This week marks the one year anniversary of painting my first murals. Two murals in 10 days, in fact. Prior to painting these murals in Austin, I had zero mural experience & no reason to believe I could pull it off. Following is the 6-part story of how I did it. [Read from the beginning.]
I woke up on Tuesday July 12th, the morning after I painted my very first mural on Fabian's garage, and I was so proud of myself. I had slept hard, my muscles sore from climbing up and down ladders for 5 hours. It was that rewarding fatigue that you get from physical labor, plus I was a bit high that my experiment had worked. And so quickly! But I wasn't out of the woods yet -- I had the back wall of the Continental Club to paint.
One thing I didn't mention in this heretofore chronological story is that my boyfriend had told me he was going to reach out to some of his friends to try to find me a wall. I thought it was a nice gesture but didn't think twice about it until he told me that he spoke with Steve Wertheimer, owner of the esteemed Continental Club, the best venue on South Congress Avenue. A place where I had been going since college and where my boyfriend had played many times. Steve said I could paint on the back wall of his club.
What? Did I just get offered to paint on the back side of the Continental Club? I couldn't believe it. If this was an option, why wasn't the wall already filled with murals?
I drove by the wall and took a few photos, trying to determine the best placement and proportions. The logistics for this mural were quite different from the one on Fabian's garage, so I had a whole new set of things to figure out. The wall is black so I couldn't project the design on it, I’d have to make a stencil. The ground below the wall was uneven and the wall was partly obstructed by a tree. Design-wise, the best placement for my arrows would be halfway up the wall near the roof. I'd need to figure out how to safely place some straight ladders on uneven ground and get both me and Dana over 10 feet up in the air.
Allow me to explain to you that I'm not a physical risk taker. I'm not an athlete, I've never broken a bone, I like my feet on the ground. I'm not afraid of heights per se, but I have ZERO DESIRE to climb high up a rickety ladder. We'd climbed around on ladders for the first mural, but they were steady A-frames on level ground. I was super worried about it.
Despite the fact that I’d just successfully painted my first mural, I was even more nervous than before. My mind was filled with doubts, I had no idea how I would pull it off, but how could I say NO?
A voice in my head said, maybe this is all a mistake. To double check that Steve actually meant to offer the wall up to me, I mocked up the design and emailed it to him. I thought, maybe he'll see it and just cancel the whole idea! On Monday, July 11th, the morning before I was going to paint my very first mural on Fabian's garage, I emailed Steve the mockup asking if he approved. He emailed right back, "Looks good." Oh shit, I thought, I'm leaving town in five days and I have to figure out how to paint this wall.
On Wednesday afternoon, I went to use my painter friend's art studio so I could make the stencil. I had a roll of craft paper that I'd bought previously, and I searched around and found some masking tape and eventually one pair of dull scissors. I taped a few lengths of paper together to cover about a 5 feet by 7 feet area, then I taped that to the wall and projected the arrows onto it so I could trace them. The art studio had air conditioning but it took a while to work, so it was hot in there. I had once chance to get the proportions of the arrows right, and to make a sturdy enough stencil. After I traced the arrows I pulled the giant paper off the wall and onto the floor. I used masking tape to reinforce it along the traced lines, then used the dull scissors to carefully cut it out.
This took much longer than I thought it would take, I was overheating, and I still was so worried about the ladders. The scissors were tearing the paper so I had to be very careful. I didn't have the right tools, and in a sweaty moment of defeat my emotions took over me. Here I was making a stencil of masking tape and paper, and I didn't even know if it would work or if I'd be able to climb high enough to use it. I started crying. I lay down flat on the floor in the middle of the studio. What the hell was I thinking? I just surrendered and sweated and cried softly, thinking I can't do this. I give up.
I let myself cry for a few minutes, then I just lay there quietly and breathed. A thought popped in to my head; I really need a straight edge and a razor to finish cutting this out. Then an odd thing happened. I sat up and turned my head to the corner of the room behind me, and my eyes landed on a metal yardstick. The perfect straight edge that I needed. I walked to grab it, and without thinking my head turned again, this time across the room to the bottom shelf of a coffee table that had a few little baskets of remote controls and random things. I walked to the shelf and my hand picked up one of the baskets. Nestled in between two remote controls was a razor.
I had been working in this studio the previous three weeks and had never seen either of these tools.
I thought, hot damn, said a prayer of thanks out loud, and then made quick work of slicing out the rest of that stencil.