Late last year my brother asked if I would fly to Denver, CO and do a mural for my niece Jaya. It took a while to schedule something, but we finally decided that April 15 - 21 would work for everyone. We also figured those dates had the added bonus of having nice weather. Boy were we wrong! Everything was fine when I flew out of Manchester NH. Flights were on time and I was well on my way to arrive around 9:15 pm in Denver. I landed in Chicago, only to find that all flights to Denver were cancelled. It wasn't yet snowing in Denver and wasn't expected to really start until very early in the morning. Despite that airlines decided to cancel every flight that was heading to Denver. As I was standing in line at customer service, the rumors were flying that flights were going to be cancelled for at least the next couple of days and that were were going to be either stuck in Chicago or I would have to ditch the entire trip and fly back home. I had planned to have 5 full days to work on the mural, and knew I had very little wiggle room. After standing in line for an hour, I finally got to the counter. By the time I got there, the airlines had a change of heart and decided to jam everyone on one big plane and fly us all there, later in the evening. So, I was on my way again. I finally landed at about 12:15 am. I awoke the next day ready to begin the mural and to find that well over a foot of snow had fallen outside. It would snow pretty steadily for the next two days.
Instead of painting directly on a wall, we decided that the mural would be painted on a piece of MDF board, which would later be mounted on the wall. At 4 x 6 feet, this would be the largest painting I had ever tackled. Since I knew that I would have a limited time to do the work, I did a ton of prep at home, before I left. I had decided to do a mural of an Amazon rainforest, so I sketched out a bunch of animals and plants and then mocked up a rough idea of what the mural would look like.
In Adobe Illustrator I made more detailed and actual-sized drawing of the mural. I printed that out on multiple pieces of paper and then taped it together so I would have a template to work from. I also printed out all of the drawings of the animals and made stencils of each one. Since I planned everything out on the computer ahead of time, this would make laying down the actual drawing go very quickly.
Once in Denver, I positioned the animal stencils, traced them onto the board and then drew in the background. With Pandora playing in the background I got to work. It took a while for the mural to look like anything. I started with the background and then slowly added the animals. There were some times, during the week, that I was worried I wasn't going to make it, before I had to leave again, but it got done. Jaya didn't seem to impressed in the beginning, but once the monkey and sloth made their appearance, she was much more interested. Every morning, she asked to see the monkey and she even helped out, at least she thought she was helping. You can check out the progress in the gallery below.
In the end, despite the travel drama, I loved creating something for Jaya and was very happy with the end result. My favorite animals to paint were the sloth, macaw and capybara. The at over an hour just to paint the spots, the jaguar took the longest. Here is the final result.