Painting on walls (and not getting told off)

Matty seemed to really like the colours. One of the first colours a baby sees beyond black and white is yellow.

I have known Matilda’s (Matty’s) mum, Natalie for eight years. She was largely responsible for hiring me at Rightmove all those years ago so she had no choice but to like me and champion my work and painting skills.  Since those carefree, hardworking, copious-drinking and limb-breaking days, much changed for both of us. We have found men folk to move in with, have became mums and both moved on in our careers…plus a whole heap of other little things in between.

I love we have stayed friends beyond our Rightmove days and I was very excited when Nat INVITED me to paint all over her walls. Now, I will be honest and tell you that this is only the second wall mural painting I have ever attempted. The first was Evie’s bedroom and I loved every second. Because it’s in my own house, I had the freedom to experiment and make mistakes and re-design and re-draw and paint over and start again…all of those cock ups that one HAS to make to get better at everything including painting.

Designing Matty’s mural

Nat and her partner, Jamie, are dream clients because they had a strong idea of what they wanted. Nat wanted mountains, Jamie wanted elephants. The colour theme of the room is grey and yellow which are beautiful to work with as there are many combinations of tints of yellow and grey that work well. The style was to be simple and flat.

I started a collaborative board on Pinterest with Nat. From the content we both added, I made a physical scrapbook and it’s from this that I start my compositions and rough sketches.

You can paint a simple, neat mountain landscape with the help of painter’s tape.

Mountain scenes are very popular at the moment. I think this maybe because they are easy to DIY. And they really are. All you need to get is some painters tape. I’ve used two kinds in my short mural artist career.  ScotchBlue Painter’s Tape is great for keeping your lines neat and straight but I found it pulled off existing wall paint. This didn’t bother me as I had paint left over from when painting the room originally and I had to touch up my own cock ups here and there anyway. The painter’s tape I used on Baby Matty’s wall was FrogTape for Gloss and Satin Paint which was a medium adhesive. This stuff is brilliant! When I pulled it off the wall, it did not remove any paint whatsoever. There were two areas where the paint had bled under the tape a little bit.

I will share with you in a future blog post my top tips to create your own simple wall art. You don’t have to be a super duper artist.

I had a big problem with elephants. I like drawing them but elephants don’t live in mountains. If I was going to make Matty’s wall a fantasy wall, I felt compelled to add unicorns and rainbows too…because if elephants can live in mountains so can unicorns. I sketched a few wooly mammoths. They were too cartoony. Too much detail was required to make them obviously woolly mammoths and I really wanted to stick to simple, basic shapes with neat lines to fit in with the mountains.

I went off piste and begun sketching polar bears. Never drawn them before, so to get familiar with their shape, proportions and features, I sketched from images of real polar bears for reference. I drew dozens and dozens and do this until I can draw them (almost) from memory. Then it’s all about taking stuff away and simplifying the form and shape.

Refining my polar bear design

Next step was to sketch out some compositions to see where best to place the polar bears. My points of reference were width of the wall and the width of Matty’s cot which sits in the centre of that wall.

Early animal sketches and the start of a composition to include the three elements of mountains, bear and chicken in a balloon

I then had this idea, out of the blue to include Matty in the image. This is a bit of a spin on my usual “signature” of adding a small cat somewhere in everything I design. I need to move on from this! I wanted to show a child looking at the wonder of the mountains but not a full face shot…something with a little more mystery. Still with my mind on simple shapes, this is when “hot air balloon” popped into my mind and that is where the girl in the basket came from.  

Early feedback

There are two things in this world that guarantee the truth. They are toddlers and leggings.

I show many of my final compositions to my 3 year old son before sending to the client.  I ask him which versions he prefers. With something like an illustration, I use Henry to determine how accurate my drawing is.  He identified mountains and the polar bear. I was DELIGHTED when he correctly labelled the hot air balloon as it is not the complete item.  When I pointed to the drawing of the girl and asked Henry, “what’s this?”, he replied, “a chicken”.  I had to sketch this many times over to get right.

Final drawing of the girl in the hot air balloon. I refined this a lot after Henry thought the girl was a chicken.

We weren’t sure whether we would include it or not but I am so pleased we did. I think it adds a real individuality to final design and I like that the future Matty is looking down on baby Matty – like a guardian angel.

As this is already a real long blog post, I will save until next time how we took the drawing and turned it into the massive painting it is today! As mentioned, I will post for you some top tips on how YOU can create your very own wall art.

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