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Friday, August 17, 2012

Endless Summer Wall (Aug. 17, 2012)

Most logical people would not paint an outdoor mural in August in mid-80-degree temperatures with the broiling sun pounding down upon the dome of a straw hat worn to offer some protection from the broiling sun but also trapping heat in the body.

Of course, I’ve rarely done things the logical way!

A few months ago I joined a community garden. The first time I saw the patch of earth that would become our garden, I also noticed a bland, peeling, bird poop bedecked wall that formed the western boundary of the garden. Immediately I knew the wall needed a makeover. All thoughts of my relaxing summer off from the school year’s bustle fled my mind. There was a project that needed me! Soon I was convincing a panel that the wall needed a new look and they were choosing one of the two designs I created. The garden was funded partly through a grant, and everyone participating was volunteering their time and muscles for building raised beds, creating irrigation systems and shoveling dirt. Lots of it. Inspired by all the dedication of people who wanted to be part of a community effort, I offered to donate my time if there was budget for paint. Paint colors were chosen, my painty clothes were dug out of the closet, and volunteers were convinced to volunteer. Let there be creativity!

First I needed to power-wash the wall and prime it. Not very exciting but necessary if you want your end result to rock the suburbs, which of course I did. Next came sketching the design onto the wall. It’s cement block, which can be hard to paint on as it is filled with lots of little holes. But the upside was that the vertical and horizontal lines in the wall gave me a grid to use when I was painting the outlines of the mural. I designed the mural using a ¼” scale and when it came to drawing my shapes onto the wall the cement blocks were helpful in measuring how big things should be.

Once my lines and shapes were sketched in I started to roll paint. Since this mural had a growing theme, I chose bright colors for the fruits, vegetables and other elements. I LOVE bright colors, so this was really up my alley. The greens of our growing plants pop against the bright oranges and yellows in the mural. I think the real plants and the painted plants and fruits look even better together than they would separately.

Oh, there were times when I realized that painting in August may have been a little optimistic. I know there are much hotter places than this, but mid-80s is plenty hot to me. As I sweated in the sun, brush in hand, I wondered if I was suffering from heat stroke when I decided to start in the summer! There were moments when I wondered if this was an endless wall. It was 150 feet long, which might as well be endless when you’re painting at noon. Eventually I tried painting from four until eight pm, when it was merely warm, not scorching.

One night earlier this week I finished the mural. It was just before 8 o’clock, when a sunset of bright pink clouds hovered above the wall I’d stared at for several weeks. The last brushstroke was made, this artist heaved a sigh, and headed home.

Of course, I returned the next morning, just to see how it looked in daylight, and truth be told, I did another five minutes of shading. And then it was finished. Really. Although I’m glad that it is finished, I’m also glad that I created this mural. I’m grateful for the volunteers who helped paint and to Hubby for tending the flock while I painted. It feels good to have created some art for everyone to enjoy. I love my community and I like the idea of brightening this world, one wall at a time.


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