How to create a mural (a really big one)
As the corona virus strangles the city of Seattle, the restaurants and cafes in Pioneer Square shut down. Preparing for the cytokine storm, shopfronts are boarded up. The streets deserted, feeling edgier than ever.
To keep an eye on the streets, the Alliance for Pioneer Square reached out to local artists to pair up with local businesses and paint the hoardings that cover the shopfronts.
Lucky for me, Jon from Swannies Sports Bar liked my work and picked me to create a concept for this prime spot on Occidental Square.
Start with a panoramic 56 foot wide canvas.
Being Pioneer Square, I imagined a cute little shopfront. Turns out the hoarding was 8 feet high (2.4m) and 56 feet wide (17m) wrapping around the entire outdoor area of the bar and the entrance to Comedy Underground.
I wanted the mural to be an escape and reflect art in a time of corona virus. Since I have been immersing myself in Chinese landscapes I created a panoramic vision of Puget Sound. Dotted with Seattleites getting out and about in their solitary pursuit of social distancing.
Next, cut and paste – wheat paste and The Seattle Times.
I spent a long time cutting out shapes. Very broad with little detail. Essentially blocking out the foundation.
I rolled them up and marked them with clear labels. The last thing I wanted was to have loose bits of newspaper flapping about the square while I scrambled to find the piece I needed.
I brought commercially-produced wallpaper paste but in the end I swapped for my own home made wheat paste. The wheat paste went on smoother, was easier to handle and actually felt good on my hands.
Overpaint the paste-up with muted colors.
After a long day spent pasting up a sticky mess of newspaper, it was glorious to take to a paintbrush and overpaint the newspaper.
Starting with house paint, it was too thick and didn’t give me the dexterity I needed for flourishes with a paintbrush. Turns out acrylic paint, once it’s dry, will withstand the elements.
See what the locals think.
I hadn’t considered how creating a paste-up in broad daylight brings a lot of attention. Even during the shutdown, there are people walking their dogs and out for a stroll.
There’s also a posse of homeless men who stop all the time to give encouragement and creative direction. One man in a wheelchair was my one-man cheer squad, saying over and over again, “It’s a nice painting, it’s good.”
In the end, all street art is ephemeral. When the lock down ends and Swannies opens up, the mural will disappear.