How I Got Started Painting Murals

A Short Father’s Day Story…
Summers were long and hot and humid in Cincinnati, Ohio. I think we were the only family in the neighborhood still operating without newfangled air conditioning! As a teen in ‘76, sleeping in past 11 a.m. was the best past time and was aided by the fact that a square 2’ x 2’ fan in the bedroom window was the only thing that moved the air, HOT air. 
So, in my days of boredom on end, days of poking at the bubbled tar in the divided cement slabs on the streets of suburbia, I got the notion to create a project that would fill my days and improve my surroundings. I decided to paint my first mural. Sadly, some years prior, my sister and I argued over what color our walls should be and, Dad, no longer patient in this debate, made an executive decision. Two walls “Pale Yellow” and two walls “Boring Beige.” To a teen with my “sensibilities” this just didn’t sit well. And, my sister’s “Starsky and Hutch” and John Denver posters were not going to be the only source of decor.
My dad was surprisingly enthusiastic regarding my mural idea and, well, my sister didn’t balk at the whole thing. I told him I wanted to paint wild animals, maybe lions, and I would do some research and look for cool photos. He went out that day and purchased Sear’s brand paint in quart cans. I’m not sure how we decided the colors or the kind of paint, but I now had weeks spread out before me to fill with something gigantic and creative and like nothing I had done before. 
Dad was often in awe of my artistic talent and took this time to share his stories of his own attempts at artistry, calligraphy mostly. His own father made painting a productive hobby. “Gramps” painted wonderful landscapes of mountains, meadows, snow scenes, and lakes that hung in many rooms of our house and I used to get lost in them as a kid. I especially loved getting birthday cards from Gramps because he never forgot to sketch a bunny next to my name and ask me about my own drawings, which was more valuable to me than the dollar bill inside! Dad used to say he wished he’d inherited some of that talent from him.
I looked through library books and our set of “Encyclopedia Britannica” for inspiration and settled on a family of lions, a koala in a tree, and a toucan. I never gave thought about that these animals would never realistically be seen in the same environment until my neighbor pointed it out. I simply chose animals that I liked. I brought them all together in a grassy landscape in my own fantasy. This took me weeks to produce and I could feel myself losing steam and excitement for the project (maybe the lack of cool air played a part – ha!). What was going to cover all four walls someday was contained to the surface closest to my bed. 
But, at least, I could curl on my side and look at my first mural “masterpiece” every night and put my back to my sister’s posters! I had taken the first conscious step toward improving my environment, no longer colorless and unimagined. However, in typical artistic temperament (or was it teen angst?), I mentally picked my painting apart, crafting ways to improve it should I ever decide to revisit it. I never painted on that particular mural again, but I think my Dad would agree I made some incremental improvements over the years in my painting abilities. 🙂 
I cherish that event, that memory with Dad, our collaboration. While he never was quite sure what I was going to do with my “Bachelor of Fine Arts” degree and perhaps wasn’t so patient with all my zigging and zagging, hemming and hawing over the years, I am grateful he gave me that first gentle push in the right direction. In 2006, I was proud to dedicate my book, Creative Kids’ Murals You Can Paint, to my Dad. 
Happy Father’s Day, Dad! I feel your presence often… and your love always!

(all taken with my Polaroid Camera!)