Renee’s small oil paintings have such a spontaneous, unself-conscious freedom about them, it was very interesting to see how thorough research and organisation are essential to transferring those qualities onto a huge scale in her murals.
Renee gave us a lot of practical information about how to prepare a brick wall for painting a permanent work. Preparation of the surface is just as important as preparation of a canvas for painting. You need to get rid of all the old paint you can. Renee hires contractors with PH neutral high pressure hoses to blast off all the flaking old paint, and even after doing that she needs to sand the old paint down. This is a horrible job, and you shouldn’t be afraid to charge the clients for it. The bricks need to be sealed with a good quality acrylic sealer, and then primed with several coats of gesso. The better quality the materials, the longer the painting will last.
The colours you choose for an outdoor painting need to be of maximum light fastness. You can’t get many reds or magentas in this range, as those pigments are the least light fast. This matters less in a temporary work, but even over the course of a year outside you will still see fading if you use bright reds and pinks.
When you have completed the painting, you apply soft shell gloss over the top, which is a protective surface which can never be removed. Then, over the top of that, apply a removable varnish which can be removed to clean the work. Make sure use a proper mask, because these sorts of varnishes are toxic. If it’s a private commission you won’t need to apply an anti- graffiti layer as well, but you would do that if it is outside in the public space. It’s called a ‘sacrificial barrier’.
Other things to consider when working in public space are public liability insurance, and also permits, and you may also need traffic controllers and bollards around the work area.
Renee really demonstrated how to tackle projects that may seem overwhelming in scale, by breaking down the problem into small segments, being practical, while all the time not losing hold of the freshness and spontaneity of the work.
Julia Gorman 2014
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