finishing my first exterior wall mural


here we come to the last in many posts detailing my progress on this mural.  at this point i only had a couple of days left to work on the mural, and a combination of rain, a fall off a bike, last minute parties and trips and odds and ends before leaving town.  so the very last part of the mural was done between 5 and 6 in the morning, on a very cold day when my hands would start to freeze up after ten minutes of work.  so the timelapse clips are going to be shorter than usual…


mainly what i have done on the outside was to put on a very thin coat of the truest of the blues i used on the ocean around the figure.  i needed to obscure the lines between colors, and also make the sea lighter.  the other thing i had to do was make his eye blue, and finalize the colors in the beard.  there is black, a very strong green, and a very light green used here, and i took some even lighter green, approaching white, as highlights on the ‘gray’ parts of the beard.  i wanted to make him old, but ageing is fine, too.


next was the lettering.  i started by using my krink marker, and it’s the same problem with using rollers.  i can’t control them well enough, and prefer a brush.  tho i took pains to mark out the level baselines of the letters, i ended up putting the letters in all wonky.  the baseline isn’t level at this point, and the round letters like o,s,a and d were ungainly.  of course, talking to someone who stopped by to have a look while i was putting in the lettering remarked that trolls can’t write straight either, and that made me feel better.  but the letters are still all wrong.


so at 5 in the morning on the day i left town, i came out with the greenish white paint, and restated the lettering.  it’s now much thicker, and shadowed by a line of black.  i kept getting off the ladder and moving back to take a look, and then going back in for some more work.  and of course, at the end, i still wanted to put a raven at the bottom corner.  i had some good experiences with the ravens of the town, and ravens are associated with trolls, so if i couldn’t talk to the trolls, i could explain myself to the ravens, and i did so.  now they are my totem animal.

and this is the completed mural.  i am going to copyright the image and give a permanent license to the town of fjallabyggd to use for promotion.  and it’s part of a much larger project that i’m going to be giving a lot effort to. so stay tuned.


wall mural more

it’s been awhile; i apologize.  things have been a little busy, which you can see over on my travel blog.

so when we last did anything about this mural, it was to continue adding white to the blue paint and go around the figure making oceanlike lines.  pretty boring, as the timelapses will show.  and i’m  not even done with that in the picture below.


but finally i am finished.  then i took the flesh tone and went around making the nose especially a little fatter, and then i took the green and made sure to get every little fjord, and the same with the red.  i find i had originally drawn it all in pretty sloppily, and wanted it to be an exact map.


at that point it was time to stop messing around and commit myself to the facial features.  so i got out a thin brush and some black paint, and transferred the markings from my gridded drawing.  and suddenly the locals were paying a lot more attention to the mural.


the eyebrows and forehead hair was left to last because i didn’t feel like getting up on the ladder at that point.


i began lightening the antler headdress with whitened red-black paint, meaning to keep adding white and keep building up the lights in the middle of the antlers.  and while i was at it, i gave the figure red lips, red nose, cheeks, and ears.  just because i can’t stand to have a loaded brush and not make marks.


and when that was done, i decided i had to put color on the beard, so i got out the yukky green and slapped it up as thinly as i could, partly because i hate the color, adn partly because i only had a little green paint.  at this point one of the little kids who ride their bikes all day long in this area (because they’ve made several jumps in the back), decided to come up and make some remarks on my work, which of course i couldn’t understand, as neither of us speak the same language.  but everybody speaks art, so i handed him the paintbrush and he put in a considerable part of the lower beard, and then rode away.  i wonder if he told his mom or his friends that he helped.  i’ll be he will later.  if i see him again i’ll get him to put his name on it somewhere.


after the green was up, i toned it back down with the light green i used as a base.  and then restated the black lines.


and then i went around the frame of the picture with primer, having scraped it when i decided the picture needs a frame.  i’m not sure what i will paint it when i’m finished with the mural, but i will decide when i’m done.


at this point i still need to lighten up the antlers.  then i need to make the first few rings of blue ocean a little lighter, so that it reads from a distance, and while i’m at it i will smooth out the transitions in the blue.  and then there’s the raven, and the frame, and the title and labels (i’m going to put the cities in).  and then it’ll be done.  yay.

here are the relevant timelapses, 23, 24, 25, 25a, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30

wall mural 9

yesterday, or was it the day before, i took the pot of blue that i’ve been mixing things into, and put it on the wall straight.  it’s quite blue.  i was careful to blend it over the blue black to

obscure the edge, feathering it with the side of the brush both onto the previous color and onto the white wall, tho that doesn’t seem to make any difference, as the next color goes on and obscures whatever is underneath.  a sense of closure, i suppose.  the blue black layer now appears more like a shadow than anything else, and that’s okay with me.


today was nice when i started…i took the blue from the can and added white this time.  not a whole bunch of white, about half and half.  and of course it’s too light, so i’m thinking i’ll be going over it with the straight blue once i’m done, to tone down the line.  the feathering didn’t make much difference in this case.  there was too much contrast.


this afternoon i went out again, in a slight drizzle, and painted it an even lighter blue, made by taking half of what i had and adding more white.  i now have lots of different pots of blue, just in case i have to resort to them before i’m finished.  i think that’s wise.


i’m going to keep adding white to the blue until i run out of room.  i’m getting it on the wood surrounding the picture, and i’ll have to decide what to do with the ‘frame’ when i’m finished.  maybe white housepaint, maybe a color.  maybe black.  i am planning on putting a raven at the lower right corner, where my signature should go.  we’ll see about signing it, but i’m positive about the raven.  ravens and trolls go together.

here are the relevant time lapses, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21.

wall mural 5, 6, 7, and 8 (or something like that)

so okay it’s been a few steps.  let me post the pictures and then i’ll talk about the process.


after i got the outline up – imperfectly but not to worry – i took stock of my colors – black, white, light blue, yellow green, phtalo green, scarlet, dark pink – and decided i might could mix up a nice caucasian skin tone.  not that trolls have white skin, mind you.  or maybe they’re pasty white because they live in the mountains and only come out in the winter when it’s dark and nobody’s about to see them.  i can’t be sure.  but anyway, i need a nice light color for the skin or the rest of it won’t make sense.  anyway nothing is final until i put the varnish on.

you can see dark around the edges of the color.  that’s because the graphite contour lines and the grid are unfixed, meaning the graphite smudges into the paint just like any good pigment.  that’s why i need to put a second coat of everything on there, even the black.


then, the next day, i mixed up some scarlet and black and got a nice brownish reddish color that i put on the antlers.  on impulse i also brushed some lightly onto the trolls cheeks, lip and nose.  just as indication, and because when i have a wet paintbrush in my hand nothing is safe.


the next day i found a film can full of green earth dry pigment, and it was enough to mix in with the white house paint.  however, it was very very faintly colored (as green earth is among the weakest of pigments) so i was forced to put in a tiny tiny drop of phthalo green paint, which of course was too much.  so now i’m working with seafoam green, which would have been great back in the 60s but looks a little odd now, especially against that white background.  but i have hopes to make all the white disappear in the end.  it really makes the face color stand out, tho, doesn’t it?  and please note i’ve extended his nose a wee bit and will have to fill it in later.


today, not knowing how to proceed with the hair and beard, i decided to start with the outside of the mural.  so i mixed up that horrid light blue with some black, and slapped it on around the outline of the troll with a 3″ brush, feathering the outside edges so there wouldn’t be a hard edge.  the trouble i’m going to have with this is that now it’s hard to distinguish the antler headdress from the surrounding ocean because there’s a lot of black in both colors, so no contrast.  it means i’ll have to highlight the antlers, which i guess i was going to do anyway.  now my hand is forced, tho.


later on today, since i wasn’t working very well on my other projects, i took the container with the blue-black and mixed more of the blue in, then went around the figure again, another 3″ out from the contour line, feathering the lighter blue into the darker blue and kind of glazing over the darker color so there wasn’t an edge. the effect is kind of a shadow near the figure.  later i intend to take the straight blue out of the can and put it up around the figure, and then take whatever blue is left and mix some more white into it and finish the painting to the edge.

but this is as far as i’ve gotten.  people in the town are beginning to slow down as they pass, and some even go up to it and point.  it’s obviously a map of iceland, but i’m not sure how many schoolchildren have seen the troll face in it.  it can’t be that i’m the first, tho i’ve asked and everybody says so.  but hey, i’m not going to copyright it or anything.

here are the relevant timelapses of the progress. – five, six, seven, eightnine, ten.

wall mural 4

i got up really early because the sun was shining in my window.  it might have been 4 am.  but i waited until 6 before going outside to start outlining my face.  at first i used a 3″ roller, and started at the back of the head because it’s the least complicated.  but i really don’t like rollers.  so when it came to the complicated bits i remembered this fact, got a wet rag and scrubbed the wall, and got a 1″ brush to draw the beard, face and headdress.  it took about an hour to finish drawing it in. here’s the timelapse.  dig the clouds foaming over the mountain.


and now i’ve got to figure out what colors to use, and where.  do i use realistic colors for the head and hair?  do i get fanciful?  i posted a sample picture to fb and asked my friends, who gave me some good advice, for example to use all sorts of colors in the hair.  one of my friends wanted me to turn the antlers into troll thought bubbles, and i don’t really understand how that would work, so i’m not going to.

troll colors

my trouble is that i only have a few colors – a dark pink, scarlet, light yellow green (and only a little of that), a light blue, a nasty thalo green, and black.  plus the white paint i used as first coat.

so this morning i mixed up all the colors to make a test swatch of my options.


this is not a great range of colors, as you can see.  red and blue don’t make purple here.  and red and green don’t make brown but a sickly gray.  for skin tone it’s going to have to be scarlet and light green with white, or pink and light green and white.  and i don’t have much light green, so i can’t use it as a mix in any of the other colors.  i can make a decent regular blue by tinting the light blue with black, and might can make a muddy brown with scarlet and black, but everything else mixed together makes various shades of gray.  waaaaah.  i could mix my own using the dry pigments i brought with me, but i only brought a small amount of any given pigment, so that’s not going to work.

anyway, the next stage is to block out the areas of color on the wall, and mix up a good amount of paint, then brush or sponge it on (if i can find a sponge).  the skin first, i think.  that’s the only part i should bother trying to get right, because the rest is fantasy anyway.  and by ‘right’ i don’t mean to match a living person’s skin tone, but rather to make it harmonious with and not sticky-out from the rest of the painting.  i may try to do it in layers, with the lightest color on the bottom, and come in and coat over it with the darker colors.  being acrylic, it will dry the moment the brush hits the wall, so i’m going to have to work fast, and sure, and it’s going to look totally awful for awhile.

wall mural 3

in the studio, i took my drawing and made a grid over it.  it’s the map of iceland, turned sideways so you can see the face it makes.


then this morning because it wasn’t raining, i put the grid up on the wall using a stick of graphite and a ruler (see timelapse).  then i took the graphite and put in the drawing to scale.  i took a timelapse, which you can’t really see because the camera is too far away, even tho i halved the distance from the other timelapses.  oh well.

and that’s all there is to it.

it rained once i put the grid up, and so there are cute little runs where the graphite got wet.  it’s a new product, water soluble graphite, so you can use it like sumi ink or like a pencil.  i love it.


wall mural 2

this is the building before i did anything to it.

the part i did that isn’t photographed is where i scraped it all down, and then siggi came over with the pressure washer and tried his best to peel the peeling paint, but it didn’t work so well, so i went back to scraping.  and then i slapped undercoat over all the bare wood i’d scraped paint off.  some of the wood, the part near the bottom of the house, is rotten.  alice says it’s because the snow really piles up in the winter and rots out a lot of the wood near the street level.  i had to use two coats of undercoat on these spots.  just in case.  and i can’t tell you what kind of undercoat it was, because i couldn’t read the labels, seeing as they’re in icelandic.

anyway, here are three timelapses showing the progress.  the first one is the scraping, the second one is more scraping and the pressure washing, the third is the undercoat, and the fourth is two coats of exterior white, which i put on today.

now that i’ve got 2 coats of white latex on the wall that was scraped and undercoated, i feel like i can start the mural.  the idea is to make as permanent a surface as possible so that the mural takes a while to peel off.  nothing lasts forever, especially not public art, and murals have a way of being tagged, so it’s really all about the doing, not the having.

below is the image, with a grid superimposed over it.  i made the grid reflect the measurements of the wall.  the only ruler i could find was in centimeters, so that’s how i divided up the paper.  four divisions wasn’t enough, so i made eight.  and since my surface is longer than it is wide, the measurements break down to different units – lengthwise it’s 32 cm per section, widthwise it’s 30.25.  and this took a calculator to do because my brain isn’t handy with math anymore.

troll grid1

so tomorrow i will get out there with my ruler and some graphite, and will put in the grid.  after that it’s a matter of sketching in the contour line of the drawing, meaning the outline, and then i can fill in the middle whatever way occurs to me.  i won’t necessarily follow the sketch.

as of right now i’m not sure how it’s going to turn out.  the outline will be in black, but i have several colors available to use – black, white, light green, dark green, red, scarlet, blue.  we’ll see what occurs to me.  at the very least i can mix up skin tones.  maybe i’ll make the troll of iceland with white hair.  or salt and pepper hair.  i can’t make him a blond, as i don’t have any yellow paint…

stay tuned for part 3.