Several years back I was approached by a local nightclub owner for a mural. While I love painting murals, they have a habit of eventually being painted over; which may be great for the new owner of whatever wall has now been transformed, but not so much for me. I don’t know if I will ever get used to the notion that my artwork may be scrubbed out by a fresh coat of paint. I realize public art (of which most murals are) can be transitory, but rarely do I get any input as to how long or by what decision that temporary status is given. I may have released the need to interpret my art to others, but I have yet to let go of it’s destruction/transformation at the hands of others. I’m working on that.
All this prefaces my suggestion to the owner that the mural become instead a large canvas that could be moved when and if the nightclub ever undergoes renovation. We agreed, I created a sketch for approval, the commission was negotiated and I went to work.
At the time, I was a professional color consultant for a Benjamin Moore retail outlet as well as working as a painting contractor. BM had a new product line that I found pretty impressive and decided to paint the mural using these new, very dense and very opaque latex house paints. Their new line of paints was called Aura and they were being showcased nationwide in the BM trade publication Profiles as well as a variety of marketing outlets. Seizing the chance for self promotion, I contacted the company magazine and told them what I was doing with their paint. Which led to this featured article:
My first national magazine.
This project was the biggest thing I’ve ever had in my studio. The studio itself isn’t that large, so a huge canvas was a challenge. I pushed all the tables and work surfaces out of the way to make room. When working large, you need space to be able to step back and see your work but I was hampered by the size of my studio. I still have a desire to enlarge the space, but that will have to wait.
9 feet long… barely fits!
The other challenge was working with house paint. I used to be such an artistic snob. In college I had even learned how to grind my own paint, so quality ingredients was embedded in my idea of who I was an artist. But I was a few years out of school at the time, and well past my art teaching days. I’d learned to “make do” and freed my mind from snobbery to the possibilities of alternate mediums.
While Benjamin Moore isn’t paying me for this endorsement (though in the past they actually have) I’ve gotta say that Aura is excellent paint. Very high quality, gorgeous color and great coverage. I mixed my own to create my palette, and used extra pigments not generally available to the public. You can ask your paint store to sell you tinting agents, they are designed to be used with house paint, so while you can mix your own colors, don’t use them in other brands or types of paint. Warning: tints are super strong. Think of them like bouillon cubes… a little goes a long way.
Anyway, the challenge of the paint was how fast it dried. Aura products are designed to dry fast so painters can get in and get the job done. I’m predominantly an oil painter so anything that dries in less than a week is hard for me. This stuff was dry in minutes so I had to work fast. When you work fast, brush strokes become very fluid… there’s no time to coax your colors into being. No sweet talk here. Wham bam…. well, you know the rest.
The result was energetic and electrifying. And one of the best things I’ve ever done.
PS: Thank goodness I had the foresight to paint on canvas. The nightclub shut down a year later and the painting was moved to a martial arts/art gallery in Eugene. Weird combination of venues, but it actually worked in that space!