Behind the scenes , process and tips behind my latest mural.
The dream pitch
I have been talking to my friends over and over in the past months about wanting to do more murals. So when I received a string of text messages - with a picture of the top of an arched wall, some dimensions, and a question - do you think you can design a mural there? - It felt like the perfect answer to my wishes!
This offer came after a few murals I did back in July last year for the same company on their new climbing gym and they were pleased enough that they asked me again.
The design process
In the continuation of the spirit of my mural “ the Boulderfield" at Canary wall, I designed a piece that depict a series of outdoor bouldering scenes, adapting to the arched space allocated. This time I managed to slot in some mountains and even a big red sun, perfectly in line with the themes I am exploring now of new beginnings… After all, for a gym that opened at the end of the last corona lockdown in the UK, it is the perfect symbol of a new start.
It was also suggested that I could find a way to include the allusion to Whitechapel (the name of that bouldering room, each room being named after a local east London area.)…
My mind neural connexion immediately brought me the image of that cute church in the meadow in the Dolomite. So here it is, you will find it discreetly standing in the background, at the foot of the Tree Cimes.
The mountains and the church might be location specific but the remaining of the scene is composed from various images of different places.
I constantly gather climbing and mountain images, my computer has folder with hundreds of pictures, from which I select the best images for the projects I undertake, alongside with trolling the internet for more specific ones.
I then patch the pictures together to create a coherent composition. It can be a climber there, some spotters from an other picture, a boulder split in two part…There is quite a lot of adjusting and sewing of picture for the final image to look right.
I used to create these partly by hand drawing and digital editing in the past.
But this time it was all done on Procreate on the Ipad, which made drawing at a bigger scale straight away a lot faster and straightforward (and the editing a breeze!).
Each mural is its own adventure, especially as a beginner like me.
In 9 months, the scale has jumped quite considerably, and I think with this one I have find the limit to the projector technique, or close to. The lines of the drawing were really blurry so retracing on the wall demanded a fair bit of reinterpretation and a lot of focus as it was in between a redraw and a retrace.
The first phase of tracing the outlines took me 8 hours straight, minus the top mountains that were too high for me to reach safely standing on the ladder. I had to use a scissor lift for the top part, major mural upgrade! After working 12 years in architecture I never got to get on a scissor lift and strangely, this was one of my highlights.
Strong from the previous mural, I was planning to do every black line and fills with my Molotow pen but this time, they didn't work so well on the surface, maybe it wasn't primed the same way...
Somehow the techniques that apply for one do not always work for the other one. Thankfully I brought a selelction of alternatives in my arsenal and in the end I used a Posca ( PC5M) and Golden liquid fluid, which was amazing to work with. The textures the intense blackness and the covering of this paint is making it one of my go to for future work I think. I panicked buy a big bottle at the beginning of the second day as i though there was no way that my tiny bottle will last me more than half the mural but it did 90% of it!
Now I have enough black paint to cover many many walls!!
Once all the black lines and fill are in, it was time to fill in the colours! I really enjoy this phase as it really brings the mural to life and makes every element pop on the wall.
My local DIY shop do tester pots so I can do 250ml pots of each colour to match my drawing quite closely, which is the perfect quantity for that kind of colour touches on a mural that size.
Once this is all done, there is a small round of retouching of a couple of hours to make everything looks clean and crisp and ready to go.
Overall it took me four quite intense days!
My legs, my knee and my feet were really sore, standing all day an a ladder and mostly on one foot with the hand always up is actually quite a work out. I really enjoy the physical engagement to work so big, the fast pace and the deep focus (there is not much room for mistakes!) that this kind of work implies. It brought a big smile on my face. This was such a great experience and I looking forward to the next mural challenge!
Posca PCM black
Golden fluid acrylic paint - carbon black
Dulux trade house paint: maraschino mocha 3, blush noisette 2&3, Ruby Fountain 2 (the dark wine red is a mix of this reference an the golden paint).
Mix of paintbrushes
Homemade flapjacks & yogi tea