See! I told you these blog posts would be infrequent.
I have, holy crap, FINALLY finished the bathrooms by the Manila Community Services building!
Well, honestly I can't use the word I in this situation, because this mural was another beautiful blend of community genius.
For those of you who will ask me how I managed to get this gig: I applied of course! RCAA put out a call for artists almost a year ago, while the skies were grey with rain and wind. That's usually around that time that I hunch over the computer and apply to various art opportunities taking place around the county. I was notified that I was selected by the committee (thanks guys!) and that my friend and co-conspirator on art projects Tess Yinger was a close second. They wondered if we would would want to collaborate, and yes- we did! (thanks Tess!!)
For those of you unfamiliar, Tess Yinger is an artist based here in Eureka. They have collaborated with me on a couple of projects, like our Duck, Duck, Goose gallery and recently a participatory show at the Trinidad Bay Eatery. We are both into working with kids (Tess teaches art at Redwood Coast Montessori) so we brainstormed a way we could incorporate some kiddos in the project. The plan was to have me work with 2 groups of middle schoolers at Redwood Coast Montessori every Wednesday beginning in October. While I was away in September, Tess worked with the kids to design & illustrate bugs and plants that can be found in our dunes. Tess has an incredible eye for composition and color, and collaged their illustrations into this masterpiece:
I immediately loved the sketch- so much plant and bug whimsy!
We got busy with the prepwork on the bathrooms in October. As you can see, they were in rough shape! We first weeded around the building and sanded all the rusty doors and window trim. Next, the kids took turns helping me get everything pressure washed, something they found incredibly exciting. (No eyeballs were sprayed out during the pressure washing of this bathroom)
I then came in and repainted the doors and trim with an enamel based spray that will both resist marks and prevent rust. Things started to look better immediately! Honestly, this project offered immense satisfaction at every stage.
The next step, however, was the absolute w o r s t.
It took us forever, but we finally were able to get 2 layers of primer on all of the cement bricks that made up these bathrooms. Between the texture and the porosity of the surface, it was gruelling. No, torturous. We used the fluffiest poodle-looking rollers they had but really the kids hated it and frankly I did too, so I ended up coming behind for the second coat with a paint sprayer.
Please someone remind me to do this every time.
For some reason this was only my second time using a paint sprayer in a mural project because, faced with an intimidating surface, I tend to reach for the weapon in my arsenal that I am most comfortable with: the brush. Yes, the 4" contractor brush, because it's so incredibly practical and all. My goal for 2024 is to work a little smarter not harder, which goes against every fiber of my being, but I'm determined to become a more efficient artist.
You'll notice that the eaves got blasted too. When I first set eyes on this bathroom I knew I wanted to vanquish the peeling, grey-blue paint that was used on the eaves and doors. If I was going to go through the effort of painting such an elaborate and colorful mural, I couldn't leave the framing around it so raggedy! So, they got a little face-lift too. (I had one kid at this stage complain that the buildings were "too white" which made me laugh. He obviously hadn't grasped the lesson we had on the merits of primer)
Now isn't that already so much better??
By this time, we had just experienced daylight savings time, which was convenient because I needed to come out here under the cover of darkness to get my projector all set up. This was something that the locals found somewhat concerning so I was stopped by more than one person who, understandably, thought I was being nefarious. I also learned that when the sun goes down these public bathrooms get a lot of mysterious action...
I found that one adventurous evening was enough, so I decided to draw in the rest of the mural free-hand.
I have to say, the last couple of murals I have had to put the projector away and it feels really good to be able to let go of those training wheels sometimes. We got busy right away on mixing paint, naming our mixed paint, and blocking in the first coat. Please note that the naming of the paint was a crucial step that the kids approached with the utmost care. Kudos to Gina Tuzzi, who mixes and names all of her paints, for the genius idea. One student took this especially seriously, and my favorites from his line of colors include '30,000 lbs. of wild untamed licorice ' and 'wall of skulls simultaneously puking' -- which is so metal but also described that putrescent green so perfectly! Honestly, someone should get this kid in marketing like immediately.
Our first couple paint days had a rough start- the mural got tagged twice during the first couple days of painting. (Don't worry- we are putting a protective coating over the top to prevent this from happening in the future) Despite this, we set to work getting as much of the base colors on as possible. This texture was proving to be really challenging though. I decided on my birthday that I could use an extra hand, so I hosted a paint-out. It was a gorgeous day and we covered a lot of ground-- thank you friends!!
It was around this time that I met one of the community members who spent the most time helping with this mural: Av the Legendary! She approached me one day and asked if she could paint (to which I gratefully said YES) and then continued to come out day after day until the sun dipped over the dunes to help get things to the finish line. Not only this, but I was embarassed to come around the corner and see that not only could she paint, but she was pulling INCREDIBLE, envious lines. I don't know how I got so lucky with this gift from the universy and I honestly couldn't have done it without her.
Then there was Tracy, a mother of some kiddos that attend RCM. She walked by wishing she could paint many times during the process, and finally made it out at the end when I frankly needed the push the most. Thank you so much Tracy for your help and for snapping such a wonderful, pink-skied progress shot of me and Av the Legendary!
By this point, I was coming out here between every rain spell to try to get this thing wrapped up before the semester ended. I don't know how, but we did eventually make our goal! On the last Wednesday of school, we had everyone out for an official ribbon cutting. The kids lined up to leave their handprint mark & signature on the back door. Cupcakes were had by all, and it was great to see such a turn out of kids & community members. We even had Times Standard out there to document! That's right, we're famous!
And well, this wraps up our 4 months-long journey. I know a lot of muralists who bang out projects like this in one weekend (I am looking at you L Star, who did more murals this year than I have in my lifetime!!) -- I admire this efficiency so deeply, but friends who know me probably don't use the word efficient to describe how I work. I've realized that, at least for this mural, moving quicker would have meant less community and especially kiddo participation, so I'm taking this trade-off as a win. If you picked up a brush and painstakingly stabbed this mural into vibrancy, you are SO COOL. Thank you for all of your help, truly!
This project was presented by Redwood Coast Action Agency utilizing beautification funds from CalTrans. I want to express immense gratitude to Alysia, who helped get all of this coordinated and even came by one sunny evening to paint herself. She does a wonderful job connecting with the community to make sure these projects reflect their vision and I think that's so cool of her. I also want to shout out to Tess Yinger and all the hardworking students who made this mural happen. Av and Tracy, you already know that I worship thee! Also, universe, thank you for all of those sunny days. You're permitted to rain now.
Looking back on all the murals I have done, this one was definitely a favorite. I enjoyed the company, the fresh ocean air, the makeover, and the many kind people I met during my time there. It feels really good to take something that so many people utilize and transform it into a work of art.
So with that...If you have a project like this in mind- let's talk!!
Until next time,