Non-Profit Focused on Holistic Wellness
Alchemy Wellness was a non-profit that provided accessible holistic care through wellness practices and plant medicines. They offered a variety of wellness services to provide growth toward optimal wellness by reducing stress and increasing life fulfillment. Another side of the business was focused on medical cannabis research, education, and advocacy for the viability of cannabis as an alternative medicine.
In 2021, when Covid restrictions were beginning to lift, Alchemy Wellness co-owners Tessa and Sam were in search of an artist to enhance the 54 ft by 13 ft outside wall that runs the entire length of the building. The goal of the project was to highlight wellness through alchemy and alternative medicines. We connected online and it became clear that I was the right artist for the job. They chose me because I can tackle any subject matter and turn it into a clean, bold, and attractive design for any business.
Collaborating on the Design
Tessa had a particular vision in mind for the mural and wanted the four elements of alchemy (Fire, Air, Water, and Earth) to be at the forefront of the design. The entire mural was eventually designed around this concept. Tessa and I collaborated extensively on the design to make sure it aligned with her vision and fulfilled all of their needs.
Because of the wall’s length and the amount of imagery involved, I decided to break up the wall into sections, each section representing the different elements of alchemy, and I used circles and symmetry to create a focal point in the middle of the wall. In the first version of the design, an astronaut filled the middle circle along with Earth, stars, the alchemy symbol for Earth, and cannabis floating in the background. There were also cannabis plants on the outside sections. After collaboration and multiple revisions, we added four more planets along with the four alchemy symbols in the middle. The cannabis plants were replaced with lotus flowers to bring more feminine imagery to the design. The revisions strengthened the design and made it a perfect fit for Alchemy Wellness.
Discovering How Murals Are Made
Since this was my first large-scale mural, I began with a considerable amount of research. Researching questions like:
- How do I clean a wall?
- What are other artists’ techniques for transferring their designs onto a wall?
- Do you need to prime the wall before painting a mural?
- What kind of paint should I use to paint a mural?
- Which exterior paints can withstand 310 days of sunshine a year?
- How do I paint taller surfaces?
- What kind of ladder should I use for painting a mural?
- What supplies are needed for painting a mural?
I found the answers to these questions and learned so much more. The first steps involved pressure washing and priming the wall. Priming the wall was particularly difficult because of the wall’s crater-like texture, and it required using extreme force to push the exterior primer into the holes to act as a filler. While it was difficult to apply the primer in the beginning, it made it much easier later when applying the paint.
Bringing Digital to the Physical World
During the research phase, I uncovered many different methods of transferring the digital design to the physical wall. Some of the options included projecting the design, creating a grid, creating a “lazy grid” by drawing squiggles on the wall and using them as a reference, as well as free-handing the mural. The best option for this mural was to project the design on the wall and trace it, to ensure that the proportions were correct. To begin, the image needed to be split into three parts to properly fit and project the design on the wall. Projection sessions happened at night when it was dark enough outside to project the image on the wall. During one of these sessions, my assistant and I realized that if the wind was over 10 mph, the projector and ladder would become unstable and unsafe. This presented a challenge: it was spring, the windy season in New Mexico. It was at this time of year that we started projecting the mural onto the wall. We were able to project and trace the first section but had to adapt and start painting while we waited for a windless night to trace the other sections.
Adjusting to Challenges
It took a while to paint the whole mural as a result of multiple challenges. The biggest challenge was that this was my first mural and it was an extremely large size at 54 ft x 13 ft. I learned to be patient because painting a wall of this size requires a considerable amount of time. At the same time, I discovered ways to improve my speed and efficiency when painting, such as using a roller more often and effectively. It was a challenge learning how to paint outside in unpredictable weather conditions, working with imperfect wall textures, and navigating around a limited amount of working hours. There was also a guy wire attached to a utility pole which had to be projected and painted around as well as windows that had to be negotiated to avoid distorting the image. While working on this mural, I learned ways to readjust and modify my techniques to overcome these challenges.
A Stunning 54 Foot Mural
The end result was a bold, vibrant, and striking mural that incorporated the elements of alchemy, feminine imagery, and alternative medicines. Although there were a few obstacles along the way, I learned and adapted to successfully complete the project. The experience I gained while conquering challenges and painting this mural was invaluable and will help me in future projects. It was a wonderful experience collaborating with Alchemy Wellness on this massive project! We created a stunning mural that is enjoyed by many New Mexicans.