Studio Mural

I've been wanting to try my hand at creating murals for a while now. A recent enquiry for a commercial mural commission was just the push I needed to finally get started on exploring this medium for my illustrations.

I decided to create a 'practice' mural to test out my ideas, the materials I was going to use and to start to hone my process. To get started, I had to find a wall that I could paint on and what better place than the large, white wall in my own studio?

The design

I've had this idea to paint my illustrated logo onto the wall of my studio ever since I moved in to my Digbeth (Birmingham) location and this was the perfect opportunity to do so.

Step 1: Pencil

I started, as I do with any illustration, by mapping out the outlines of the design in pencil. I used a light charcoal pencil that I knew could easily be removed from the wall with a putty rubber.

As I had a specific design that I wanted to recreate on the wall, I decided to explore using a projector as a guide when mapping the design out on the wall. Although, as my studio doesn't have any blinds, curtains or any other form of window covering, the projection was very faint on the wall. However, it did help me hugely to gauge the proportions of all the illustration's elements and translate these to the larger space fairly accurately. I kept the original illustration close by throughout the process as I needed to refer to it constantly to ensure I was interpreting the very faint projection correctly.

Step 2: Painting the Outlines

After a little experimentation, I found Posca paint pens were a really good fit for me. Primarily because they replicate the fine, line detail of my illustration style so well. They also provide a consistent line width when creating the outlines - something which is very important with this style of illustration - which I found trickier to achieve when using a paintbrush.

After a little trial and error, I found a good momentum of creating the outlines by working from top to bottom and left to right as much as possible. This avoids drawing over wet areas of paint, as you risk smudging. Although, the paint in Posca pens dries very quickly.

Step 3: Painting the Black Background

As I was creating in my favoured monochrome, I only had black paint to apply to the mural. This meant I could paint in the background after creating all my outlines first; much like when I create my ink illustrations. If I were using colours for the background, I would have had to block these in first and wait for it all to fully dry before applying my black outlines.

Step 4: Details

The mural design was really starting to take shape by this point. It was time to bring it to life with all the details, which would also frame the negative space lettersforms of the S and M from my logo. I used the finer tipped Posca Pens to create the line work inside the botanical forms. I used a variety of widths and techniques to replicate the ink work of my original illustration and to also add depth and interest to the piece.

Step 5: Finishing Touches

All that was left to do now was to carefully and methodically make my way around the whole piece, looking for charcoal lines to remove. I used a light, up close to the wall to really inspect the linework and gently worked a putty rubber over the charcoal lines. I also topped up any fading caused by the rubber with the finest tipped Posca pens I had.

This is also where I tested out a few ways of sealing the finished mural. Sealing is obviously optional based on the kind of contact the wall is going to come into. For my studio, it wasn't necessary to seal it but I used it as an opportunity to test out some materials. Much to my dismay, I found that Posca pens do not work well with a brush-on varnish as the paint lines run in contact with the brush. Therefore, I used an aerosol, matt varnish. Just a light coat over the entire wall, if possible, to avoid any noticeable difference in the coated and uncoated paint.

Now my finished mural decorates the wall of my Birmingham studio with my botanical illustrated logo!

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