What I Learned When I Painted a Mural

I approached a great local business called Wilf & Ada’s here in the heart of Canada’s Capital a couple months ago to paint a mural on one of their walls. The idea to paint the mural came after attending a jazz night at their sister/ neighbouring business Arlington 5 with my boyfriend and friend, Omar. We were leaving the event and started poking around the alleyway between the two shops. My friend, Omar, exclaimed “You should paint a mural here,” and that was it. I emailed the business owners the next day sent them some photos of past mural work I had done and we were off!

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These two little businesses have revived the corner of Arlington and Bank St in the Centretown neighbourhood so it was no surprise when I met with Jessie, the owner; she had a good idea of what she wanted on the wall stretching 40 feet by 15 feet. We talked about how the businesses make community, the food community specifically a priority; working with local farmers, using sustainable practices and fair trade products. It became obvious we needed to work in the concept of cultivation and humanity into the piece. I immediately thought of Latin American symbols. Being Latina, I am constantly reviewing a visual library of images, symbols, and icons in my memory from family visits to Mexico and Uruguay, art in the home I grew up and the imagery depicted in Latino literature. Symbols honouring family, strength, humility, and wisdom that often explore the nobility of the farmer/ worker. The mural took on that energy as you can in my terrible progress shots (Better photos to come I promise!); one friend texted me after I had completed the mural saying “I felt so peaceful walking by it. It feels like you.” I was so happy; this is what I had been trying to do with my work (especially my murals that live in such public spaces). My past murals were unable to achieve this for many reasons but it was so satisfying to see that the intimacy and identity I was hoping to achieve came through in this one. I have thought a lot about why or how this finally happened in this particular mural and I think a crucial part of it was, although I had done all the planning, sketching etc. I could have for the project; I really threw all of it out the window when I got down to work. I was lucky enough to be working with patrons that although the final piece was not exactly what was discussed decided to keep it as it was because of the community’s positive feedback. I just want to paint all the walls now.  

Lessons Learned

1.       Listen to your friends, who believe in you more than you believe in yourself much of the time

2.       Work hard and be confident in your hard work

3.       When it comes to execution: don’t give a fuck

4.       Stay on budget

5.       Keep communication lines with your patron/client open and honest