You will need:
Big sheets of newsprint or other cheap paper, crayons for planning and coloured chalks
A flat, smooth wall and access to nearby taps
Tins of house paint in at least the primary colours, plus other colours, brushes of various sizes, mainly small and medium, plus a few large ones, rollers
Buckets – some for water and some for mixing paint, and smaller containers, such as jam tins, jars, large yoghurt tubs
Newspaper, black bags to make overalls, turpentine
Sun hats and drinking water
To the Teacher
Although this is an exciting project, it takes an enormous amount of care and planning. It is important that every learner understands the process, and participates in the lead-up to finally making the mural – including helping to obtain paint and preparing the walls. However, this requires your careful leadership. Read through the steps very carefully yourself, and have thorough discussions with the learners before embarking on the actual process.
Creating a mural with a group can be a powerful experience. You will have the satisfaction of making something in a public space – a piece of public art that many people will see. You can also regard a project like this one as being part of a school social upliftment and beautification project. It will also give you an opportunity to work on a large scale – a liberating and very different experience!
Planning is an important aspect of creating a mural. First, you’ll need to find an appropriate wall. Some schools may have a wall that they are happy to make available for creative expression.
The wall should preferably be plastered, rather than exposed brick. Ideally it should be painted white before you begin, but if it is relatively clean and smooth this is not absolutely necessary.
You will need a variety of colours of acrylic (PVA) house paint. The most essential colours are the primaries: red, blue and yellow (with extra yellow if possible), and black and white, from which you can mix all other colours.
Paint is expensive, and you might need to fundraise if your school’s budget cannot provide this for you. Many paint companies and shops may be willing to donate some paints if you approach them in the right spirit. Try to get an appointment with the manager and explain the purpose of your project. You could even offer to include the name or logo of their company in a corner section of the wall.
Designing the image
Once everybody has agreed on a theme, each person should draw their contribution on paper.
The next step is to arrange everyone’s drawings into an interesting and coherent composition. This could be a complex group negotiation: be sure to allow each person an opportunity to give input before you all agree. It’s easiest to do this on the ground first, moving the sketches around to see what arrangement works best. Otherwise, you can also try out different placements on the wall itself, using tape or Prestik to stick the sketches up.
Once you have agreed on a composition, use coloured chalk to draw the final image on the blank wall.
Make sure each participant has a clearly defined area to paint, to avoid accidents or spills. Place newspaper on the ground before starting to paint.
When creating a large group artwork, it is very important to consider both unity and variety.
The painting process
You may need to paint an undercoat on the wall before you begin, in a colour that you have chosen as the background. Using a uniform background colour and a limited number of colours in your design will help to unify the mural.
Another common technique is to outline all the figures, buildings, trees and objects in a narrow, carefully applied line of one colour throughout (it could be black or any strong, dark colour.) The fill-in colours are then added afterwards and can “eat into” this outline without completely erasing it.
It is also a good idea for participants to swap around a few times during the painting and to work on different areas of the mural. In this way, each person’s individual style is spread throughout the work. You can also repeat patterns and textures in different areas of the painting to create continuity.