Art Studio: Notes towards a mural #2

Today I had a discussion with painter Sally Morgan about moving off canvas towards murals. She really drove home to me how under-prepared I was for the move, given my current media and techniques. I have to look at this as a long-term goal, due mostly to financial commitments, but also due to the fact that my painterly technique, insofar as it is developing, is still suited to smaller scales. I rely a lot on wet-on-wet blending, something that isn’t really possible with house paints. House paint is the necessary medium, the only paint that is tough enough, and I can influence its hues by adding acrylic. House paint dries to remarkably different colours compared to when wet, so I need to have a very clear understanding of how each paint will look before I apply it, and I need to mix in bulk. Dry brushing a stipple of paint in a layer over another can stand in for wet-on-wet blending, but it’s a technique I will need to practice.

In wall painting, especially exterior, the media and methods tend to become cruder, based more on registering an image from a distance, than on fine resolution – bigger brushes and cruder marks. Obviously gravity will affect the paint differently depending on the surface, but it will do so from a fixed point, no moving the canvas around to create a painterly effect, something I’m in a habit of doing. I must learn to translate any such effects into a muralistic work, or otherwise abandon them.

Ideally if I manage to come back to Massey next year I will have amassed enough house paint from the dump shop that working on a full-sized mural is a real possibility, and from now onwards I need to have my mind towards finding an available space. I don’t think I should be bogged down by a sense of “propriety”, or finding the proper space, but rather be ready (as Richard had already invited me to) to work concepts into spaces. One of the innate challenges and delights of muralism is the way it must fit within architectural spaces, how it is situated and framed matters – or certainly can matter. I don’t think there is either anything necessarily wrong with getting a big flat wall space and fixing quite a canvas-like proportioned image, scaled up, upon it. Except perhaps, that approach is not very challenging, but I don’t think challenging feats necessarily make good art, the art is in the content much more than in the media.

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