Monday, September 6, 2010

Newton - Painting

Transferring the design is really not as hard as it looks, well at least not since digital projectors have been around. To go from 30 x 80 inches to 30 x 80 feet, we took a photo of our line drawing, tinkered with it (well Matt and Erika tinkered with it) a bit in photoshop, and then projected it onto the wall to the delight of insects and makers of giant shadows.

It's the morning after the free wheeling transfer party when things appear a little shakier. Looking at what we had copied, the lines were way less precise than we thought the night before. In some places it was hard to tell a nose from a thumb or a suitcase handle from a bridge... But, that's normal. Like humming a few bars of a new song, without lyrics or instruments, it can be hard to imagine the completed painting when all that's there are the rough outlines of the design.

Blocking in big areas of color helps to clarify the basic elements of the design quickly. It also establishes the mural's value structure and color harmony from which the rest of the painting will be developed. And blocking in these big shapes is relatively easy so it's a great time to have what we call "community paint days." Newton, it seems, was more than ready to get their brushes to the wall, because on our first community paint day over eighty people showed up to get their licks in. And that was followed the next day by over a hundred. To date, over two hundred and fifty people have helped paint on Newton's new mural.

While passersby and volunteers work below, we painted from scissor lifts above. In these early stages of painting, I spend my time mixing and mixing and mixing paint. Mixing the right amount (so you don't have to re-mix and re-mix) of the right color at the right value takes practice, and it's easy to mis-mix and end up with a gallon of unusable muck.
So, like a bartender, I stand behind the paint table handing out concoctions such as burnt sienna cooled with a medium violet tint or chromium green dirtied with cadmium orange. And in a transformation that seems to happen overnight, the white of the wall gives way to color.

After the mural has been completely filled in with one layer of color, it's time to project the details of the design on top of the existing painting. More fun can be had with shadows, since now they have images to interact with as Matt demonstrates below.

From here on out, the areas to paint are smaller, the decisions about color and value tougher to make, and the chances of making things look really weird much much greater. " Why does that girl have an eye in her nose?", I heard once. But, this is also the stage when the painting starts to come into its own and I usually breathe a sigh of relief knowing it's probably going to look pretty cool.

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