Dreamland by Silvia Vassileva

How Do Street Artists/Wall Muralists Paint on a Large Scale?

Amodini Allu February 15 2023

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Have you ever wondered how contemporary artists get the perfect scale and proportion for their paintings when a wall is their canvas? What strategies and rules of thumb do they follow to figure out the composition of these contemporary paintings? Let’s dive deep into their strategies to uncover this mystery.

Independent artists who practice artwork for a long time have a set of strategies that they follow to maintain the scale and proposition of their artwork. Irrespective of the size of their canvas, this is something that they always keep in mind such that the meaning of their artwork is delivered properly to the spectator/audience. This rule of thumb plays a stronger role for artists who paint on a larger canvas. We come across these masterpieces in our daily life, and they are visually satisfying, even though we swiftly walk past them.

Irrespective of the space, whether indoors or outdoors, walls are the perfect canvas and decor for independent artists. Their process is similar to any other art medium: they prep the wall, paint on it, and finally seal the artwork. Because of weather conditions, the final step is an essential one when it comes to outdoor murals.

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Dancing in Unison by Bhajju Shyam and Sam Lo
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Sam Lo giving a stencil-making workshop at Lodhi Art District

Let’s dive deep into the techniques that are used by many contemporary artists. Upon observation, there are 4 major techniques that contemporary artists usually follow:

1. Grid Technique

2. Projector method

3. Pounce pattern

4. Freehand method

GRID TECHNIQUE

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Grid Example by Amodini Allu

This is the most commonly used method by street artists and wall muralists to scale up their artworks. It is considered the oldest method for scaling artworks. Contemporary artists also follow this technique to capture the best expression possible from their artwork. They plan out the art piece on a small sheet of paper and divide it equally such that every detail is captured on the grid. The actual scaling varies depending on the artwork’s characteristics. Developed by artists who used to paint in churches and other public buildings, this method is adopted for intricate and detailed contemporary paintings.

PROJECTOR METHOD

This method is the most suitable for painting murals in indoor spaces and has been used by many independent artists. It is done by setting up a projection of any reference model and placing it at the rear centre of the room. Projecting the artwork on the wall and adjusting the angle will make it ready to trace. With the help of chalk, one can easily trace the pattern on the wall. Now, it is ready to be filled with colours. This is the easiest way to get the exact scale of the artwork; the only important thing left to do is to achieve the perfect angle while setting up the projector.

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Projection Example by Apartment Therapy
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Chalk Mural created for a JCPenney Pop-Up event by Eric Friedensohn

POUNCE PATTERN

Earlier sign artists were believed to follow this method to align their lettering on a larger wall surface. This method can be used on any project that requires perfect scaling. The first thing to get started with is printing or sketching the artwork on a piece of paper of the required size. Get the sketch done, place it on a cutting mat, and make tiny holes with a sharp tool. This perforated pattern can be traced on any surface with the help of chalk dust or a stamp pad.

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Image by Eric Friedensohn

The artwork shown above was done using this method. Pounce patterning is suitable for all kinds of large-scale projects as it captures the detail perfectly.

FREEHAND METHOD

Independent artists who have been sketching for a long time on larger surfaces will not have a difficult time getting the perfect proportions. They easily capture details using freehand methods as they are used to working at a larger scale. They work as their brush flows. Although they don’t need any particular technique, they would prefer to sketch out the outline with chalk or a charcoal stick before starting with paint.

Are you someone who has been thinking about painting a mural of contemporary painting for a long time and don’t know how and where to start your work? These simple steps will help you get started with your dream project. Or maybe you are an art-loving person and have been thinking about how artists paint so perfectly on a large surface. I hope this article gave you some answers.

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