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My First Mural

When moving to the beautiful state of Michigan last year, I set a list of goals for myself. One of those goals was to paint a mural within 12 months of living here. When I received a call for artists from Founders Brewing Company in need of a mural in their taproom, I knew I had to get to work.

As a connoisseur of craft beer, I had been drinking Founders All Day IPA and Azacca for several years. I took Founders with me to my favorite swimming hole in the summer, and on blistery cold hikes in the winter. Founders made beer for me to drink while lounging in the sun with my shoes off, going fishing, and to take kayaking. Now it was my turn to make something for Founders that I hope could bring as much enrichment as they had given me over the years.

I sketched up 3 ideas and submitted them. I kept the color schemes fairly simple to avoid buying 5+ gallons of paint and wasting supplies. All of my ideas used 4 or less colors. Within days, the project managers had selected one of my designs and we set up a meeting to discuss moving forward. I must remind you- I had never done this before. What kind of paint should I use? How long will this realistically take? Can I even execute this painting on a large scale? We discussed cost of supplies, and I went to the local Sherwin Williams to get started.

My original draft for the mural. I ended up changing the shape of the tap handle, mug, and pint glass to better represent specific items in the taproom. I also removed “Beer City, USA” in case Grand Rapids ever loses this title in the future.

With this being an indoor mural painted on drywall, I figured interior latex-based paint in eggshell would be the way to go. I went with eggshell so the lights in the taproom wouldn’t glare on the painting, rendering it difficult to see clearly. I purchased 4 gallons of paint, one in each color plus black. I also got paint roller covers for each of the 3 main colors, 2 large Purdy brushes, and some rolling trays. All together, supplies for this project were about $400 USD. I estimated the entire project would take about a week (~30 hours) if I worked every night.

The painting had to be executed entirely at night when the taproom was empty. As you can imagine, having wet paint laying around in a room full of beer enthusiasts is perhaps not the best idea. Depending on the day of the week, I would begin the project between 12AM and 2AM and work until 4AM-7AM.

I was reluctant to accept help, but my partner noticed the huge amount of prep work required before I could even begin laying down paint. The hallway is a high-traffic area, and the walls had taken a beating over the last few years. There were scrapes and holes everywhere. Realizing the truly large scale of this project, I accepted his help and we got to work.

Day 1 was spent cleaning the walls and repairing drywall with spackle. This was the only thing we did for the whole first day, as not much could be done before the spackle finished drying.

Day 2 was spent doing more spackling and drywall sanding to even out the patches. I was already getting disheartened because my first 10 hours on the job did not involve painting at all.

Day 3 drafting the images on the wall. I never could have imagined how long this would take. Now that the drywall patches were dry and sanded, I used chalk to sketch directly onto the wall and decide the placement of the rectangles and illustrations. A laser level and chalk line tool were my best friends in this stage. These two very simple tools ensured that all my lines were perfect 90 degree angles. I spent at least 7 hours drawing on the walls this night, and still didn’t get it all figured out.

Helping me lay down painters tape for the rectangles.

Day 4, we continued laying down chalk lines. At this point I had been working for nearly 20 hours and STILL had not even touched the paint. I was beginning to wonder if this project was really only going to take around 30 hours. Finally, every bit of preparation, planning, and taping had been completed and I could begin putting down paint. I did not prime the walls first. I believed the paint was of high-enough quality that I did not need a base layer of primer to achieve even, solid coverage. I was mostly correct with this assumption, although every color required at least 2 layers of paint.

I should have put down all 3 colors first, and layered them 2-4 times before using the black paint at all. But I got too eager and jumped the gun with using the black paint. Ultimately, this decision costed me several hours of painstaking detail work while I painted around every small corner and crevasse in the illustrations to fill them in.

I should have painted a solid yellow background behind the illustration, then added details in black. But I got too excited and did it the other way around, costing myself several hours of extra work.
However regardless of how tedious this was to fill in, I am still pleased with the results.

In the following weeks (about 6, to be exact. Definitely NOT my original estimate of 1 week.) I slowly completed the mural. My doubts turned into confidence as I watched this painting unfold before me. Each day, making more sense then the day before. The mural was actually looking… good? I couldn’t believe it.

I’ve been a fan of keyboardist Sky White for about 10 years. He performed at Founders one evening, and I got this picture with him in front of my (in progress) mural.

Christmas was rapidly approaching, and I had an international trip planned with my partner to visit family in Colombia on the 9th of December. I needed to finish the mural before leaving so it wouldn’t hang over my head the whole time we were gone. We did one last all-nighter on December 8th, determined to complete the project. At approximately 7AM, the mural was done and I signed my name: “J. Brunk ’19”.

Adding final touches on the last day.

I am truly honored for this opportunity, and for all the support I received from my peers throughout this project. Many people expressed gratitude for the bright colors in an otherwise dim hallway. I learned a lot during this project, like the improbability of painting an entire mural in a week. But alas, it is done. If you ever find yourself looking for great brews in West Michigan, stop over at Founders and check it out. The beer fantastic and the people are great.

This section only accounts for about 1/3 of the overall mural. It’s difficult to fit everything in one picture, as is spans across 3 walls.

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