Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Mural Design

Click images to enlarge

At long last, here's the design for the mural I'll be doing inside the Welcome Center at Eastern Oregon University. Over the next few weeks I plan to document on the blog the process of creating and installing it. The mural will be a little over 14 feet wide. This pencil rendering was done on a sheet of matboard at a scale of 2.5 inches to the foot, so the drawing is almost 38 inches wide. The building depicted is the oldest building on campus, the original Eastern Oregon Normal School, built in 1929. It now houses administrative offices, and the Welcome Center is just inside the main entrance.

I did an admittedly rough "colorizing" of the drawing with Photoshop and superimposed it on a photo I took of the space, so that the committee could get at least a vague idea of what the mural would look like on the wall. I presented this with lots of caveats about how much richer the actual mural would be than this crude visualization (hope I'm right).

Here are some excerpts from the written part of my proposal to the committee:

"The final concept for this mural began to gel during the nearly two hours I spent in the Welcome Center over Spring Break, taking photos and recording accurate measurements of the wall. Prospective students, often accompanied by their parents, were meeting with Counselors around tables in the open room...

"The counselors were proud of the school and it showed. They conveyed an engaging, genuine spirit of warmth and welcome. It occurred to me that the mural should be exactly that--a warm and welcoming introduction to Eastern Oregon University...

"In the design, the boy and girl in the left foreground depict new students being “welcomed” to the University by representatives present and past. Their tentative smiles betray a mix of happiness and anxiety. On the right they appear again, as joyful and confident graduates...

"The 36 people represented here are not generic figures. They all have a connection somewhere in the chain of EOU’s 83-year history—as students, faculty or administrators...There are representative images for all the different eras. I envision the foreground figures in full color and strong light/dark value, gradually fading as the figures move back in time. Some of the students depicted: Denise Eddy Miller, (‘89/92) was chosen to represent the Eddy family’s remarkable 65-year association with EOU. Bakhrom Ismoilov was one of 40 college students who participated in the 2011 Freedom Rides, now the subject of a feature film on PBS. Leo Plass graduated from Eastern last year at age 99!"

The mural will be painted on panels in my studio, then installed at the site later this summer. I'll show the process of building the panels in the next post.


Richard Hunter said...

Hi Don,

I love the mural, and I do believe I recognize a few of the people in it. I'll type my guesses below and we'll see if my 40 year old memory is correct:

Upper left corner -
Mary Davison (history), my adviser.
Dixie Lund - classmate though I didn't know her personally.
The fellow with the handle bar mustache - I think he worked at the library for years.
Tom Dimond (?) - art department.
Mary Jane Loso - English department.

Candy Barr said...

A beautiful testimony of the educational years...and wonderful addition to the space DON...congratulations and lucky school!

Gary L. Everest said...

Good Morning Don,
Very impressive. I'm sure most of us have no doubt that the drawing and ultimate expression of your idea in paint will be artistically and technically superb.
It's your brilliant conception of the work, however, which makes it truly special. Reading your proposal, it just seems so perfect for the location, history and emotions of those who will see it.
We're all looking forward to seeing the mural come to life.
Bravo, Don.

Shirley Fachilla said...

You've brought an additional skill set to this work. Truly wonderful to follow your process. It makes me appreciate those mural-size altar pieces of the old masters even more. They, too, had to have such a thoughtful process where they saw it whole from the very beginning.

Don Gray said...

Pretty good, Rick, you got 3 out of 5. Mary Davison and Tom Dimond aren’t there, but Dixie, Mary Jane and Jack Evans (library) are.


Don Gray said...

Thanks so much, Candy!

Don Gray said...

Gary, what a great thing to say--thank you! It seemed appropriate to put the focus on the people, not the bricks and mortar.

Don Gray said...

Thank you, Shirley. Yes, these types of projects do require a more analytical process, which is closer to the way the old masters worked. But, I confess, it's not my favorite way to work--I'd rather be more spontaneous and inventive. Harder to do that on mural scale and when working with committees.

Sheila Vaughan said...

Hey Don - I go off to italy for a couple of weeks and come back to see all this. It looks tremendous and what a fantastic and friendly use of that wall space (which might otherwise have had some serious olde worlde framed 19th century prints or similar). Thanks for keeping us up to date on progress. It's really interesting - including the building of the supports and the trouble you had sourcing the wood.

Don Gray said...

Hey I've got an idea, Sheila: next time I'll go off to Italy and you can build mural supports! :^)

Thanks for checking in.

Kara K. Bigda said...

This is outstanding Don! I've just been reading all about your process and proposal. What a colossal amount of work. Just thinking about what and who to depict is taxing . . . and the photoshopped image is fantastic (not to mention laborious I'm sure). What a wonderful way to communicate to your client's, your vision. I can't wait to see the finished product -- I know it will be amazing. I hope your clients appreciate all your time and efforts -- even up until this point. Most people don't realize all the work that goes into painting a mural (especially when you have to illustrate your vision without being "spontaneous" like you mentioned) even before the "real" painting begins. These blog postings are such a valuable documentation of just such efforts. Thank you so much for sharing. Good Luck!

Don Gray said...

Hi Kara--thank you for reading these recent posts so carefully and writing such a thoughtful, detailed response. It's true that the preparation leading up to a mural is time-consuming and often tedious. I always tell people by the time I'm ready to begin painting the mural, I've already done about 80% of the work! Thanks for checking in--I love seeing your watercolors on DPW.