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Mural Mural on the Wall

Turn your favorite painting into a larger-than-life mural

It's a typical morning in our household: Our 2 1/2-year-old, Asa, is up with the sun, puttering around his crib and chatting with the aviary on his nursery wall. "Purple," we hear. Louder: "Yellow." "Orange." Then he hits his high point and shrieks, "Hello, birds!" Before Asa was born, my husband and I knew we wanted him to wake up to vivid colors and fun shapes. We just didn't know we'd be waking up to them too.

The mural came about because we were smitten with artist Gale Kaseguma's painting , and wanted it to loom large in Asa's room. Neither one of us is innately crafty, but my husband's artist cousin, Erin Butler, helped us develop a step-by-step way to re-create a simple version of the painting and assured us that even we could pull it off. Armed with paint and pizzas, we set to work. By the end of the weekend, we had a bumper crop of jelly beans. (Of course, if you want to do this with a piece of art, you'll need to get the artist's permission first.)

Portrait of the Artist

In the happy, vibrant world of Gale Kaseguma, the trees sprout candy and stars swim next to the fish. Kaseguma originally made art for grown-ups, but got into kids' paintings seven years ago when she created one for her newborn son. She cuts shapes from all kinds of paper — vintage, tissue, Japanese — then layers them with acrylic paint in a process she says is "very much like playing." (Prints from $140, kidmodern.com)

How We Did It

Materials

  • Transparencies ($16 for a pack of 100, office supply stores or officedepot.com)
  • Overhead projector (Borrow it from your school, rent one [$49 a day, rentquick.com], or try the Gagne Mini-Sketch [$54, madisonartshop.com].)
  • Blue painter's tape ($5 a roll, hardware stores or misterart.com)
  • Mylar sheets, matte on one side (50¢ a sheet, art supply stores or pearlpaint.com)
  • Fine-point Sharpie
  • X-Acto or stencil cutter
  • Sea sponges or large curved grout sponges ($2 each, hardware stores or misterart.com)
  • Water-based craft paint ($2 a bottle, art supply stores or misterart.com)
  • Palette for paint (disposable plates work fine)

Instructions

  1. Choose your picture and secure artist permission if copyrighted. Bold geometric designs with large shapes in repetitive patterns work best.
  2. Copy the image onto a transparency. (Most copy shops can do this for about 75¢ each; bring your written permission.)
  3. Place the transparency on your overhead projector, and project the image on the wall exactly where you'll eventually paint it.
  4. Use blue tape to stick Mylar sheets to wall, matte side facing out, to cover the area where the image is projected. (Posterboard will work too.)
  5. Now trace the image onto the Mylar using the Sharpie; this will be your stencil. You don't need to trace the entire image at once. If you have a simple image with many repeating elements, you just need to trace each element one time. For our tree, we made one stencil for a leaf, five of the colored "jelly beans" (for variety), one for the basic branch shape, and a few different-sized branches and blades of grass. The birds had more stencils: one for the eye, one for the wing, one for the overall shape, and so on.
  6. Take down the Mylar sheets and, using your X-Acto or stencil cutter, cut out the inside of your traced shapes. Remember to cut on something you won't mind damaging — a self-healing mat or some cardboard. Make sure you leave your projector in place; once your stencils are cut, you'll put them over the projected images to paint.
  7. Tape your stencils, matte side down, onto the wall so they line up with the image. Your stencils are building blocks, so you won't have the entire wall covered with stencils at once. You'll put up one stencil, paint, then move it to the next area with the same pattern.
  8. If you have overlapping images, you'll want to paint the "background" image first. For the tree, the branches were painted first, then the overlapping leaves or jelly beans. The smaller and lighter the element, the later you'll paint it.
  9. Once your stencil is up, use a damp sponge dipped in craft paint to fill it in. (Make sure it's not too wet — you don't want the paint to drip. Try sponging on a piece of paper first.) Repeat with all of your stencils until you've completed the image.
  10. That's it! Stand back and admire your work.

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