Face Making

Artist Gwenn Seemel’s bilingual blog about art, portraiture, free culture, and feminism.

Mural log

2014 . 09 . 04 - Comments / Commentaires (6)

Creating a piece of public art is a wickedly difficult needle to thread in my limited experience. I’ve only painted one mural, the Kirk Reeves memorial on NE Grand at Lloyd, but in order to do so I needed fortitude in the face of bad odds, a strong sense of my own value both as a human being as a professional artist, and an ability to communicate with people who don’t view artists as legitimate business people. And that was all before I laid any paint on the wall!

I’ve discussed here and there some of the more administrative aspects of this piece and of public art in general, but today I’m publishing the log I created as I painted, with some slight editing. I’m doing so because I want to convey the fun as well as the work involved in the actual painting. After all, that is what made the fifteen months of negotiating worthwhile.

Note: Any times listed in the log include travel time. I mostly biked to the site, sometimes I walked, and very occasionally someone picked me up or dropped me off in a car.

mural mock-up

official mock-up

June and early July

Ordered paint and purchased other supplies. Met with the Regional Arts and Culture Council and the building owner at the site to discuss logistics. Set up liability insurance. Visited the site’s neighborhood and introduced myself at local businesses so that I would have bathroom access as well as friendly faces in the area. Sent out press releases. Did an interview with James Reddick of The Oregonian—the resulting article is here.

Monday 14 July - 6 to 7 PM

Measured the building meticulously with my partner David so that I could place the mural properly on the wall.

Tuesday 15 July - 1:30 to 4:40 PM

Delivered supplies with my mom’s car and moved them into the storage shed, met Ifanyi Bell of Oregon Public Broadcasting to introduce him to the site.

Wednesday 16 July - 8 to 10:30 AM

Met Keith Lachowicz from the RACC for delivery of water, met Ifanyi. Laid out the charcoal grid for the portrait with David, and it was low, so I realized I should measure down from roof in the future. I adjusted the design, cutting off the top part of the rainbow. Discovered it was too hot after 9 AM on the scaffolding, got burned by the sun. The cold I had been nursing became a proper cold.

line work

16 July

Wednesday 16 July - 1:30 to 10:30 PM

Delivered paint with my mom’s car and with David’s help, met Ifanyi. Drew face, began painting face. Ifanyi filmed everything. Interviewed by KOIN after 6 PM. David returned at 7 PM. Chalked the full mural with David, and then he lined the outside of the mural in white.

blowing my nose

photo by David, 17 July

Thursday 17 July - 7 to 10 AM

Met Ifanyi. Painted Kirk’s face. Kristin Calhoun from the RACC came by. My cold is worse.

Thursday 17 July - 2:30 to 8:50 PM

Met Ifanyi and my friend Robin. Put up masking below the mural with Robin, then Robin painted the background white while I worked on Kirk’s portrait. Chalked the rainbow with Robin. Bad cold.


18 July

Friday 18 July - 1:30 to 7:30 PM

Met Ifanyi, Robin, and my friend Allie. Robin got water from Pixie Project while Allie wiped chalk from wall. Both blocked out the rainbow with me. I have no voice at all and I am exhausted by this cold.

Saturday 19 July - 1 to 8:30 PM

Got water from Pixie Project. Blended the rainbow, a first layer. I had thought I would use the rollers on the background, but I wasn’t feeling it. Maybe I will with a lot of medium. I have made three design changes: no hat, cut half a foot off the top of the rainbow (to compensate for mistake of putting Kirk a little lower than I meant to), made top of rainbow purple so that it goes from purple to purple. Put up a sign to excuse my lack of voice.

Gwenn and the Kirk Reeves mural

photo by Sara, 20 July

Sunday 20 July - 2 to 9 PM

Marked up the whole rainbow. Bad cold.

Monday 21 July - 2:15 to 8:30 PM

Painted Kirk’s clothes and the top of his head. Discovered I love a small square brush that I had stopped using in the studio. I am finally getting used to the beauty of dry paint again and the way it shows the texture of the wall. Terrible cold.


22 July

Tuesday 22 July - 1 to 6:30 PM

Painted Kirk. Discovered I love smearing the paint with my palm. Nova Color is a strong paint, but smearing makes it translucent and textured. Parents drove me home and took me out to dinner with David. Bad cold.

Wednesday 23 July

Rain day. Slept and read all day.


24 July

Thursday 24 July - 12:40 to 10 PM

Went to site with David and met my friend Nicole later. David got water from Pixie Project. Chalked the music with David and Nicole, then David and Nicole did line work on the music while I painted Kirk. Cold hanging on.

Friday 25 July - 1:30 to 8 PM

Made the music my own, painted Kirk, worked out crediting and text. My mom came by at the end of the night to advise on crediting and text and take me home.

working on a mural

26 July

Saturday 26 July - 1:40 to 7 PM

Roughed out the crediting and text, cleaned up edges. Cold beginning to wane.

working on a mural

27 July

Sunday 27 July - 1:50 to 8 PM

Finished crediting and text, detailed music, cleaned up edges.

Monday 28 July - 2:10 to 8:15 PM

Painted Kirk.

Tuesday 29 July - 7:15 to 11:30 AM

Met up with Ifanyi. He videoed me at Kirk’s spot on the Hawthorne and interviewed me at my studio. (Part of this interview is featured on this episode of OPB’s State of Wonder, and a fuller version with video is available here.)

working on a mural

photo by David, 29 July

Tuesday 29 July - 2 to 9 PM

Painted and repainted Kirk’s forehead, detailed the rest of his face. Cold tapering off.

Gwenn and the Kirk Reeves mural

photo by Molly, 30 July

Wednesday 30 July - 1 to 9:30 PM

Cleaned up bottom edges, added some marks in the purple, and cleaned up some of the text a bit more. The wall was not properly primed: in some places where I used blue tape to mask the bottom of the mural, the paint peeled up. Where the tape was the edge (right below portrait) it peeled up the mural paint as well. I painted over some of the peeled up part, but I also managed to glue most of it down with medium on Keith’s suggestion. My mom and David came to move me out of the storage shed at the end of the night.

Kirk Reeves mural

Gwenn Seemel
Somewhere over the rainbow
acrylic mural
10 x 38 feet

- Celebrating Kirk Reeves
- Painting the Kirk Reeves mural / Peindre le portrait mural de Kirk Reeves
- Scaling up my style / Agrandir mon style

CATEGORIES: - English - TOP POSTS - Events - Featuring artists - Kirk Reeves - Photography - Practice - Process images -

Gwenn Seemel on Liberapay     Gwenn Seemel on Patreon

(6) Comments / Commentaires: Mural log

-- Libby Fife -- 2014 . 09 . 04 --


All I have to say is you must have some very thick skin! Goodness, but I couldn’t believe the range of the comments. Good for you too for sticking it out (as if you would quit). Congratulations and thank you for sharing your journal entries!


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-- Kate Powell -- 2014 . 09 . 04 --

“The wall was not properly primed: in some places where I used blue tape to mask the bottom of the mural, the paint peeled up. Where the tape was the edge (right below portrait) it peeled up the mural paint as well. I painted over some of the peeled up part, but I also managed to glue most of it down with medium on Keith’s suggestion.”

Was that supposed to be done by the owners?  Is that part well documented?  Hate to do it, but thinking like a lawyer (or like a business person who has to think like a lawyer occasionally!)

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-- Kate Powell -- 2014 . 09 . 04 --

Duh.  For got the most important part because I am in a rush to get to work.  I LOVED THIS POST!!!!  Loved hearing all of it and read the entire thing, which is why I am running late!  The boss is gonna be mad.  Wait, I am the boss!

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-- Gwenn -- 2014 . 09 . 07 --

@Libby: I don’t have the thickest skin, but the street made me grow it in a hurry. Now if I could only figure out how to keep it…

@Kate: I called the City as soon as it happened so that I could get advice on how to deal, but also so that there would be a record. If I wasn’t already a careful business person, doing public art reinforced the necessity of covering one’s own butt—because that’s what everyone else I worked with was doing! Also, thank you for your kind words! smile

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-- Uva Be -- 2014 . 09 . 15 --

Incredibly noise patterns on surface. Thank you for sharing experience of creating mural. More, more murals everywhere is my vote smile

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-- Gwenn -- 2014 . 09 . 18 --

@Uva: More mural everywhere! It’s got my vote too. And thank you. smile

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