I absolutely love doing mural work, and my full-room mural at St. Andrew’s church in Wellesley was no exception!
The room I was asked to help transform is a classroom for 5th graders, and the process began in this room collaborating with the St. Andrew’s team spearheading the project. As we looked at the off-white walls, it was exciting to imagine where we could take it!
The high-level vision was to create the feel of a middle-eastern desert. The idea was to depict a scene that could come from the bible, but was not necessarily a strict illustration of any one story. We wanted to leave the experience open to the creativity and interpretation of the children and teachers in the room. Rounding out this experience, the St. Andrew’s team plans to add touches like lighting, a rug and pillows that would look at home in the scene!
As we discussed more specific ideas for the space, we bounced around possible elements like camels, covered litters, buildings, a caravan, and a nativity star. The goal was to create a bright, inviting space that would help create a fun and engaging education experience.
The more we talked through the goals, the more we were able to narrow down our collective vision. One outcome was the decision to keep the feeling of the mural on the “quiet” side – giving just enough imagery to capture kids’ imagination without too much clutter. Another discussion we had was to make the image inclusive and leave the story open to interpretation. Along these lines, we wanted any representation of people to be something that would be relatable to boys and girls of any race.
With all of this information in hand, I was off to the design process! As usual, I started with a scale painting – in this case for the “feature” wall of the mural (below).
Including the nativity star was important, but as we discussed, we didn’t want it to be specifically about the three wise men. I wanted it to feel like anyone could be the leader of the caravan, or could join on the journey. One of the St. Andrew’s team commented about how appropriate it was to have it be just one person – as ultimately everyone has to follow their own spiritual journey. I also wanted to use enough color (particularly with the distant dunes in blues and purples) to keep it bright and interesting while still reading as a desert.
The team loved the concept and I was on to designing the rest of the room! In designing the dunes, I wanted to create the feeling with depth within each wall, but also the feeling of a vast continuous space as the mural wrapped around all of the walls.
To round out the feel of the desert and add some visual interest, I included a palm tree and a cactus. Here, I did some research to make sure my scene was somewhat accurate and I found out that the prickly pear cactus is what one would see in the middle east!
I also wanted to add things to discover and delight. Adding animals helps support the desert theme, but also adds to the fun and hopefully helps with the stories that can be created! Again, I did some research and found a desert hedgehog, a pin-tailed sandgrouse and a Sinai agama lizard that would be native to this area. Of course, adding these elements also made it more fun to paint!!
The St. Andrew’s team is thrilled with the final result, and I can’t wait to hear how the 5th graders feel about their new space!!