Mural Project: Day 8

Hello! These past couple weeks leading up to the actual painting on the wall have been quite an interesting journey. I know I cannot teach everyone how to become a professional artist by the end of the 8 week/16 day session, but I can teach them how to work together while opening up their creativity!

Two week ago, I used the theater game “Tableau” to have participants create a story consisting of a beginning, middle, and end while using three people as their sculptures. This masterpiece is called “Metamorphosis”. Get it?


 Last week, I gathered as much found material as I could, set it all on the table, asked everyone to get into groups of 2-3, and create something. Anything! But most importantly, work on collaborating (working together.. new big word for the kids). I’d like to give a great big shoutout to the Long Beach Depot for Creative Reuse for donating the majority of the supplies to me! The owner is really sweet and firmly believes that recycled art is a great leap towards a revolution. This activity mostly consisted of the women, while a few worked on pieces with their children. Here’s some of the pieces that came out of the workshop:

..This is what happens when you put Mr. Sun in the shade. Purple mustaches!

Trust, all of these activities are relevant to what’s about to happen in the next couple of weeks…
Yesterday, we started painting on the wall. I really wish I had a photo of everyone at work, but my hands were covered in acrylic gesso and paint! Here is a photo of the wall before:

And after… so far:

Yesterday, I had at least 15 people working on this wall, which helped us finish the whole thing within 1.5 hours.

So, something I’ve learned since being here…

My group is never consistent. There are women/children who have just arrived, those who have lives outside of the mural project (especially on a Friday afternoon), and those who are transitioning back into mainstream society whom I may never see again. =(

Today, I had about 5 people. And thank goodness! Why?

Prior to all of this, I did my research on murals and read that acrylic gesso (tinted with any acrylic color of choice.. mine was blue for the sky) is what should be used to prime the wall before starting the actual painting. This is to guarantee the longevity of the wall by preventing the colors from turning to yellow or fading away. SO… the bummer?

I came back to the facility to find RUST spotting through the metal gate that was once black. It appeared within 24 hours, over the sky blue gesso we just applied yesterday!!! Not only that, but the paint was peeling off very easily from this area. Google didn’t predict this! Then again, painting murals on metal surfaces is probably not common for this reason. What to do?!

I went to Home Depot in Signal Hill and went to the paint department, my hands, clothes, and feet covered with dried acrylic paint,  and asked for advice. The kind man told me I’d have to remove all of the sky blue paint with putty knives, sandpaper ALL the metal down until the black color is also gone with only a rough surface remaining, then apply a different kind of sealant. After the sealant dries, reapply the acrylic gesso. WTF?!

His co-worker heard the word “gesso” and rushed over. He cut into the conversation, his eyes eager to share information with me. He apologized for cutting in and asked if I was working with canvas or an actual wall. I told him my sob mural story and the new steps I’d now have to take, but he stopped me and said I didn’t have to do any of that. It turns out that he graduated from one of the most prestigious art schools in the nation and is very familiar with murals. I felt like I got a whole semester’s worth of information in less than 15 minutes!!! And he seemed happy he was able to share his knowledge with someone who could put it to use. ^_^

SO… If you’re ever planning on doing a mural on a metal surface, or any other surface besides stucco or cement, leave out the acrylic gesso.

I was told the rusting was due to oxidation. Acrylic gesso doesn’t have any anti-rusting chemicals, SO I’d still have to peel off all of the lovely sky blue with putty knives, but at least I won’t have to sandpaper anything!

This product will now be my hero…
along with the Home Depot by day, artist by night guy named Guy in Signal Hill.
“Sticks to all surfaces without sanding.”

Anyways, a design for the wall has been drawn out, but I’d like to surprise everyone at the end…
Until the next post! Now, off to peeling.


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