29 Jul

How To Paint a Wall Mural The Wrong Way

Alright folks, it’s time for another mural! After painting my first mural two years ago, I’ve been on the hunt for the ideal location for painting my next one. I found the perfect spot in my neighborhood and proceeded to harass the building owner for months until he finally gave me permission. I’m offering to paint a mural for free, but this guy still hummed and hawed – insane. Now, before reading any further, please consider the following question: How many hours do you think it took for a doofus amateur like myself to paint this big beautiful two color mural?

Rubin "The Hurricane" Carter - Mural in Asheville, NC

Drumroll: It took me 30 bleeping hours – yes, 30! I made so many mistakes and it felt like forever. I forget exactly how long my first mural took me, since it’s now been two years, but I’m positive it was a much faster experience.

Ok, I’m totally wrong. I just looked it up and the other one took me 24 hours.

At any rate, you’ve got to believe me – I’m telling you this mural should have only taken me 20 hours at most. I purposefully designed a lazy two color mural because my first mural was four colors. So what the hell happened!? Well, for starters the wall is kinda big (18ft) and I had to use a semi-dangerous ladder which slowed me down, but mainly I made some ridiculous mistakes. Essentially, mixing paints wrong and then proceeding to use them anyway!

Planning The Mural

I tried a bunch of different ideas and eventually settled on painting a simple mural of Rubin “The Hurricane” Carter. Starting with the photo on the left, vectorizing it, and then messing around with GIMP/Photoshop to get the three color image on the right. I then broke it down to negatives for the projector to shine onto the wall. Paint by numbers people, this should be easy stuff!

Why paint a mural of The Hurricane?

Let’s Paint Rubin!

I basically followed the same steps I used for my first mural, starting by washing the wall with TSP. I opted not to paint a primer for this mural, as I thought the condition of the existing wall paint was decent. Plus I wanted to use the existing grey wall color as an integrated “third color” for my mural and using a primer would have ruined that effect.

A big lesson I learned from my first mural was the requirement of having a tripod with the projector and marking the spot on the ground where I set the projector up the first time. This makes it easy to recreate the exact projection on subsequent nights. This change worked beautifully!

Alright , feast your eyes upon “The Hulk”:

Woah, why does Rubin look like that!? Good question! I ordered high quality 100% acrylic mural paints from Nova Paint in Los Angeles and for the “lighter green” color I chose to mix a dark green, white, and grey together. As you can see, I failed worse than Brexit and Trump combined, and ended up with a terrible fluorescent green “Hulk” color.

Big ‘ol paint mixing lesson: it doesn’t take much of a light-colored paint to significantly lighten a dark-colored paint. Also, small test mixes are smart. Do not rush your mixing. Do multiple serious wall tests, if needed to confirm.

So I’m painting at night (using the projector) and it’s often difficult to judge the colors, but as work progressed my spidey sense tingled and I knew that this color was going to look ridiculous. Essentially I fucked up the expensive paint that I had, and my only option was to acquire more dark green paint shipped from California to fix my mess.

Fast-forward one week, my quart of dark green paint finally arrives and I’m feeling very confident this will fix my situation. It’s all about confidence, people. I do a quick little test mix, it seems to look good. So I proceed to simply mix ALL of my new dark paint with my existing Hulk-color. Don’t worry, I’m still feeling confident! SO WRONG. Somehow the end result is equally as ridiculous as what I started with. AHHHHHRRRGGGG, WHAT A WASTE!!!!

Screw this, I’m going to my local Sherwin-Williams to buy their highest quality exterior paint and just pick the exact color that I want. I upload my pic to their fancy online color tool and BAM, they’ve got a recommended color match. Alright, let’s roll!

I start on Rubin’s head. Ahhh, what the heck!? This new color is some sort of lime green…?? AARRRHHHHGGG. Back to Sherwin-Williams TWO MORE TIMES until they give me a big cup of “black” tint and tell me to just custom mix my own color and leave them alone. Mix, mix, mix and we finally end up with this:

Hey, its Rubin! Yeah, that’s much better!

Presto! Ohh, there’s Bruno too!

I’m currently working to get permission from the building owner to allow another muralist to paint the rest of this long grey wall. Fingers crossed!

Rubin "The Hurricane" Carter - Mural in Asheville, NC

Who the heck is this handsome lad?

Distant view from the hill above, across the street is the Grey Eagle music venue.

Hope you enjoyed! If anyone is reading this and is tempted to paint a mural in their own neighborhood – all of my paint supplies for this project cost around $300. It would have been cheaper without all my mistakes. Overall, painting a wall mural is really easy – it just takes time and patience. YOU CAN DO IT!