Friday, June 5, 2009

Painting A Farm Mural

With the onset of the huge farming conglomerates, the farm mural is becoming a thing of the past. Gone are the cows commonly seen painted on the side of a barn. Farmers used to take pride in their farms. It was their home as well as their livelihood.

Now that small farms are springing back to life, we are hoping to see more artwork and pride in the family farm and home. We have personalized our small farm with a colourful rooster mural on the side of the big chicken house.

Are you are interested in painting a cow, chicken or pig on your barn or buildings? Maybe this post will help you to get started.

The first thing you need to do is decide exactly what it is that you want and where you want to put it. Location is a big decision. Why hide a beautiful painting where only the cows can see it. You also need to keep it out of direct sun all day as this will fade the colours. You can use new paints specifically made to resist fading from the sun but they are more expensive and still only last a short time in direct sun. Our rooster mural is on the north side of the building and protected from direct rain by a small overhang, yet it faces the road - a perfect spot.

To help you decide what you want, try looking at the hundreds of murals on the interent. Just use Google Images and type in "barn mural". Study them, what it is about them that you like and so forth. Put together an image from these pictures that you would like on your building. It is much easier to use a mural already done by someone else as a general reference guide than it is to make one up from your own photographs.

Once you have the picture put together that you want, decide how you are going to transfer that outline to the building. All you need to start with is the general outline of the pictures.

Here is the rooster outline that started our mural. It was originally drawn in charcoal. When we were happy with it we used black paint to make it permanent. Needless to say, this has to be done on a dry day when you have time to draw the entire thing and make the drawing permanent before any rain falls. Even a heavy dew or wind will erase charcoal.

There are a few ways to transfer this outline to the building. An overhead projector makes is easy, if you have access to one. What I like to use is a grid. Draw a measured grid on the building and a corresponding one on the picture. Then draw only the lines that you see in each square of the grid. Ignoring the rest of the picture, draw only one grid at a time. Then erase the grid and and stand back to look at the drawing. Adjust it a little here and there until it is right.

Colour is the next consideration. What colours do you like? Do you want it to be bright and cheerful or soft? Do you want realistic or playful cartoon like? Colour theory can be a complicated subject but here are a few simple things to consider:

- Cool colours such as pastel purple and blue are better in the background and cause things to look like they recede.

- Using complimentary colours together will make the object stand out and the colour really "pop". Complimentary colours are opposite on the colour wheel. Examples are: blue and orange, purple and yellow or red and green. It is mostly the basic blue and orange combination in our rooster that make the colours stand out so.

- Use black and white to shadow and highlight. Mix each with a little of the colour your are putting it on to blend it in smoothly.

After drawing the animals and deciding on the colour, you then need to collect your paint. Latex or oil? - good question. Both have pros and cons. Oil has more durability outdoors and the colours stay brighter when dry. Latex colour tends to darken and soften just a little when it dries. Some new latex paints can be very durable, as well, and latex washes up with water. Oil takes much longer to dry. Since you will be painting in layers, that will mean that it can take days longer to complete than it would if you are using latex paint. If you decide to go with oil, don't invest in various expensive artist extenders, conditioners, etc. You won't need those for this project. We used mostly latex with bright colour highliting in oil. If the latex is very dry, you can put oil paint on top of it without a problem. You just cannot mix the two types of wet paint together.

Make sure you have every colour you will need on hand when you begin. Some shades you can mix yourself as you go. Any colour can be made from red, yellow and blue with black and white to lighten or darken. Small variations can be mixed as you go but you will need to buy at least a small can of the bright, single important shades. I like to put used paint into plastic jars or margine/yogurt type containers for storage after use. They don't keep well in the can. Large plastic mayo jars are perfect and have a large mouth for use with bigger brushes.

You don't need expensive artists brushes for a mural. You aren't going to be doing that much detail and the rough surface will ruin whatever brush you decide to use. I bought a few small, med and large brushes at the dollar store for this purpose. Use real brushes, not foam. Foam brushes just won't last long enough on a rough outdoor surface.

So, now you are all ready to start painting. All I can do is give you some general direction here. You will have to work out the details as you go along. To start off, keep it simple. You can fill in more and more details as you go, if you think it needs it. Don't expect to finish it all at once.

You are going to paint this mural in layers. If you have a background planned for your animals, paint it first. Then paint the animal on top of the background where it goes in the picture. To keep it from looking "pasted on" draw something from the picture, like blades of grass, over part of the animal, such as the feet. Another trick to keep it from looking pasted onto the background is to make part of the outline of the animal `blend completely into the background, such as an outside line of an ear or part of a leg.

The entire animal needs a base coat of paint, each section painted in its single base colour. This should be the colour that you want to shade the whole animal when it is done, as it will show through, just a little, in the overall picture, especially on a rough surface.

Here is our rooster with the base colours painted on. You can see the slight rusty look in the finished painting. I have already filled in some detail and highlighting on the head and tail feathers because I knew what I was doing and was up there on the stool anyway. (Climbing up and down is hard on the knees.) It also helps to put your paint on a table or raised surface so you don't have to keep squating to dip your brush each time.

So you fill in the base colour on each section of the figure, just like a child does in a colouring book. When that base colour is dry, you will then begin to shade it with the dark shadow colour. Go over the entire figure and shade it with the dark wherever there is shadow and darkness in the picture. Then use the light highlighting colour to do the highlights. Don't be afraid to paint the light. All lighted surfaces need to be highlighted.

After you have done this basic work you can begin to narrow your focus and fill in the details. So far you have been looking at the animal as a whole. Now you need to concentrate you efforts on one small part only and fill in the details of that one spot. Eyes are very important and a great deal of time should be spent in getting the details and highlighting done right. Concentrate on the reflection of light in the eye.

As you move over the various smaller sections of the animal, filling in the details of each, it will begin to take on life and look real. You don't need to do a great deal of tiny detailed work for a mural. This is not a portrait, it is just a mural, to be seen from afar.

When you have finished it and are happy with the result, take a picture of it and post it on the internet for your friends to


Mrs. G said...

Wow, you inspired me!
Great post, although yours always are!
I'm normally afraid to try artsy stuff, but you are a gifted teacher. And your rooster is wonderful.
Oddly, I added a post about a mural today, too.
Providence Farm

Providence Acres Farm said...

That's great! What are you going to paint? You will have to post it on your blog when you get it done. I'd love to see it!

-I'm off to see your post.

The hardest part is starting - looking at a completely blank surface and actually starting.

Sunday Girl said...

I just love this and I totally agree with you. Thanks for sharing it.

The Japanese Redneck said...

Wow, it looks so good. I saw the pic. on garden web, but seeing it on the side of the chicken house really makes it great.

Love it.


Providence Acres Farm said...

Thanaks guys! I'm looking forward to seeing other murals this summer! Please post them for all to see.

Cindy said...

I've always wanted to do a mural of flowers "growing" up the side of the shed!

Providence Acres Farm said...

Post a pic of here when you get it done. I'd love to see it!

joyinthewind said...

I miss those lovely old farm signs hanging from the posts at the entrance of the farm. I saw one a few months ago that I'm going to have to go find again so that I can take a photograph. It was an adorable dairy cow framed with a unique oval border. It was so beautiful my heart stopped and hammered with a nostalgic warmth of days long gone. I think a modified version would look lovely on my shed!

Sheryl at Providence Acres Farm said...

Hi Joyinthewind! Paint it on your shed and post it! I'm planning a mural now for th inside this winter.

Anonymous said...

Just wondering,The Japanese Redneck commented,they saw this picture on the web,can you get into trouble plagiarising other artists work if you use someone elses painting for your mural.

Providence Acres Farm said...

How? It's not for sale.
It was my post that she saw at Gardenweb. :-)