This Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority art piece had been designed by my good friend artist Hector Vega and the agency hired me to do it on a massive thirty by seventy five foot exterior wall facing the agency's parking lot. Hector is also one of Cleveland's top fine artist but a muralist he is not. So after doing the necessary changes to the design to make it 'mural worthy', I proceeded to render the painting on the very uneven brick wall. My assistant for this job was the talented and very lovely Miss Andrea Karsic.
|Hector's conceptual design -14 inches wide (35.5 cm). The simple drawing conveyed the basic information about the commission. To turn it into a working mural design one takes into consideration the scale, the position of the wall as it relates to the way it looks during the day and night, and the point of view from which it will be first seen by the public.|
The painting is over seventy feet long and about thirty feet high. The artwork represents a gallery of the agency's most successful projects by their architectural branch -where Mr. Vega worked as a graphic designer. Using Hector's conceptual design as a guide, I made the necessary changes to make it mural worthy while maintaining most of Hector's artistic style.
Completed mural, November 1998. The photograph was taken from the viewers point of view as they drove into the space. The wall faces East to West so I designed the murals' subjects being lighted from the sun's setting point.
The design was approved in early spring, the funds were ready by the beginning of the summer of 98, but in true bureaucratic form, the mural did not receive the green light until the middle of fall when cold temperatures had already set in. So I erected tubular scaffolding, attached security cables to the wall (so the wind wouldn't topple it over), and then wrapped the structure in weather-proof tarp. Completing the set up was a kerosene heater to provide a measure of warmth.
|The harsh noon sun reveals the poor condition of the wall. To compensate for the rough and uneven surface, I kept the painting style simple.|
I never cease to be amazed by the high number of fools -ill informed and devoid of good sense, in charge of important decision-making positions. Unfortunately I have had to contend with too many of them in about half of the projects I have been involved in! Perhaps worse of all is the level of apathy and lack of consideration shown for any project they feel is contrary to their backward thinking or that may shine the spotlight on someone other than they.
|When the sun was lower in the horizon and there was a cloud overcast, the filtered light softened wall imperfections and made the mural look its best. The composition is a gallery of framed images representing the highlights of the architectural projects carried out by CMHA development planners. The figures contemplating the framed images represent the families helped by CMHA programs. I photographed live models to use as painting references.|
The biggest challenge in this commission -other than the weather, was the bad state of the brick wall. The mortar was crumbling between the bricks and water from the roof was slowly filtering in some sections. Also, several previous layers of paint were slowly chipping away. After pointing these problems to the powers that be -and learning that there were no additional funds forthcoming to have them corrected by a mason, I had no remedy but to power wash the wall, fix some of the most offensive gaps in the mortar, and then apply three coats of heavy exterior primer (probably the most important element for a mural's longevity).
|For comparison purpose, I photographed my son John Alexander, who is 6 foot 4 inches tall, next to one of the figures. To make the figures appear as if they were standing on three-dimensional space, the concrete sidewalks were extended into the wall to achieve the illusion.|
Once the surface was thus prepared, I executed the commission with the assistance of Miss Andrea Karsic, an art student who wanted training as a muralist. The painting was done using Sherwin Williams metal-enamel paints, a water-base formula that, while of a limited colour palette, is very resilient to the ravishes of sunlight and the weather.