Category: Hallowell Mural

Hallowell Mural: Paint Test

This is a color study of one of the figures who might go in the mural, but more importantly, he is my paint and canvas test to see how the materials will hold up on the wall.

The method I am using for this mural was developed by the Philadelphia Mural Arts program, for their, literally, thousands of exterior murals.

It is called the Polytap Method, or sometimes the parachute cloth method,. It uses a super tough non-woven fabric called Polytab. And when you paint on it with exterior rated acrylic paints is creates an indestructible surface.

I painted this sample to test it anyway, because it is always good to run your own tests of materials you use.

This sample has been out in sun, rain and subjected to freezing temps. And I have been abusing the canvas too–wrenching it around to make sure the paint holds up.

Looks just wonderful. This mural will be up for decades without even a blemish.

priming the mural canvas

Priming the canvas

Yesterday, Jen, ever faithful and super talented mural assistant, started priming my mural canvas at the Firehouse studio.

This is not canvas in the normal ‘artist’ canvas sense. This material is super tough, Polytab, which is a non-woven synthetic fabric—tough as nails⁠—or rather, tough as a wall.

For primer we are using top of the line, super grip primer—recommended by the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program for just this kind of project.

These two sections are essentially one third of the canvas for the entire mural, which is 23 x 28 feet.

video about building the mural temp easel.

Building mural “easel”

I put together this little video time-lapse of our mural efforts yesterday—Jen and I built the temporary wall/easel in the old Hallowell Firehouse–this is the wall that will hold the mural canvas while I work this summer on the Hallowell Mural Project.

Well, actually this wall only holds about one third of the entire mural–but it is plenty of canvas to work on at one time. We will hang 10 x 23 feet of canvas at a time.

Some parts of the mural will have to be drawn out with all the canvas together so we might lay it out temporarily on a huge floor and mark in key areas that span the full size of the mural. If we do, I’ll takes some pics to show you what I mean.

Firehouse Studio

Exciting day, we started building the mural studio.

Yesterday, finally, Jen and I moved all the fascinating stuff in my new, temporary, Firehouse Mural Studio. The City of Hallowell has allowed me to work in the large second floor room in the old Firehouse. This gives me an 11 x 30+ foot wall to work on large sections of the mural at once. This is going to be wonderful—much bigger than the 10 x 10 foot largest space in my regular studio.

That wall on the second floor was lined with many glass display cases of fascinating old firehouse paraphernalia—and a lot of it heavy. In days of old they built things well. So, with permission from local historians and City powers that be, Jen and I carefully moved everything well away from the “mural” wall. It was a bit of work. But now everything is tucked safely away—ensuring that no Firehouses shall be harmed in the production of this mural.

After moving all the Firehouse stuff, we weren’t tired or anything…nope.

Last night we took a trip to the lumber yard and bought all the supplies for the temporary “mural easel”. Basically, plywood, 12 foot 2 x 4’s, screws and lots of plastic and canvas drop cloths. Today Jen and I will be over at the Firehouse building an 11 x 24 foot temporary plywood wall/easel. This will be free standing—with padded feet to protect the nice floor—and go against the large wall space we cleared yesterday.

Then I will be able to mount my mural canvas on this temporary plywood wall/easel and begin the next months of work on large areas of the Hallowell Mural.

It is an exciting day seeing the Hallowell Mural Project get to this phase—huge new mural easels are very enticing things.

Hallowell Mural, studies

Sam Webber, Hallowell Historian

This mural will have over 70 figures, some contemporary, some historical. I have been nailing down poses, stances, finding nuance in the gestures I want. This starts with sketches and scribbles in the drawings pad and moves on to more finished drawings.

I am arranging with models to pose for some people, as stand ins for historic figures. Some people are, of course, around now so I am just drawing them as they are.

Steve Vellani

For some of the historical figures I have been finding old paintings or vintage photographs to use as reference. And some of the people who will be in the mural have decedents still living here. Where possible I am having these relations pose for their distant relatives.

mural sketch

Hallowell Mural 2019

mural sketch
A comp sketch from a month or more ago–the design has evolved since.

This year and a half since I started working on the big Hallowell Mural Project, I have learned much about our town on the river, many fascinating bits and pieces of our history, parts of the various stories that have made our community. I have drawn dozens upon dozens of scenes and people, ships, granite carvers, mill workers, and still drawing. Bigs scenes and little.

I’ve been off the public mural radar for several weeks. Had to finish a few jobs—to keep the bills paid—and a couple of personal things knocked me back bit.

And in the meantime, on my sketch pad I have been weaving all the disparate bits of Hallowell together. We didn’t just show up here in this 21st century on the river. Our town is the result of these centuries of journey, step by step by step to get us here as a kind, talented and welcoming community.

This is the story I am building into the mural—what got us here. I am a bit behind where I had hoped but it is only in the interest of having this be the best possible mural I can create.

I am starting this mural daily blog on my website to keep you all apprised of progress. The next 2 months will be the fascinating time as the 800 square feet of wall come together. Cheers.