Update 2: For those asking (yes, people have asked!?) The reveal will be broadcast on Periscope at 5:15 MDT (-6 GMT)
Update: Listen to an interview I did about the project on the CBC morning show Edmonton AM.
Last spring I saw a tweet that changed the way I think about what my art can be. The tweet was a call for proposals to paint a mural on the back wall of a local hotel. For some odd reason, I thought, “Hey I should do my art…but 100 times larger than what I normally do.” I submitted a version of a painting I had completed earlier this year.
As I wrote about, I made it to the final 4 but ultimately wasn’t successful. I’m not sure why, but I was pretty upset about not being selected. I mean, who wouldn’t want that on their wall right? (ego much??) Over much of late April and early May, I whined about not winning the commission, but also did a bit of “have a blank wall? This could be yours.” marketing on Twitter.
One day, Brad Ferguson of Edmonton Economic Development (a major force in business in Edmonton) tweeted me out of the blue and said I should contact the Westin Hotel in Edmonton and try to get them to hire me to paint a mural on their giant wall.
Now that wall is GIANT. Something like a 150×40. I may not be terribly afraid of taking on new things, but I’m not stupid. Doing something that large, visible and in the center of downtown…without ever having painted anything larger than 3x4ft…? That would be stupid. So I haven’t contacted the Westin (yet).
But I just couldn’t put the idea of doing a mural aside. Then I saw this series of tweets
See, the funny thing is, our family business, the one that consumed my time & energy for almost 20 years and was one of the reasons I didn’t paint for so long, well, we own one of those buildings. One of those blanks canvases. And frankly, it was a bit of an eyesore and attractor of tagging.
It was perfect. It desperately needed some love, it wasn’t too large (17x40ft) and faced out onto a greenspace that hundreds of people walked by every day. And I guess, for the tiny part of my brain that said “you’re crazy”, it wasn’t someone else’s wall I’d be learning on.
The next thing to do was decide what to do for the mural. My initial thought was to just do the mural that had been rejected earlier in the spring. I’d also just finished a Painting I called “Unexpected” that I thought would look alright.
The more I thought about it, the more I felt that I should save the landscape-y murals for more bleak urban areas (cough Westin Hotel cough). This building looks out on a green space so I thought I’d look at some of my other work. The one that really jumped out at me was “The Vocalist”
There was only one problem.
But I decided I’d add to the original to fit the building. This has the added benefit of making the mural a truly unique piece, not just a larger version. Plus I get to paint the Vocalist’s hair 🙂
Now that I had a design, I needed to figure out how I was going to actually make it. Edmonton summer weather can be filled with supper time thunderstorms and because I was going to be doing this after work, I decided that trying to paint directly on the wall could be problematic. In planning my rejected mural, I went to a mural painting seminar put on by The Paint Spot. One of the suggestions was to paint on Dibond panels which are thin sheets of painted aluminum laminated to foamed PVC plastic. They are stable, light, easy to work with and last 10+ years outside. In searching for a supplier, I found one who recommended I use Nudo Polymetal panels, which are pretty much identical to the Dibond, but are about 35% cheaper.
Next major issue was where could I actually paint on these panels? Certainly not in my condo. I can’t even get a 4×8 sheet down my basement stairs. And there will be -20- panels to do.
Well, turns out, our business rents about 10,000ft2 of pretty crappy space for storage. And has for about 5 years. The space was pretty full, but with some creative stacking & sorting, I managed to carve out about 400tf2 which would be enough to work in. Problem solved. Cost? $0.
Lastly I needed to figure out how to actually paint on these panels. First thing was to scale things up. That was pretty easy. Photoshop painting onto building to scale and create a grid.
Slice into individual panels
Then I needed to decide on paint and painting technique. I knew I was going to use acrylic but once I saw how large these panels really were, I knew that brushwork was not going to be practical. Fortunately, I have a -lot- of spray painting in my background. I spent many years painting signs and displays in the 80’s, I’ve painted about 10 cars and I’ve done airbrush work as well. I am very comfortable with a spray gun. Once I decided that “spray was the way”, paint choice was simple. I went with the Golden Fluid Acrylic with the addition of the Airbrush Extender. About $600 worth…to start
I eventually used over $1000 worth of paint. It goes a long way…but it’s a -big- wall.
Next up was 20 days of painting panels.
You can also follow the progress of the project and my thoughts as I was doing it by searching for the hash tag #yegmurals on Twitter. (or just click the link )
I’m really happy I decided to capture the process in a time lapse. Already, I’ve forgotten what it was like to do it..
I finished the painting portion of the project on July 31. It took me 20 days to do 20 panels.
All told, there’s about 45 hours of painting that went into the piece. I got pretty fast once I remembered how to paint. (I have lots of experience with spray painting, but it was a long time ago!)
Next up I had to build something to move the panels safely to the site. So I built this mobile crate thingie. Then I went on an Art Retreat…which is another blog post to come. Once I came back from the retreat I started wall preparation. Initially, I was simply going to mount the panels directly to the steel panels of the building but the wall was badly damaged. I decided the best way to deal with the wall issues was to build a wooden framework, mount & level it on the steel wall panels and then mount the mural panels to it. We banged out the worst of the dents, rust treated the bad spots and soon had the framework up.I had the panels delivered on September 1. It was pretty stressful. My crate thingie wasn’t as sturdy as I’d hoped. The panels are about 35lbs each…but there’s 20 of them so that’s 700lbs! (Next time, bigger wheels and more bracing)Thankfully they arrived without incident and we began installation the same day.
We’ve run into some issues with weather with wind and rain
… but as of today, all but 3 panels are installed and it looks like this weekend will be dry and warm so I should be able to get the final 3 panels up, all of the fasteners touched up and any final tweaks done.
The last part of the process has been to organize “The Reveal” which is going to take place on October 7 from 4:30 to 6:30pm (mountain).
In planning the reveal, I realized I needed a name for the piece. This summer has seen the closing of many live music venues in Edmonton and I decided that this piece is a bit of a response to that. The mural is a celebration of the joy of seeing music live, featuring a stylized singer and dancers in the lights and energetic colours of a music venue. I’ve titled it “See It Live”
I’m hoping to make a bit of a splash with this. I’m also going to have a “popup” art show as part of the reveal. I hope to have about 20 of my latest works on display so there’s another reason to come 🙂 I’ve already been contacted by local media and should see some coverage.
If you’re reading this before Oct. 7 and are in the Edmonton area, you can RSVP at Eventbrite. If you RSVP, you’ll receive a signed art card of “The Vocalist”.
We’re inviting a lot of folks from the city, the province and arts community as well as businesses in the area. Bizarrely, I’ve had requests from some of my Twitter friends to “Periscope” (ie; live stream on Twitter) the reveal for those in far flung places. So I will try to do that. Watch the #yegmurals hashtag or follow me on Twitter @jayispainting to keep up to date on that.
Finally, I’m hoping that we can convince some of the businesses along the greenbelt to do the same. I’d like to make my MakeSomethingEdmonton project into a much larger project, that sees this area turned into a public art corridor featuring art from some other Edmonton artists (and maybe another from me??). It would be great for the city and the local community. Stay tuned for that!
I’ll do a recap of the reveal once it’s over. Then I can get back to getting ready for my January Solo Show and starting on a 3×6 ft commission that I just picked up this weekend. (!!!) Working artist working.
Oh, and Westin Hotel? You can expect a call soon 🙂