Learning how to create public art & make change.
“My artwork became about process…not about trying to create a precious object.” -Ellie Balk
“Places like The Point are really marking this area as a cultural destination.” - Carey Clark, Visual Arts Program Director at The Point
step 1: whitewashing the previous mural
ArtRoots: How do you plan a mural?
Remy Holwick: I plan in Photoshop— I shoot photo-reference for everything. I manipulate the photos into the composition by cropping, duplicating, and cloning. Then I grid the image out— usually into 1 foot squares. I don’t use pencil, but I do use a lot of sharpies doing the layout. If I’m working on a large canvas, I’ll use pencil rather than sharpie, because gesso accepts pencil but primer on a wall responds much better to sharpie, and with glare, sharpie shows up better.
Doing the giant grid is actually harder than the drawing— finding ways to measure and park out 200 or more square feet of grid is hard! I measure along the top and bottom first and work inwards with a measuring tape, and rather than drawing whole lines, I make dots at the 1’ by 1’ marks. Otherwise, it would get complicated fast and you’d have to commit to painting over those grid lines— not worth it!
step 2: layout the entire composition— 11x13 feet, 4 figures— in sharpie
AR: What tools do you use?
RH: If it’s a canvas, I prime it. If it’s right on a wall, I prime it. You can use the drying time to poke around at the drawing. I use black house paint for the outlines and black fills, and diluted oil paint (with liquin, not oil, for a super quick dry and luminous, washy look) for everything else color wise. Having an assistant to continuously be soaping up the oil paint brushes is key. I try to work one color at a time, but that almost never ends up being a hard-and-fast thing. If something looks wrong 2/3rds of the way through, and it needs a color you’ve already used, you GOTTA go back.
Oils blend well, but liquin reduces the opacity a lot and the drying time drops dramatically— from 3 days down to 30 minutes for some colors. It’s toxic, so make sure you’re ventilated, and it’s not terribly cheap… it cost well over a hundred dollars to get the mural pictured up on the wall.
…it took a lot of sharpie…
AR: How do you find a location for the work? Or does finding the location come first?
RH: The locations have to come first. I am on probation— if I just walked up to a wall and started painting, I’d go to jail, and as a mom, business owner, and all-around good girl, I can’t do that. If I don’t have a wall, I work on a 10 foot or larger canvas.
step 3: mix oil paints. LOTS of oil paints!
AR: Your advice for somebody who wants to paint murals?
RH: Don’t get intimidated— it’s hard to find a wall, so start smaller and solidify your ideas. “Do” the concept to death— seriously, do one version small, then another one, then another… and work your way up to the wall. If an idea is great, you can stand doing version after version while you refine it and look for the right space!
step 5: start adding color
AR: Best part about mural painting is?
RH: It’s huge, and you can’t look away. It’s public. It’s not for sale, so you’re not motivated by money. There’s a great Scott McCloud thing about defining art where he asserts something like, art is anything made without a thought to motivation aside from pure creative drive. I think murals are a great way to approach that ideal of “ART”, in all caps, because money is such a major motivator, and since you can’t usually sell a mural, it is instantly removed from the equation.
… more color…
AR: What are you inspired by?
RH: My dad was a very early street artist. He is my hero. I alternately just want to continue the mission he was on, which really was one of making that great art as defined above, and to define myself as separate from him— my own artist, in his tradition, and by his ideals. Also, I’m really interested in sex! I know that sounds dumb, but so much art is implying something sexual in the way men and women are portrayed, but it’s almost as though no one wants to visually “say” the word— I like going there! I think it’s fun and it frees you up to actually ask what the work is about BESIDES sex, for a change— like, okay, we get that there are two pretty hip kids having sex on that carpet— now, what is it saying culturally? Personally?
All images courtesy of Rachel Waniewski
“You have to be confident in what you’re going to do. That’s better than any education you can get.” - Cameron Sinclair, Executive Director of Architecture for Humanity
- Cameron is inspired by Samuel Mockbee and Banksy
- There are a ton of ways to get involved with Architecture for Humanity! From joining a local chapter, to posting your designs for a better community, or applying for a design fellowship, and even fundraising, you can definitely find a way to pitch in.
- Follow @casinclair on twitter
2 Minutes with Jon Blount, Coordinator at Detroit Summer