So now I am a muralist. A serial muralist. LOL! I just finished a commissioned mural for a dog trainer/pet sitting business. Diana had recently installed a large shed for her new alpacas and wanted the back of the shed to beautify her property. Her home-owner’s association (HOA) wouldn’t allow a sign at the end of her driveway, so she opted to have a mural of dogs as a way to indicate to her clients they’d come to the right place. The shed is 30 feet long, but it is hundreds of feet from the road, so the perspective makes the mural about “sign sized” as seen from the road.
Diana found me through Eugene Urban Canvas, a clearinghouse for muralists in the Eugene, Oregon area. I got listed with EUC because I like painting murals, and frankly, I’ve done a few in my time.
I started thinking about how many I’d done as I worked on this project and realized there are a fair amount of them stretching all the way back to my high school days when I painted an Arizona desert sunset on my bedroom wall. Later, in my 20’s, I’d painted a VW Beetle on the garage door of my mechanic as trade for some work on my own vintage bug. The mural showed the car on a road heading into the coast range mountains, yet another colorful sunset image. Quite a few of my murals have been of sunsets, people seem to really like the color palette of yellow and orange against a gloaming blue sky.
Among some of my murals I’ve painted a fairy princess posed with a crescent moon, a moon over the New York skyline, the city lights of Seattle, ponies peeking out over stall doors, giant horses running across the roof of a barn (at 100 feet long, it can be seen from planes as they land at the Eugene airport), a Star Wars themed sunset, historic images and once, the world series winning Oregon State baseball team. As requested by my client, the baseball mural featured images from the big event and so, sadly, it was painted over when the team won the world series again the following year. Good for them, but it made the mural completely superfluous! It was painted over and something more timeless and generic replaced my work; who knew they would win again so fast? Probably my shortest-lived mural, it was up for less than a year.
But that’s the nature of murals, they are generally considered public art, so they have to do their job as décor and if that job is linked to a business or a place in time, well, things change and so too then must the mural adapt or perish. I’ve come to accept the transitory nature of murals and have found the ones that last the longest, fit the best into their space and time. I once painted a Tuscan landscape in a client’s craft room, when they sold the house years later, did the mural survive the sale? When the teen-aged girl who loves horses, grows up and moves out, will her mother still keep the pony visiting over the stall door? I know my mother did not keep the desert sunset in my teen-aged bedroom; she redecorated and turned it into her sewing room, the sunset replaced with a clothes rack.
I encourage clients to have me paint their mural on canvas or large sign boards, that way if ever a move occurs in the future, the mural can be brought along, or even sold and transferred to a new owner. The Seattle mural benefited from this as the nightclub I painted it for, went out of business and the mural was relocated to another city.
It’s how I managed to get the fairy princess back, where she now graces my car-park wall. But, it’s also how the same fairy princess was stolen right off the Alpine Market wall and disappeared for a few weeks. She was MIA until the thieves realized they would never be able to display it without advertising their crime and so, late one night, returned her to the back alley behind the store.
Murals have stories to tell, and my newest one is no exception. While painting it, my client received calls from her Home Owners Association demanding she quit as the mural was unacceptable to them. Diana had notified the HOA months before that a mural was coming (after they complained about her long white shed) but no questions were asked and nothing more was said about it until the day I outlined the image. Unfortunately for the HOA, murals are not against the rules, so we continued on, despite further phone calls and a hastily penned letter. Once again, a mural of mine has generated controversy; not everyone is a lover of the arts. But when it comes to beautifying your property, it seems some have overstepped the boundaries of good neighbors. I’m glad I’m not taking it personally that someone called my work “graffiti” before I was even done with it; truly, it says more about them than me.
The chief enemy of creativity is ‘good’ sense. Pablo Picasso
As for me, I love changes, change is all about new energy and growth. Change is the essence of creativity, and that sometimes takes courage. This time however, the changes that may be forthcoming could possibly be a renewed and updated HOA or if it doesn’t serve the people as it was intended, then perhaps its dissolution altogether? It depends on what the neighbors say and how things progress from here on out. Diana is not backing down; she loves her new mural! If you’d like to support Diana regarding the mural, comment below and I will forward your messages on to her.
There is power and energy in art, and sometimes, the bigger the art, the bigger the reaction.