A Collaborative Mural Panel Landscape

Adam is a contractor who had the unique idea to turn a reclaimed 52” x 50” window into an unforgettable Christmas gift for his wife Sarah.  When Adam first reached out, his thought was to have me paint a scene on the 35 glass panes to give the effect of looking at the scene through the window.  After our initial collaboration, we decided instead to paint a mural panel to attach to the window in order to create the same effect, but avoid the challenges of how easily paint chips off of glass.

The first step was to meet with Adam and Sarah to see the space where this mural panel would be installed and to get their thoughts on what they would like to see in the final scene.  Sarah started with the idea of a field of red poppies.  As we talked further, she shared that she liked the bold patterns of Marimekko and also the paintings of Karen Tusinski.  In looking through my work, she also enjoyed to the folk-style I used on some of the furniture and fine art pieces.  She talked about how she was drawn to the pattern-like approach of Marimekko and Tusinski, but also liked the detail of my work.  In the end, she felt the best approach for this piece would to be somewhere between these two looks, with a focus on colors and textures.  For the color palette, we had the reds of the poppies to work with, but also looked at the colors in their house and decided to incorporate the wall color this piece would hang on (a pale grey-purple) as well as an adjacent hallway (pale grey-green) and room (grey-blue).  When we talked about the feel of the scene, she liked the idea of staying away from an overly bright/cheery mid-day scene and instead focus on the colors and light of a sunset.  As a final element, Sarah wanted to include her mother’s barn, for which both she and Adam have a sentimental attachment.

After this meeting, I put together 3 different concepts – which are basically painting “sketches”- to show different approaches to how we could look at combining these elements.  I also created a template of the window to lay over these concepts to show how the final installation would look.  When I did the first 2 concepts, I did not yet have pictures of the actual barn, so I used a “generic” structure as a placeholder.  In the first sketch, I leaned more in the direction of the folk style, while in the second, I went more in the bold/pattern-like direction.  With the third concept, I tried to incorporate both – with the clean look of folk but keeping with Sarah’s idea of focusing patterns, colors and textures.

 Concept #1

Concept #1

 Concept #2

Concept #2

 Concept #3

Concept #3

 Concept #3 with window template

Concept #3 with window template

The next meeting was to review these concepts with Sarah, and number 3 was a clear winner for her.  To make sure I transferred what Sarah liked about the concept to the final piece, I asked for specifics of what she liked.  She shared that she liked the asymmetry of the poppies on the left, the “blotchy” painting style, the accentuated highlights on the petals, the consistency of the red between the poppies and the small accents in the barn and the combination of the patterned/Marimekko look with the folk style.

With that, I was back to my studio with a 52”x50” piece of plywood.  I started by laying a grid over the concept to proportionally correspond with a grid I drew on the prepped final board.  Since Sarah liked the concept, this approach helped insure that the sized-up version has the same layout.  In painting this panel, I used a lot of layers to build depth, richness and interest.  For example, the poppy petals use 4 different colors of red.  The first layers used smooth blending of the darkest and next lighter shade to create shape, while the last 2 layers of lighter shades were applied in looser and more abstract patterns to create the final look.  The background uses the same approach, with 13 different shades of green making up the field.

The final result was a hit and captured exactly what Sarah and Adam were looking for!  They are excited to mount it with the window so they can start to enjoy the new view.

 The final panel

The final panel