time was put into composition, not reacting, just planning.
I am used to painting work that is meant to be looked at up close. I like when you can see process in my work. I like when you can see the action and path that my mind and hand would have had to take. This is difficult to achieve in a mural for a couple of reasons.
- If you just "go for it" (like I'm prone to do), the mural looks messy. I typically don't like straight lines, they feel predictable and make me uneasy. But in a mural messy lines look unprofessional. So I ended up just doing both -- there's messy sections, but its also straight, clean sections.
- Murals are not really meant to be looked at up close. They are designed to be seen from a distance. It meant that I had to exaggerate my details. I made my "details" large.
I have to say that my biggest overall struggle was trying to make something that looked like my canvas paintings. In time I found my rhythm and let go of presumptions of what murals are supposed to look like. I reminded myself why I create work. I wasn't painting for anyone else -- I was creating something that I would be happy with.
The other side of things that I wasn't prepared for was all of the comments I received while working. I'm used to working alone in my studio, without interruptions, but because of where my wall is situated, I was in a prime location for pedestrians to stop and chat. I received a lot of really nice comments and was able to meet a few people who lived in the area.
I was also very surprised by how many people stop and asked "what is it supposed to be?" Not the most flattering question to receive when you are a day away from being done. This got me thinking about how uncommon abstract murals are in Vancouver. Cruising around this year's mural festival it is clear that the majority of the murals are figurative, or illustration, or there are many beautiful patterned compositions. I never thought of myself as an avant-guarde artist before, and I guess as much as I was annoyed by this question I was also flattered that I was doing something unique.
In the end I am happy with the mural and I am thrilled that I got to be a part of such a cool event. I absolutely love that the Festival takes place in Mount Pleasant as I live and work in the heart of this district. The Mural Festival is transforming the look of the city in the best way possible.
There are a lot of events associated with the Festival so make sure you check out that website for more details. There is also an interactive map that shows where all the mural walls are located (from 2016 and 2017).
Thanks again for all the kind comments!!