New Art and Getting Back in the Game

New Art and Getting Back in the Game

It’s been way too long since I posted on my blog. Please forgive the lapse. I feel like I’m getting back in the game in working on my blog again.

This past month, I was away from home much of the time over in Minnesota, creating a large scale mural like I did last year for the Montessori School. The same client who asked me to paint the massive portrait of his family, hanging out together in their 20’s with New York and Minneapolis in the background had me do another for him.

This time, it was a 8′ x 18′ mural of the new US Bank Stadium for the Minnesota Vikings.

Even a Packer fan has to appreciate the excellence of the Viking’s new venue. Their stadium is a fantastic design, and I heard has tons of artwork on display, as well as several clubs for people to hang out at.

My client, Jim, had mentioned this idea back when I delivered the painting to him in April. He showed me his media room, complete with five big-screen TVs on one wall. (Are you kidding me?) His idea was to have the Viking’s new stadium as the backdrop, and then install a score ticker on the top, roughly matching the size that it would be in the actual stadium. I loved it, and I could visualize bringing it to life for him.

This would be more than just a picture decorating the room.

A mural is not just a painting on a wall–it’s a painted environment.

In August, things lined up and Jim pulled the trigger. So I got a bunch of paint ordered, supplies packed up and started painting August 15th. It worked out great that my brother in law lives in Eagan, MN, just minutes from my client’s home in Lakeville. I was able to stay at his place for several nights while working on the project.

 

The start of every mural project: a blank wall.

The start of every mural project: a blank wall.

Now, to get off to the right start.

The first thing to do after hauling my paint and supplies to the upstairs room was to measure the wall. The Vikings logo at midfield was to be right in the center of the wall, just below the main TV. However, I instead placed the the midpoint about five inches to the right of that mark, right where I noticed holes in the wall for the mounting bracket of the center TV. Since the logo was supposed to be directly below the TV, I reasoned it would be best to line midfield at that point, rather than the wall’s actual center.

Next, I taped the wall off and set down my drop cloths. Standard procedure for any mural job, where a person is going to spend a lot of time on one wall.  I got out some purple first, which would serve as the background color, representing the thousands of seats in the stadium.

After applying it, I noticed it looked kind of dark and grey.

The value and tone was perfect when I selected it.

Why did it look so different here?

And that is almost always how it goes. You can pick a color at the paint store and it looks wonderful with the rich, even lighting there, but put it in a real environment where there are strong shadows and reflections, and you get a whole different look.

US Bank Stadium Mural, 8' x 18' Jim C's home, Lakeville, MN, in progress

US Bank Stadium Mural, 8′ x 18′ Jim C’s home, Lakeville, MN, in progress

So, just like when the quarterback sees something on the line he doesn’t like, I had to adjust.

I mixed a more intense purple and went over the whole area.

Next, I painted in grey stripes to represent the walkways between the seats, detailed them with lines to indicate steps, and then I painted the area above the seats: the lights, monitors, and clubs within the upper areas of the stadium.

From time to time, Jim would check out my work. He reserved judgment.

“I know it takes a lot of layers,” he said.

Although I wanted him to like it, and certain points during the job, I wasn’t sure if he did, at least I knew he understood the process of creating art well enough that things sometimes don’t look so great in progress.

This is a way different than doing art in the studio where I am accustomed the “in between stage” of a painting sometimes looking pretty crazy, and even downright terrible in the initial stages. But there, it’s just me and the painting. The client doesn’t see it till it’s done.

So I’m not saying I was scared to do a painting on someone’s wall, but I am a little more aware of my process and what the client perceives as it takes shape. Jim and his family put me at ease however, and just let me do my thing.

Well, once I got into the green for the field, things were rolling pretty well. I was coming to the end of the week and at a good point. But then I hit a major impasse.

US Bank Stadium Mural, 8' x 18' Jim C's home, Lakeville, MN, in progress, green added

US Bank Stadium Mural, 8′ x 18′ Jim C’s home, Lakeville, MN, in progress, green added

Sometimes you have to get a little grass on your helmet before you can win the game–complete the painting successfully.

Jim and I were discussing the progress, and I mentioned how I cleverly lined the field up with the holes for the mounting bracket.

“Um, the TV won’t be going right over those holes,” Jim mentioned. “the holes are there because of the studs. The TV is going to sit right in the center of the wall.”

Uh oh. First and goal and the ball somebody fumbled the ball.

“We have a little problem,” I said.

As I mentioned earlier, I designed the mural to revolve around what I believed to be the center, based on those mounting holes, instead of the actual center. I was over five inches off! To bring up the football analogy again, you know as well as I do, a game can be won or lost based on just inches.

To resolve the issue–which was clearly my fault–I offered to repaint the stadium rows to make them line up with the actual center of the wall. But that would take a day’s work at least. Jim said that wasn’t necessary. But he did want me to line up the field with the TV. We agreed to go with this compromise, but it bothered me that a person may be able to see how the stadium rows didn’t quite line up with midfield. Fortunately, Jim had noticed that the midpoint of the wall was actually a couple inches from what I thought it was. This meant that instead of the stadium seating rows being five inches off from center, they were actually only about two.

This was a gap that was way easier to bridge.

So I lined up the midfield at this point.

What a blessing! I was thanking God for this breakthrough!

Yard markings added.

Yard markings added.

I continued to work, and began the stripes delineating the yard markings on the field. To get everything accurate, I printed off a scaled version of the design, at a ratio of 1:24.

Then I measured, calculated, and measured.

Drawing the yard numbers in chalk.

Drawing the yard numbers in chalk.

I never realized I could use this much math in art!

Not only did the stripes have to be at the correct angle and the correct distance apart, but they had to widen at the just the right amount, to looks as if they were coming toward you in perspective. I marked everything off in chalk first and then, taped off what I was going to paint. It’s the best way to get razor sharp, straight lines.

Carefully painting in the hash marks, with masking tape as a straight line to keep the edges sharp.

Carefully painting in the hash marks, with masking tape as a straight line to keep the edges sharp.

Once the yard markings were in place, the field looked incredible. The illusion of perspective was so strong, that when I stood close to the painting, I felt as if I would fall in! It was a weird feeling.

The completed football field, minus the logo.

The completed football field, minus the logo.

At this stage, I could tell Jim really loved what he was seeing. So did I.

I felt like I was on the finishing drive now.

The last few days I worked on the logo. The quickest and most accurate way to paint this, was to use an overhead projector. After getting the image to the correct size, I painted color by color. After a little work, it came out just right.

Painting the Viking's head, initally with simple base coats.

Painting the Viking’s head, initally with simple base coats.

The completed logo.

The completed logo.

Finally, I painted some detail on the stadium walls that was missing. Jim and I both agreed that the Vikings face logo that was repeated in the actual stadium on the walls was overkill, so instead he thought of something way cooler: to paint the Vikings text logo and just one head on either side.

Painting in the logo precisely.

Painting in the logo precisely.

It was a great result.

Always room for one more…

There was a little more detail that Jim thought was needed to complete the mural. A couple days before it was done, when I came in for the morning’s work, he said, “Matt, something is missing in this painting.” I was thinking, “Oh great, what is it?” I thought maybe I had made a big error like I had with the midfield measurement.

I said, “Why don’t we look at the mural and you can show me.”

How much time is this going to take? I wondered.

So we went upstairs and he said, “Right at about the 30 yard line, I need this added…”

And then he showed me a picture on his cellphone of Aaron Rodgers, flat on his back!

“Oh man, you got me!” And I slapped him on the back. We both laughed.

I figured I would have to get him back now.

A final touch.

A final touch.

So when I signed the mural, I painted the Packers “G” logo next to my name, but I put it on a piece of masking tape. I had all my paints cleaned up, and finally Jim noticed the little addition. He said, “What…is that? You left than on there? You did not!”

I let him look at it in amazement for a bit, but then I just peeled the logo right off.

“You got me!” he laughed.

Here is the photo of the completed mural the day I finished it, with Jim and his wife Chris standing happily in front.

The completed US Bank Stadium Mural, 8' x 18', at Jim C's residence, Lakeville, MN

The completed US Bank Stadium Mural, 8′ x 18′, at Jim C’s residence, Lakeville, MN

And then, a photo of the mural with the TVs and score ticker installed, all doing their thing on game day!

US Bank Stadium hand-painted custom mural at Jim C's residence, Lakeville, MN. 8' x 18'

US Bank Stadium hand-painted custom mural at Jim C’s residence, Lakeville, MN. 8′ x 18′

With all said and done, this was one of my more challenging and rewarding projects. And as with most things in life–there are challenges to overcome, but if you stay true to your vision even when things don’t look pretty and rely on the Lord’s help, you can get create something excellent that brings enjoyment to others.

Share Your Thoughts!

If you have any comments or questions about this post, please leave me your feedback below! I will personally get back to you. Can you help me spread the word? Please share this post with your family and friends by using the social media links on the side or below. Thank you!

 

"I have inscribed you on the palm of my hands."

Inscribed6a_500px

"Inscribed," Pencil on Paper, by Matt Philleo

One day, when I was discouraged I read a verse in the Bible, in Isaiah, 49:15-16, where it says, "Can a woman forget her nursing child And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palm of my hands." This verse brought such encouragement, that I created this original work of art to share the incredible love of God with others, including you!


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12 Comments

  1. Great writeup. Most clients don’t want to watch the sausage being made, so the fact that yours was over your shoulder magnifies every misstep. Every project is full of those little decisions that either make your job tougher or easier, and you have to decide if you’ll just work with it or go back and redo it.

    Reply
    • Matt Philleo

      Thanks, Pete. The client wasn’t watching me like a hawk or anything like that. He gave me plenty of space, but just checked in periodically to see how it was going. I was glad he did on a couple occasions, because it then gave me the chance to make a correction when I had less skin in the game…er… I mean, paint on the wall. 🙂

      Reply
  2. MATT, THIS IS JUST SO, SO AWESOME. I LOVE THE 3D FEEL. It lòoks perfectly centered. I like the pictures you took during the entire process. I don’t know who wouldn’t love this. My husband Bob said this is amazing as well. You really do have a God-given talent. I love how you explain the jobs in such detail as well, step by step. ☺ 💙

    Reply
    • Matt Philleo

      Thanks, Pam! It was a great project to work on. I write this, however, just after the disappointing loss at the new stadium. But I think my client is happy. 🙂 Now I just need to find someone who wants Lambeau Field painted!

      Reply
  3. Perfect perspective lines and feel in this painting.
    Matt – do you remember when you were working on a painting of a man by a table, and I told you there was something wrong with the perspective?
    Mea culpa 🙁

    Reply
    • Matt Philleo

      Thanks, Deetje. Yes, I do remember your comments on the painting. I think I have that corrected now, by the way, and the painting is just about done. Stop in the studio sometime and check it out!

      Reply
  4. Dear Matt, You fulfilled your commission admirably with this wall painting backdrop for Jim C’s viewing room.

    Although permanence might not be important to Jim C, I might question why the wall was not canvased before the painting was begun? Possibly that concept disappeared generations ago? From your closeup the wall looked like ordinary construction, subject to shifting cracks? Your work is excellent as always. Eric Westhagen

    Reply
    • Matt Philleo

      I appreciate the kind words, Eric. Not sure about your last comment, but the house was fairly new and the wall looked to be in great shape structurally other than a few surface blemishes that folks wouldn’t notice unless they inspected it closeup. I used a level during the creation of the lines and everything seemed to line up in accordance with the wall and bottom trim. So if the wall shifts years later, we may have to touch it up, but I’m not too worried. Thanks again for your comments and keep in touch!

      Reply
      • Dear Matt, Probably Mr. C’s viewing room will have new technology in ten years, even though today his room appears it would satisfy–forever. And maybe his house is a quality with actual plaster on some sturdy metal lath? But taped drywall might be problematic.

        but then this backdrop was not meant as the Sistine Chapel ceiling? I you were to do such a grand scene–canvased walls would be called for. Fifty years ago I painted a spreading Japanese tree on a wall in a formal English period dining room. I did not canvas and it looks fine today–but with some minor cracks.

        If you were to render one of your fine religious concepts to wall sized–canvasing the wall first would certainly be in order.

        Eric

        Reply
  5. Thanks Matt!!!! I could not be happier with the finished product. The pictures look great, but it does not show the actual vibe of the room when you are watching football or any sport in the room. I have had so many great compliments on this which I need to pass on to you. I feel fortunate to have been able to see the work in progress from start to finish. Its normal to feel that a client is looking over your shoulder as some expressed, but I viewed it more as being able to watch a master of his craft as I was in awe of what you can do. I had no doubt that it would be awesome in the end. It still blows my mind how you can take conceptual ideas from one’s mind who cannot draw and bring them to fruition. You are very gifted and I am so glad our paths have crossed. Anyone could go out and buy art to add to their walls, but you have taken my conceptual ideas that can never be purchased in any gallery, and added that personal touch to our home. Thanks again.

    Reply
    • Dear Matt, Mr. C’s praise could not have acted as a higher compliment to your artistic assignment. Eric

      Reply
    • Matt Philleo

      I appreciate the kind words, Jim, and it was my pleasure to be able to do this project for you. Any project that you put your all into, that you want to be a high quality work will often have a couple hiccups along the way, because you care about the end result and don’t want it to be anything less than a fantastic work for the client. I’m thankful that God worked it out that you were able to stop in and check on the progress at just the right time so those issues could be resolved quickly. And you were extremely easy to work with, so that even if we did have a couple miscommunications, we were able to quickly bridge the gap, allowing me to get back on track and make that painting excellent for you. Hope to work with you again and enjoy the football season!

      Reply

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