"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

West Texas challenged--Story of a bookstore mural-I

 10" x 8" tentative color study for tentative mural, gridded to match 10 foot wall
In late August,  when my daughter called on the phone from West Texas, I answered immediately.
"Dad, would you paint a mural for us?" Dallas asked, laughing.
"I don't paint murals," said I, somewhat taken aback.
"Yes you do. Remember the crucifixion mural on the class wall at church?"
"Oh, long time ago."
"We want a mural in the children's section of our new store in Amarillo," she explained, about adding a branch of Burrowing Owl Books in Canyon. Having bought out the  stock of a another store, they've moved to a new location  and were busy renovating the place.
"How big is the wall, when, what?" I started rattling off questions.
"About 10 feet long, hopefully this month, and a West Texas scene with some of Palo Duro Canyon," she answered.
Work on Amarillo Burrowing Owl Books underway
No, they're not leaving Canyon, where Burrowing Owl books is on the courthouse square, new and used books, the only independent bookstore in the Panhandle, and a popular success.
"Let me think about it. Call you tomorrow and see if I can figure it out, and the calendar." (She knows a chance to go see grandkids, and she and Todd, is a "yes.")
I've never done anything like this. I've painted the iconic "Lighthouse" in the canyon for them, and they have cards for sale in their store, and a bison, since the Buffalos are the mascot of West Texas A&M in Canyon. 
But those are small--inches, not feet.
And when? By October, she said. No pressure, but that meant only a couple of possible weekends, hoping for a two-day job.
"Lighthouse," watercolor, inches, not feet
Ok, I agree, then the planning started: 

  • Preliminary sketches and composition, with Dallas' approval. Then thinking about colors, and orientation of room, etc.
  • I needed  a 2-foot-square grid on the wall, so I can transfer my smaller sketches to it and paint pretty quickly. 
  • Supplies and acrylic paint  listed and forwarded.
  • Three sketches: general small ink, value sketch, and today, gridded to scale with 10 foot wall, with colors washed on it--not on watercolor paper but enough to get an idea.

First sketch,  5" x 4"
Eventually, I'll pack up and go, shooting for a two-day completion. 
First the sky, and work forward, letting paint dry  one step at a time on the landscape, with plenty of paint left over for covering my mistakes.
And, some of the mural was open to, and will change, as it goes along, like the progress of the store. M.D./carpenter Son-in-law Todd is building the shelves, and answering lots of questions from people eager for the opening.
10" x 8" value sketch, notes
What you see here are the first three tentative sketches on a rough grid. I hoped, once it was done, there would be a completed mural to show for it.
If not, and it was a failure and I got "fired," I'd show you a nice repainted blank wall.
I didn't get fired. Next, see part for the story of the results and first stages.

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