Dennis: As anyone who has ever put pen to paper – or fingers to keyboard – can attest, writer’s block is a very real thing.
What I didn’t know until our current project, though, was that artist’s block is every bit as real.
And here’s how I found out about it:
Marcia and I had decided to paint a mural in our living-room-turned-playroom-turned-office and, because it’s where she will work and host her landscape design clients, she wanted a horticultural theme to her artwork.
When I asked her a day later how it was going, she said she had a case of artist’s block. Up until that point, I had never heard of it, but maybe it explains my less-than-Picasso (or for that matter, his wiener dog) artistic abilities.
So I told her that I have had artist’s block for 65 years.
And, while there’s plenty of evidence to back that claim up, I’m not sure she bought it.
But I’m sticking with that theory as to why, in a family filled with generations of gifted artists, I have yet to paint/ draw/ sculpt my masterpiece.
It just explains, conveniently, so very much.
And, as you can see by the photos on the page, Marcia’s block lasted significantly less time than mine.
Marcia: By the way, Picasso very famously not only had a beloved wiener dog named Lump, but he also painted the little rascal prolifically. I know that because I was gifted the book, which is appropriately titled Picasso & Lump for Christmas several years ago. Of course, the fact that I actually asked for it on my Christmas list caused many eyes to roll.
As Dennis said, we decided a mural was in order for my new front room office conversion. Previously, anyone who walked in our front door was greeted by a floor-to-ceiling, toy-filled playroom for the grandkids. Our daughter Madeline decided she wanted to move the whole shebang upstairs into our bonus room, which previously housed my office.
It all made sense to me!
So now, when anyone enters our house, my office is front and centre. I’m still in the process of imagining the space. I think eventually I’d like to have a very large antique table in the centre of the room where I can work on landscape plans while looking out the front windows to the garden.
But for now, I painted a botanical mural on the wall that is above my current desk and which will greet family, friends, clients and the UPS delivery man every time the door opens.
And yes, there is such a thing as artist’s block! I haven’t painted in years and painting on a textured wall while balanced on a ladder is a bear. I couldn’t use erasers, but I sure did use a lot of wall paint to cover up mistakes. I ended up going with the wall texture and watering down the acrylics to act more like water colours. It was much easier that way.
Over the years, I’ve painted murals on the walls of every house we’ve lived in. I remember when our kids were little, being woken up in the middle of the night by our middle son Chris, who was two at the time. When I opened his door, he was standing up in his bed, bug-eyed, making little jabbering noises and pointing at the monkey I had painted on the wall, insisting it was alive and talking to him.
Chris was, and still is, known for his active imagination.
Murals and wallpaper are very popular right now. If you aren’t comfortable painting a detailed mural, try something basic, such as simple geometric shapes. Just use painter’s tape to make your shapes, paint inside them and peel the tape off after it dries.
Remember, you can always paint over your mistakes. If you don’t paint, consider hiring a professional muralist. Just Google “muralists” to find one you like.
There are also myriad wallpapers online, some that are even self-adhesive and very easy to apply.
I encourage you to give it a try. It can really perk up a room and make a statement. And if the painting doesn’t go as planned, just know that, as one of my art teachers used to say in college, “Nobody’s perfect. Even Picasso sometimes made (boo-boos).”
Or, just wallpaper over it.
1. Figure out where you want the mural. Who will see it and from where?
2. Make sure the walls are clean and freshly painted.
3. What furniture will surround it? My filing cabinet, desk and floor lamp needed to be taken into consideration. I didn’t want the mural hidden behind them. I used painter’s tape to mark the height and width of my desk because I didn’t want to paint below it and I wanted the botanicals to centre over the desk and relate to it. I also placed tape where the filing cabinet and lamp would be, for the same reason.
4. Decide what theme you want (I went with plants because I’m a landscape designer). Google “plants” or whatever it is you’re interested in to get deas. I’ve also collected photos of plants from gardening magazines over the years and my hoarding finally paid off.
5. Choose what style and colours you want. I could see the soft greenish-blue of our dining room beyond, so when I chose my colours, I made sure they all related.
6. I made a scale drawing of the wall that included the furniture that butted up to the wall. At this point, check to make sure the mural is the correct scale for the room, furniture and space – and make any adjustments.
7. I then placed pieces of tape in the locations I wanted to paint each plant.
8. I used a pencil to rough out each design. The pencil marks are usually covered over as you paint.
9. I used artists’ acrylics and brushes. I didn’t change the surface texture of the walls, but instead just went with it. I watered down my acrylics slightly and treated them more like watercolours.
10. Constantly stand back and check your work to see if it is the right size, colour and what you envisioned. Try something small to get the hang of it or just go for it.
Like I said, if you make a mistake, just paint over it with wall paint and try again. You’ve got nothing to lose. – The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.)/Tribune News Service/Dennis Peck and Marcia Westcott Peck
Marcia Westcott Peck is a landscape designer (mwplandscape.com/ Instagram: @pecklandscape), and Dennis Peck is a senior editor at The Oregonian/OregonLive.