How To Paint A Mural

 

Photo from the Roots Picnic paint day. The panel being painted will be incorporated into the mural design in the foreground. | Photo: Steve Weinik

 

Tucked into a backstage corner at this past weekend’s Roots Picnic was a paint station set up by the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. Throughout the weekend, performers, press, and attendees stopped by to paint tiny sections of a future mural in honor of the Roots. Most participants and passers-by were surprised to learn that the 5×5 sheet of Polytab “parachute cloth” fabric would be combined with dozens of other similar sheets and installed like wallpaper on its permanent home.

As a photographer for Mural Arts, I’ve been to dozens of these paint days. As one of the most visible and well-publicized Philadelphia area nonprofits, I’m always surprised at how little those outside the organization know about what goes into creating a mural. What you see on the wall represents the final result of a much longer process and community paint days are an important part of that process.

When the in-progress mural in honor of the Phillies is unveiled at 24th and Walnut, more than 1,000 people will have had a hand in creating it. Painting on parachute cloth is what makes this collaboration possible. It would have been logistically, practically, and legally impossible to put fans, players, and their kids on 8 stories of scaffolding at a wall abutting an active rail line. Instead, Mural Arts brought parachute cloth panels to Citizens Bank Park for a series of paint days. Lead artist David McShane also brought sections of the mural to Clearwater, Florida during spring training where current and former stars helped to paint.

All photos by Steve Weinik.

Kids and baseball players aren’t typically trained artists, but the scale of a mural project makes participation relatively foolproof. Before painting, colors are blended and contrast outlines drawn in a paint-by-numbers pattern. Blending and touch-ups are done by a lead artist and their assistant(s) back in a studio.

Limiting scaffolding and lift rental costs to a few weeks of installation, helps reduce overall project costs and streamlines logistics. In a studio, paint and supplies don’t need to be shuttled back and forth throughout the implementation of a project. Working indoors also makes it possible to work in all weather and all seasons.

Since 2010, the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT) has offered Mural Arts free and reduced cost studio space in the Gallery Mall in center city. The 85,000 square foot “How Philly Moves” mural was painted in 2 vacant storefronts on the 3rd level of the mall. Enormous panels were laid out across the floor of an abandoned clothing store to check for incongruities before installation. When a 5×5 panel represents a fingertip, getting it right can be tricky.

Most simply, the parachute cloth method expands participation. Murals panels can be flown around the world, brought inside prisons and worked on in any weather. The method is indispensable for an organization looking for ways to increase opportunities for collaboration.

Earlier this year, I was photographing a mural in Mantua when a little girl about 9 years old walked up and proudly pointed to a spot on the wall about 20 feet off the street. She smiled and said, “I painted that.” There’s a sense of ownership over the final mural that even a small contribution creates. It reminds me of riding around town with a construction worker as they point out buildings that they’ve worked on. Bringing the creation process to anyone who wants to participate is a small, but meaningful net positive for Philadelphia.

About the author

Steve Weinik works a photographer for the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. He also freelances in photography, writing and documentary film. His work has been widely published in print and on screen. You can see more at steveweinik.com.

Send a message!



Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is enabled, no need to resubmit any comments posted.

Recent Posts
New Life For An Old Coal Country Outpost In Society Hill

New Life For An Old Coal Country Outpost In Society Hill

March 20, 2017  |  The Shadow Knows

The Shadow takes a stroll down to Society Hill where business is stirring at an old 19th century coal company headquarters after 12 years of vacancy > more

New Exhibition Gives Movement To The Philadelphia School

New Exhibition Gives Movement To The Philadelphia School

March 17, 2017  |  Buzz

Two fans of Modernism re-evaluate architectural history with the exhibition, "What Was the Philadelphia School?" > more

Tracking The Evolution Of Industry At 34th And Grays Ferry

Tracking The Evolution Of Industry At 34th And Grays Ferry

March 16, 2017  |  Vantage

The site of Penn's new riverside research campus has a long, decorated history of industrial enterprise. Contributor Madeline Helmer dives deep into the backstory > more

Emergency Excavation In Old City Reveals Lack Of Oversight

Emergency Excavation In Old City Reveals Lack Of Oversight

March 15, 2017  |  News

The last-minute salvage excavation of First Baptist Church Burial Ground in Old City has the archaeological community up in arms. Is the City or the developer to blame? John Henry Scott reports > more

Ode To Old Philadelphia

Ode To Old Philadelphia

March 10, 2017  |  Buzz

Inspired by photographs from Hidden City's 2016 calendar, aging Philadelphians share their thoughts and memories of the city through poetry. Ann de Forest has the backstory > more

Marked Potential: Graffiti Pier

Marked Potential: Graffiti Pier

March 9, 2017  |  Marked Potential

Shila Griffith is back with a new edition of Marked Potential. In this month's proposal she envisions Graffiti Pier as the city's next great public park > more