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Planning a Mural That Never Got Made

Updated: Nov 24, 2020

A few weeks back, fellow artist Tina Marcus contacted me about a mural project she had heard about in the nearby town of Holly Springs, NC. I have done only one other mural previously and that was several years ago for a child's playroom. I had also painted my own daughters' rooms with mural and freehand imagery.

But nothing like this project.

The Builders have several spaces in their soon-to-be-finished commercial mixed-use building where they have dedicated space for public art.

Tina and I quickly downloaded the application and dove into planning a project that would highlight both of our styles in a mixed media- partnership piece of art.

The RFP was about 12 pages long and included descriptions of the spaces with measurements of the mural spaces. There were 3 projects, we chose to bid on two.

The deadline was in 2 weeks.

Two weeks went by in a flurry of ideas back and forth and changes in concept and execution almost daily. One project is a 20-foot long retaining wall that is 7 feet in height. We wanted to incorporate some of Holly Springs's history with a look to the future. We both did a fair amount of research into the town's humble beginnings and involvement in the Civil War, reconstruction, and segregation. We chose to depict some of that.

I looked for imagery that would depict that in a graphic way and started to create digital collages using the free software from Canva. It was a great way to paste together different images, both drawn and clipped photos and see how they looked in composition before spending time drawing or painting.

I then printed these images out and redrew them all in one style of a large piece of paper. From there the design was transferred to a canvas that was the same dimensions that the mural will be. I kept a limited palette and chose tones of greens and blues for the entire image. Tina proposed to add her poured figures to be superimposed over my painting, in places where I had two sets of people. It would give the image a dream-like quality and the viewers could put themselves into the image by projecting themselves into these empty figures, of quite literally by taking selfies in from of them.

Our second project proposal took much longer to conceive of, and honestly, I almost gave up on designing it. But the hard work and revisions did ultimately result in a beautiful image.

The second proposal involved murals that would extend across three floors of lobbies next to an elevator. Each area had to incorporate the elevator and was about 14' long and 10 feet high.

Tina proposed to create a wall covering of primed and painted canvas and then I would paint silhouettes of figures standing and running and talking to contrast with these bright distressed walls she created. We went back and forth on the designs of these figures for more than a week before we decided to make the images very simple and modern to contrast with the very bright and textured walls.

We were really proud of the collaborative work that we did in such a short amount of time, and on message with the history and context of Holly Springs.

Then after the deadline passed and we heard no response, Tina followed up witht the builders to ask if they had made a decision. They had extended the deadline! And last week we heard we did not get selected.

I am ok with that. It was our first go-round of applying for a project like this, and we both have little mural experience. Things could have gone very wrong with our project. Or it could have been really cool.

It won't stop me from applying for other projects. I was really out of my comfort zone on this one but enjoyed the journey.

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