Well, this Tuesday was another fine day with respect to the weather (unlike today!).   The wall we are painting the mural on is thankfully not exposed to direct sunlight in the mornings, which means we don’t have to worry about the paint drying too quickly. Not really an issue for this layer, but when we do the colours it could be.   On Tuesday, myself and my team of two boys and two girls from Trafalgar  painted the first layer of BEECK Quartz Filler, a bridging primer, over the surface of the wall.  I couldn’t have done it without them, and what a great team they were.  We talked about the paint and the ingredients, and the children loved using the paint.  They loved the smell, which is like toothpaste, and as we were using the bottoms of plastic milk cartons as containers, the paint was then referred to as “milk”.  They even missed some of their playtime and wanted to carry on for the rest of the morning! We had a great time.  Ideally I would have liked the wall to be rendered first, but this was not allowed, and would have cost more money too.  The bridging primer does give some smoothness to the surface, but it’s still quite uneven.  However, having seen several other murals on the net with silicate on brick,  this doesn’t worry me, not for this simple design anyway.

Such was the enthusiastic response that I realise, with hindsight, that the children’s painting shirts were not really sufficient protection, (!!) and I just hope those parents will forgive me for their children coming home with evidence of their painting activities still intact on their clothing.  I think it should come out easily though…there’s no acrylic or anything which would make it hard to get out of clothing.  The children also wore rubber gloves and goggles for protection (I’m not sure the goggles were really that necessary, but they looked rather scientific!)  I’ll post some images up soon.

By the end of the morning the whole area was covered.  Everyone worked really hard and enjoyed the process.  Amazing work!  Over the half term I’ll be marking up some of the design and then some of the children will help me with the colour areas.  The paint takes a good 12 hours to dry enough for a second coat, and it seems to take a couple of weeks to fully harden, (based on samples at home) but there’s no rush.  I’ve worked out the colours, apart from one which I can’t decide on.  I’ll be painting the design on a smaller scale on paper over the half term and post it up here soon.  I’m also thinking about some activities that the children might like to participate in related to colour theory and design, which can be used if required by the school.

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After a considerable amount of planning and thought, now the mural project for Trafalgar Junior School is more tangibly underway. Both good and bad experiences of customer services with suppliers has been an education in itself, but I am glad to, FINALLY (after some delay), be able to push the work ahead.  John T Freeman delivered some excellent cartooning workshops to groups of children in the school, and I understand that the children who received the benefit of his skill and expertise in the matter are now passing it on to other groups of children too. I must say, the children’s work is amazing, and I can see very distinctly the way in which John’s input has influenced their drawing skills and powers of expression, resulting in work which is lively and original.  John was also interviewed during assembly, and shared with the children many things about his work as an artist, showing some of his work, and also bringing along a few interesting objects to talk about.  Both the assembly and the workshops were thoroughly enjoyed by the children. 

I’m currently working on some educational materials for the project with regard to the ecological issues which are an important part of the whole thing.  Yes, I love the paint, aesthetically it pleases me so much I chose it for that, but not that alone.  It’s a great opportunity for the children to learn about paint as part of their environmental studies, and if I had more time, I would probably do a lot more in this area.  However, for now,  I will put together a few materials,  some samples of different types of paint, ideas, visual resources, that type of thing.  

Some examples of children’s work from the cartooning workshops by John T Freeman:

All the children’s cartooning looks fantastic,  and looking at their work, I want to spend some time talking to them about it, because it all looks very interesting!

Images from the cartooning workshops coming soon, for now an image which reminds me again that I need to loose some weight!

The wall is a party wall.  The use of the porus non film forming mineral paint was a big factor in permission being granted to paint the mural on the wall, as assurances that it would cause no damage or future problems to the property were required.  The original wall (1905)  was not as tall as the new one you see here, and many of the  old bricks were incorporated into the new wall which meant  there were quite a few areas of  old paint which needed to be scraped away. I filled a few deep crevices and holes.  Then I coated the whole wall with fixative, saturating it thoroughly and working it well into the wall.  I’d put up a skirt along the bottom of the mural, made of gaffar tape and bubble wrap  and when  the whole area was coated with fixative I put up more bubble wrap protection, as the clouds looked grey and there’s quite a gap between now and when I can return for the next part of the process.  Scanning the wall for deep crevices  and indentations was a bit like proof reading an essay…You think you have covered it all and then the more you look the more you find.  Much of the surface will be evened out with the bridging primer,  but some parts needed something more.

Greenshop.co.uk have also been really helpful to me with this project, providing prompt, helpful information about products through their website and email, plus their sister company AURO, and demonstrating professionalism through and through, providing  plentiful comprehensive information about the natural paints in their range; and what a range it is!  The AURO product range is a great asset to any interior muralist, and I was almost wishing that this current mural was an interior one, so that I could try out some of these natural paints for myself.  

There are a few other companies I plan to mention, but now I am working on site  (rather a lot of footballs around, but no one has managed to hit me with one yet!) I might be busy for a while.   Once I have got some photographic images sorted out, I’ll be back blogging with more news on how the project is going.  I can only spend around four hours a week on site, due to other commitments and activities, but I made good progress this morning with the preparation of the wall.  Marked out outline, put up protective skirt along the bottom, filled deep cracks and wire brushed the wall.  Scraped off paint from the occasional brick which had some old paint on it.  Applied the fixative.  Didn’t want to stop. Children interested… “Are you a scientist?” “What’s a mural?” “Is that water?”  Unfortunately I was so tight on time today I didn’t have enough time to chat as I would have liked, but I have promised them that next time I come into school I will be able to tell them more about the project.

Some children have been involved in cartooning workshops with John T Freeman.  I spoke to one boy today whose face practically glowed when he told me about it.  That’s why artists work in schools.

Artist?  Female?  Small Budget?

For some companies, this spells bad news, not worth bothering with, etc.  I’ll resist the temptation to name and shame, it doesn’t appeal to me.  Still fuming, and keen to let off steam, I’ve decided though to focus on the positive.  In this economic climate, good customer service is important and when it’s good it’s worth shouting about.  So buying supplies for the mural project has been an education in itself in some ways, and I’d like to take this opportunity to pass on some recommendations for anyone who might be thinking of buying natural or mineral based paints.  Thankfully I have more positives to report than negatives.   So I’ll start with Mike Wye and Associates.

Helpful, prompt, great range of products and excellent information.   Keen to help, interested, understanding the value of a school mural project with ecologically friendly paint,  demonstrating good customer service and a friendly and helpful manner.  Much appreciated.

See:   http://www.mikewye.co.uk/

It’s convinced me that next time I decorate I need to change my paint!  Trouble is I’m so busy right now that decorating my own house doesn’t come into it.  It’ very important for companies to be female friendly I think, and also to give prompt responses to enquiries and such like, and my experiences with this company have been very positive indeed.

Today the children are having  John T Freeman, into school.  He’ll be interviewed during assembly and the children will learn about his work as an artist and why he does what he does.  John will also be doing some workshops with the children on cartooning…I can’t wait to see their work!  I’ll post some images up shortly.  The children’s work will be used by John in the latter stages of the mural painting.  John will be adapting and composing their images which will populate the mural, and bring some life to it.   Some of the children will also be doing some activities  which centre around ecological considerations…Basically exploring the question “Why Are We Using Natural Paint?”  The children involved in the painting will also learn more about paint and painting from me, about pigments, colours, types of paint, whatever they are interested in.

I’m currently still making decisions about colours, but most of the planning work is done now.  Here’s some images of the project so far….

Using the computer and a grid for constructing templates

Mural Planning Using A Computer To Assist

 
 
Materials, Equipment, and A Messy Studio - Jenny Meehan

Using natural paints for this mural has basically converted me!

 
 
Experimenting with Different Tones and Colour Combinations at the Design Stage

A balancing act of colour in progress

 

Mixing colours…mixing colours…

Just focusing on areas of colour…thinking about it, literally weighing one colour against another and not thinking about anything else is an unexpectedly pleasurable process.  Gone for now are those little dippy dabs of colour, gone is the random mixing of colours, ad hoc, hit and miss, and the little palette (Though mine has never been small, I prefer to use a large board on a table!)

Now I am looking at flat areas (beautifully flat and singing in the light…the mineral paint surface is matt and almost comforting to look at) and as I experiment with subtle changes in tone and hue, I have the feeling that though this is not the kind of painting I expected to be doing right now…it’s more design really, however, it is doing me a lot of good.  It may not be such an emotionally charged process as most of my smaller paintings, but it’s almost ministering to me in terms of colour experience. 

The Beeck Mineral Paint smells lovely. I’m using the Beeck Beeckosil for the large colour areas of this mural.  This is a specialist paint, and I needed to consult several companies with respect to the correct preparation of substrate and the application, so many thanks to all those people who helped me in this respect.  It’s been an education in itself.  I am also looking into the mineral paint that Keim produce too, and plan to try that out on another mural in the future.  (I might well use Soldalit for the lines on this one). I’m glad I allowed for plenty of time for this project…it’s taking a lot longer to plan than I first expected.  This is mostly to do with getting the colours just right…I can’t faff about when I paint the real thing.  I also need to ensure I don’t waste paint, and I need to know exactly what I am doing in terms of proportions of pigment/toner when I mix up the colours in larger amounts for the mural.  Because the mural is the largest painting I have done so far (approx 1.5 by4 metres) I am probably being more careful than I need to be,  but better that than  the other option of careless (and expensive) mistakes. 

As I experiment with the colours on card in preparation for the mural painting “proper” I find I like this mineral paint better than the casein paint I tried out last year.  The colour does change when drying, but not so dramatically, which does help.  When this exterior mural project is done, I might well continue working with this paint on non flexible appropriately prepared substrates, as well as experimenting with using it on some stone/concrete sculpture.  Experiments started on an exterior wall in November are looking good, and it certainly helps ones confidence when embarking on using a paint one hasn’t used before to do samples and try it out first.  It takes a long time to dry, and even a few weeks to fully harden, but it does indeed harden, and it’s a fine paint.  I love it.

experimental drawing

going with the flow

“A person who has the vision of God is not devoted to a cause or to any particular issue – he is devoted to God Himself.  You always know when the vision is of God because of the inspiration that comes with it.  Things come to you with greatness and add vitality to your life because everything is energized by God.”  Oswald Chambers ((excerps from the devotional My Utmost for His Highest)

I do think people with vision do also have specific areas which they are passionate about, and that devotion to a particular cause or issue is a good thing, but it is true that the main orientation which keeps us going is towards our Creator.

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