|Mural by Dawn-Marie deLara for the Belle Plaine Library, BP, Minnesota. A young swordsman reads Dragon Hunting for Eejits, while barely hidden behind him, the dragon reads up on Safe Cracking. And the Princess? She takes a break from reading The Practical Princess Presents: Dragon Proof Your Own Palace. I'd like to say she's the smartest, but truth told, all of them are so buried in their books, they fail to see the pranks being pulled by the animals behind their backs. The mural is called, "Everything you need to know in life is in a book...well, almost everything"|
A little story about the librarian who asked for what she really wanted...and got it.
You might know I live across the street from the local library. No? Ah, welcome then, new reader! Not only am I over there often for printing and scanning (they have way better equipment than I want to invest in), and for the usual checking out of massive stacks of books (which I rarely return on time, despite the proximity), but I've also done a lot of painting there. Mostly wood graining trim and marbleizing columns, until recently.
|Step 1. Even though it doesn't show in the end, wash in background color, to banish the overwhelm of a big blank wall, then go home and figure out how you actually want to paint this one. Nope, did not know what style I was painting, at this point!|
|Step 2. Having decided to layer solid light colors over dark shadows, paint in inky black in the background, then come over the top with shrubs, hanging branches and ferns. Step 3. Add in a bunch of animals that weren't in the original sketch, and work on painting the rippling creek water.|
Last winter, when I lettered a quote on a beam, Georgine the librarian asked me if I could letter the words "Juvenile Books" over that section of the stacks. Now, since I practically live at the library, I happen to know that Georgine has long wanted a mural for "her" branch, but has been waiting for a long talked about, but still not quite funded addition to the building. She's asked me more than once over the years if I'll paint it, and with her retirement looming, she's been despairing of any of her pet projects happening on her watch.
|What to use? On an interior mural of this size, craft paint and basic acrylics work just fine. I sometimes use Flasche acrylics, which are a velvety French brand, but they are quick drying and for this reason, very hard to blend. In the end, I don't think the results are much different. Other muralists would disagree with that, so use what pleases you.|
Looking at the space she wanted lettered, it occurred to me that I could actually fit a carefully planned scene right there, and even with any future additions and rearrangements of books, some part of the kids' section would likely always be there. Thus, instead of a quick quote for lettering two words, I submitted a proposal for two versions of that, plus one for a full mural. Georgine was delighted, and the Friends of the Library were willing to pay half. I had offered to donate part, so we were good to go, but Georgine and the Friends, who I sometimes suspect consider me (their local artist) a pet project, thought perhaps we could get some Legacy Funds, as well.
|Step 4. Rough in the main characters, and add more grass and ferns.|
|Step 5. Work up faces and details. At this point, titles are added to the books, and the mischief the secondary characters are up to becomes apparent.|
|I used photos from books for most of the animals, though some readers will recognize the wolf as my beloved, though long departed malamute, McKinley. The princess and the swordsman were both painted from photos of my Artgirl, Faithie, who also helped rough in some of the background color one day, and who patiently rescheduled her art classes around my wonky painting and sleeping schedule. If you have none of your own for models and slave labor, do as I do and borrow kids from friends!|
Here in Minnesota, we have funding set aside by a vote of the people to pay for arts and cultural heritage projects, known as Legacy Funds, and our libraries benefit quite a lot from this money. This funding brings world class musicians to small town libraries, traditional and folk dance instruction with live music to one branch, and pays for classes like the collage and book arts workshops I taught at several libraries this summer. I'm sure it pays for lots more, but those are the programs I've personally enjoyed. This funding has also helped pay for murals in a few libraries, and for Belle Plaine, they agreed to match what the Friends would pay. With the original sketch fully funded, I went ahead and donated matching hours for extra animals and details.
|Step 5, continued... Finish main characters' details plus secondary characters on the other end. Step 6. Go back two additional mornings to tweak details, including adding lots more grass and leaves to tone down the dragon a bit, and to better show the crows that pilfer his treasures.|
For the last two weeks of summer, running straight through Labor Day Weekend, I painted in the off hours, meaning mostly late at night and on the weekends, tidying away my scaffold and ladder each morning before the library opened, much like the shoemaker's elves. I was asked to work some while the library was open, but on a scaffold over the heads of young children in a small space? Sounded like a Berenstein Bears episode in the making, so I had to decline, though the last two mornings, I was still finishing up when the doors opened, so they got a little of what they asked for. They also asked for a presentation, which Georgine somehow turned into three, but I don't mind. I never run out of words!
|Also useful for mural painting: Plenty of fresh water, lots of good strong coffee (particularly if working through the night), and audio books and good music. Two of the artists I listened to while painting, Chad MacAnally and Dean McGrew, are both musicians I discovered through Legacy Funded programs at libraries.|
We all got what we asked for, in the end. Georgine got her mural; I got paid the full value of the original submission; and the library got some live action mural painting, a crazy silly story hour, and a couple of "meet the artist" events, the last of which will happen on Saturday, September 20th at 11:00 a.m. Life is that way. We do get what we ask for. If you aren't getting what you want, may I suggest you check to be sure you're asking (and saying "yes, thank you") with all your heart? If you don't believe me that it works, ask Georgine, who asked loudly and often, until the right people heard it at the right time.
|Georgine-the-Librarian. Also known as, "She-Who -Asked".|
|It's your little world! Ask for what you want, and always, always, always Paint Happy!|