It’s been a while since I’ve painted anything of scale. So when I took on painting a mural on the side of the building that houses my studio, I was unprepared for the physical nature of the assignment.
I worked on a few different ideas for the mural, and was excited that my landlords liked my favorite design of the bunch. It was a map of Kansas City (specifically the northeast!) taken from a 1946 Land Use Map. I stumbled across the map at the Central Library just outside the Missouri Valley Collection, and loved the colors and the antiquated features.
A ring of park land surrounded downtown, which would be unceremoniously bulldozed and converted into highways a few years later. Columbus Park was still physically connected to the River Quay and the Northeast. Pendleton Heights and Scarlet Renaissance remained largely unchanged. A few commercial zones placed in the neighborhoods over 80 years ago still spotting the largely residential neighborhoods.
The Paint Job
I quickly rolled some primer over the area – a full 12”x30” and started the layout for my drawing. I had prepared some layered drawings in photoshop but was foiled on two fronts. My printer’s cyan was plugged, which produced a ghastly red and orange version of the design. And my intentions to match the design to certain bricks and features was washed away when I primed over the preexisting patterns.
So I eyeballed the entire design, stepping back the width of a sidewalk and a small grassy stretch before the curb to consider my progress. I fleshed out some areas, drawing and redrawing until I got things close. Once there, I started to blast in color and things got trickier.
I had to fight the depths of space in the mortar between the bricks. I wasn’t concerned about the texture of the wall, I felt comfortable the brickwork would compliment the map’s design. But I did have to concern myself with the large gaps between some bricks. I wore out two paint brushes and worked out my arm to feverishly push paint between the gaps.
A lot of refining took place next, adjusting contours, spacing out roads and neighborhoods. I desaturated the mural quite a bit, adding some white washes to the blue areas and toning down the yellows and oranges with some similar bronze and red washes. Things seemed to be rolling along fine, so I started experimenting with the best ways to paint the major roadways.
Putting it All Together
The roads plotted easily, and the spacing seemed to be working out just fine. Neighborhoods started coming together, and I was pleased with how much accuracy I was able to capture in the map. I added the road names from the source map, then the downtown airport. Some last minute fine tuning took place and now the mural is finished.
The finished Kansas City mural is at Saint John Avenue and Askew Avenue in northeast Kansas City. Nearby attractions include the Kansas City Museum, the Colonnade, Concourse Park, Kessler Park, Cliff Drive and the schliefkevision studio.
You can take a look at progress that took place on the newest Northeast Kansas City mural in the video below: