As many of our local customers and neighbors know, we recently added a vibrant mural to the back of our building, and we asked our mural artist, Jeffrey Nelson of Jephemera Illustration to tell us a little bit about his experience painting with Montana Spray Paint, artistic process, and the happy accidents along the way.
Q. What is your process when starting a mural project like this? Did you do anything different for this mural vs. previous projects? What is your process for getting the drawing from the sketch to the wall?
Jeff Nelson: First of all, thank you for inviting me to Wet Paint World Headquarters. The fireplace is a nice, unexpected touch. The first thing I do when I begin a mural is panic. It’s a healthy panic, but panic nonetheless. A mural is often a person’s introduction to a business, organization, or neighborhood and, contrary to the cliche, one can tell a lot about a book by its cover. That’s why my favorite part of the whole mural process (and this is where the panic melts away) is where I get to sit down with the client or clients and work from whatever seed of an idea they may have. It may be as limited as a color combination they like or a feeling they want to convey all the way to a mock-up that was born in the marketing department and has already made it through countless rounds of revisions. Including those two extremes and everything in between is where I have my most fun: helping people turn their ideas into extremely large paintings. As far as how I transfer an approved final sketch to a wall depends on the level of exactitude desired by the client. Sometimes I’ll use transparencies and an overhead projector. With odd shapes and logos, I’ll use an old-school sign-painting pounce pattern. Less accurate is a grid system. And then, in the case of the Wet Paint mural, I use the time-tested and approved method of ”winging it.”
Q. What was your inspiration for the design and colors?
JN: The back of the store used to have naked limestone-colored brick with windows and doors trimmed in Wet Paint Blue. Due to the wall’s location at the back of the store, but still in an area that receives a huge amount of both foot and car traffic (thanks to its proximity to a busy retail corridor of Grand Avenue) I thought it would be the perfect candidate for a riot of color. I had a difficult time coming up with a design because I wasn’t sure whether I should accentuate the many windows, doors, chimneys, and other random enforcers of right angles, or go in the complete opposite direction and ignore all of those things and go with a more organic design. We opted for the latter. That became an increasingly wise choice as the mural progressed.
That’s all nuts and bolts, though. The idea of filling the space with a wide range of Minnesota perennials (not annuals!) and over-sized bumblebees was meant to be symbolic of the symbiotic relationship between local artists (hearty perennials — dare I say “weed-like”?) and the staff of Wet Paint (bees, pollinating and cross-pollinating with ideas, materials, and connections to other artists). Not shown, but implied, is the art (honey) that results from this relationship.
Last, but certainly not least, is that our city, though vibrant and wonderful, looks the same in color photographs as it does in black-and-white photographs for six months of the year and I thought it would be nice to park back here in February, listen to Margaritaville for a few minutes, and then go about my shopping.
Q. Most artists do their work inside. Any challenges to working outdoors? Do you like working this large?
JN: Rain. Bees. Wind. Heat. Cold. Sun. Sweat. I Love It.
Q. Have you ever worked on a project like this with community involvement? Any challenges or happy accidents that came from that?
JN: I’ve gone from loathing the idea of working with others to actively seeking out opportunities to working with others. It’s like going from checkers to 3-D chess. It’s fun to get people who are enthusiastic about making something to the point where they’re confidently wielding a brush or a can of spray paint regardless of what their age, skill level, or degree of confidence may be. Bob Ross was partly right: there are happy little accidents, but there are happy big accidents as well.
Q. How was it working with the Montana Spray Paint? Have you worked with it previously? Was this a challenge?
JN: Going from garden variety spray paint that you can get at a hardware store to Montana Spray Paint is like learning to drive your family’s station wagon and then getting to drive a Tesla. I’ve used it many times before as a tool on large pieces, but I had never done an entire mural with spray paint. It took some getting used to, but the miracle of spray paint is that if you screw up, you go over it again until you’re happy. It’s a joy to work with. My only tip would be that if you’re using a lot of red and it’s windy out, and you have a propensity towards hypochondria, to remember when you’re getting into the shower and look at your arm and irrationally think, “Have I contracted a rare, tropical, flesh-eating rash?” that the answer is no. It’s just paint.
Q. How many hours to finish a piece like this? How many cans of spray paint did you go through?
JN: This wall took about 50 hours, not including design time. I used a lot of spray paint, but I stopped counting how many cans I used. Which reminds me: There is no such thing as too much ventilation or lung protection.
Q. And the classic question: If you had it to do again, any changes or additions you would make?
JN: And the classic answer: no changes. No additions. Everything went perfectly and according to plan.
We had to be nimble with the palette on the first day of the mural, which was the demonstration day. That was simply due to the huge number of people who showed up. That made things a little difficult on the tail end when I had to match colors. Other than that, the only thing I would have done differently was to wear better shoes.
I would add one thing: there is a chimney in back that is begging for a huge, puffy dandelion on it, so if anybody knows somebody who knows somebody with a scissor lift, let me know. And one last free-floating thing: painting a mural on an art store full of art supplies and accomplished artists is an opportunity everybody should have, just for the sake of knowing what it’s like to have everything you would ever need for a project.
Check out our fantastic mural the next time you visit the store (or are in the neighborhood)!
You can find more info about Jeff and his other amazing work at http://jephemera.com/#
Thanks to Montana Spray Paint, Tucker Russell, Cassie Brehmer, and everyone who helped paint this mural with Jeff!
Interested in working with Montana Spray Paint? Wet Paint stocks the full lines of Montana Black and Montana Gold, and offers quantity discounts when buying 24+ cans!