8 Tips to Painting Murals
Painting a mural may feel a little daunting. There isn't a huge amount of information on the internet and it feels like artists can be a little tight lipped within the industry (it's not really - we are all just introverts). As a re-emerging trend, it seems like every artist and their cat are painting murals now, but don't worry - there are enough walls for everyone. With over ten years of mural experience, I am going to give you my top tips so that when you're staring at the giant blank wall in front of you, you feel confident that 'you got this!'.
1. Use high quality paint And factor the cost into your quote. I am the first to admit, during the pandemic I used a low quality spray paint as it was the only spray paint in Australia and it was terrible. It faded within a week and I have been returning to this nightmare of a job, repainting faded colours for months now. Invest money into good products. I love Haymes (Australian brand), Montana Spray Paint MTN94 and Resene. I encourage you to play with different paint brands and see what you like (and what lasts).
Be selective when choosing the right paint for the job.
2. Provide an in situ proof Once the client has approved the design for the mural, provide them with the design mocked up on the wall. You can do this in Procreate on the iPad or you could use Adobe Photoshop. The clients will feel more confident seeing the design in the space and they'll trust you to deliver your amazing vision.
This proof was created in Procreate on the iPad.
3. Practice scaling your work Pre-plan how you intend to scale your work from the iPad/Laptop you've created the design on. Are you going to grid up the wall and grid up your design and transfer that way? What about a scribble grid? Or is it a brick wall and you can use the bricks as a grid? Can you project the design onto the wall and trace? Are you pre-preparing stencils? Or are you using all of these techniques for the different layers of the work? Once you have your technique figured out, practise it. Then practise it some more. This is by far the hardest part! If this part is feeling overwhelming and you don't know what your preferred technique is, then it is time to head to The Business of Murals Workshop, where I cover all of these steps in great detail, and start from the basics right the way through to the end. You have lifetime access to this course and it walks you through everything you need to know about murals and business: contracts, finding work, providing proofs, prepping walls, materials and tools, scaling your work and how you can paint murals full time. It is presented in modules that you can go back to at any time to refresh or go over a section in your own time. Head over here for more info.
4. Ask for help A good assistant can be worth their weight in gold. When you're in the hot sun, painting on the wall all day, going through all the remaining elements to do before you can finish the project, it's such a relief to look over and see that your assistant has done most of those elements AND washed your brushes. It's also nice to have company too. I strongly advocate paying your assistants as it's tough work and remember: don't ask them to do anything you wouldn't do yourself!
Good assistants will save you time, money and stress.
5. Think like a weatherperson If you're looking at painting an exterior mural in the middle of summer, you're asking for heat stroke. Or, potentially, being rained off the wall. Make sure you work a contingency plan into your project and set boundaries around this (and pop them into your contract). If it's over 35 degrees, the job will be postponed (for your own health). If the wind is blowing and you're on lift access equipment, the job needs to be postponed. If you can see massive clouds rolling over, get off the giant metal scissor lift lighting rod you're on and postpone the job. Adversely, if you're painting in winter, start your jobs later in the morning so the dew on the wall evaporates before you throw paint on there. I'm not saying you should be precious about the weather, but think ahead and make a plan because your safety and the safety of your assistant/s must be a priority.
6. Consult with the community If the opportunity arises that the community the public wall will be in will want to be involved, let them. This is their wall, you are a vessel to tell their story. Sit with the community. Listen to them. Let them draw ideas. Let them brainstorm. I guarantee they'll spark an amazing idea for the wall and they'll be so proud to be connected to the project. I've always felt so privileged to work with different communities to create something that they are proud of. I promise, it will be worth it.
Community consultation will provide a sense of connection and ownership
7. Keep learning and evolving Always keep learning more about the industry. Ask your favourite street artists if you can help on a job. Or join in on another artists workshop. Go to talks. See art in galleries. Listen to all the podcasts. Stay curious. Write goals. Develop your interests and stay motivated. If you run your own business, reflect on how you are going and how you could grow or level-up. This has been something I do every year with my business to keep me energised, excited and motivated about the projects that are coming up. A result of this practice was the launch of the Creative Business Development Workbook, which captures the system I developed for my own business, and gives a framework to get clear on the direction you want to take your business, with prompting questions to expand, marketing plans, finances, day-to-day operations, business goals and more. There are blank calendar pages to pre-plan your yearly marketing, and additional pages of dot grid pages to scribble, sketch and plan your way to the business you've dreamed of. In addition to this I have a number of courses available, including Creative Business Development Workshop, Spray Painting & Stencils, How to Full time Artist, and The Business of Murals Workshop. Head over here for more info.
What tips do you have to share?