When I was in high school I started painting murals. It was the late eighties / early nineties, and that was a big thing – a more custom take on stenciled borders and wallpapered walls that everyone seemed to have. It kept me busy. I did a lot of nurseries and kid rooms, bathrooms, dining rooms, kitchens. I painted on larger walls in schools – lots of book themed murals in hallways and stairwells. I also did pen and ink renderings or watercolors of people’s homes, watercolor names of children for their rooms, a few painted mailboxes and flowerpots – I don’t think I ever turned down a job. Thinking back on that now, I really hustled in high school. I had places to go (Europe with my French class!), things to buy (Guess jeans!), events to attend (New Kids on the Block concerts!).
So it was kind of funny to have some flashbacks to this time over this past weekend.
I painted a lot of book themed murals in the elementary school where my mom taught third grade. I started painting them in high school, and added to the collection over summer breaks at home from college. Based on the date above, I must have done this one right before heading back to my sophomore year at Clemson. It’s a scene from Eric Carle’s Draw Me A Star, and I remember that it wasn’t that easy to paint something in thick paint that was originally rendered in painted tissue paper collages.
My first mural in that school was the cover of one of my favorite books – Tomie De Paulo’s The Art Lesson. It’s hard to tell in the photo, but that mural was ten feet tall and painted over a stair, so it was a pretty dicey ladder setup I worked from. Also, I had to use oil based paint on the painted concrete block walls, which wasn’t much fun. I don’t miss mineral spirits. I used to bathe in the stuff.
E is always drawing or painting something at home. A friend asked recently if she’d be willing to paint a mural on her daughter’s bedroom wall, and E was excited to do it. I offered to help her get started on this project because I know that it’s not as easy as it looks. You need good quality paint, you need a lot of supplies, and it’s easy to tell when you haven’t done your homework. Plus, someone’s got to drive her around to do all of this, so she didn’t have much of a choice on the partnership. Luckily she was on board.
We ended up having a really great time together, and split the work pretty evenly to be efficient. I gave her lots of pointers along the way, but let her make or weigh in on every single decision. (We used a push pin in the corner of the wall, and stretched twine tied to a pencil to make the perfect arcs for the rainbow stripes. And we hunted through the house for big circles – using a step stool and a metal toy bin for the fluffy clouds.) We made a good team, and when we were driving home on the third day, she thanked me for the opportunity to try it. She loved the process and really loved the end result. She wants to do more. I have a feeling she might have a mural business in the making.