Five Lessons From Mural Painting
I had no idea how much I would glean about life from taking a brush to a blank wall.
I just completed my first public mural project for the City of Loveland. It’s located in the Rialto Theatre Pass Through. Last summer, I got my first taste of painting murals with Jennie Milner. I assisted her with the Beet Town Mural and learned what it takes to do an outdoor mural in the heat of summer (that will be for another post). I’ve done other public art projects in the past, but this really was my first designed and executed wall mural in a public space if we don't count the one I did in high school for our church's nursery (again, another story).
There’s so much I learned from this project. A lot about large scale public projects, but also a lot about myself and a lot about life in general. Here are my takeaways from this project.
1. You can’t prepare for everything. I planned and planned and planned. I had designs laid out, colors pre-mixed, a schedule put together, etc. I got to the space and found that following my design was almost impossible due to the scale. A little voice in my head told me to scratch the design and just let the lines come together on their own. I listened (that’s my word, remember), surrendered and just started drawing and it was a beautiful experience. My body moved with the lines, I let intuition and movement take over. Sometimes, in life and in art, you just have to allow your instincts to take over. If a little voice tells you to throw out the script or the plan, it’s a good idea to listen.
2. You don’t have to be an expert before you try something new. I think we get this idea in our heads that we can’t tackle something until we know all the outcomes, all the details and have vast amounts of experience. Unless you are an air-traffic controller, surgeon, or some other life/death situation person, it’s ok to not know all the things before you jump into something. You will learn as you go. You will make mistakes and you might even fail, but in the doing, you become more of an expert than if you just read, researched, or held back due to fear.
3. It will take longer than you think. This mural project took about a week longer than I had anticipated and the other component of original paintings that will be placed within the mural is taking about a month longer than I thought. I’m learning, ever so slowly, that I need to cushion my schedule with the understanding that things will take longer than I think. When I’m figuring out a timeline for a project, I become laser focused on the planning and forget to build in time for the rest of life...soccer games, tech-glitches, sickness, laundry, studio visits from clients, emails, calls, etc. Take time to record what your estimated time will be and then look at the actual amount of time it took. This is such valuable information for future projects.
4. Bring knowledgeable friends on the journey. I assisted Jennie Milner on her Beet Town mural to learn and this time around, I got to lead and Jennie assisted. I wanted her by my side because she’s really fun to paint with, but also because she has years of experience that helped us pivot and tackle challenges along the way. Since I wasn’t going in as an expert it was really important to have people close by to help me in my learning process. This principle translates to all other areas of life...motherhood, marriage, career, just being human!
5. Trying something new gives you powerful self-knowledge. This process taught me that I LOVE working big and I am hungry to allow line and shape to flow through my whole body rather than just through my wrist and hand when I paint. I had no idea that this was something I was missing until I tried something new. It was an eye opening experience. If I had just stuck with my normal way of painting and doing what I know, this revelation would not have occurred. What will I do with this new hunger? No clue, but I plan to keep it in my pocket and look for opportunities. How about you? When is the last time you have tried something new and discovered something about yourself? These experiences are worth your time because they help you understand yourself and learn about who you are. It will show you what you didn’t know you were missing. It will show you what your heart really longs for. It will show you new strengths or limitations you didn’t know were there. (Understanding BOTH strengths and weaknesses is really important)