To see the whole shebang please watch the film by Josh Berman/Level1 its on my film page
WHEN EVO INVITED FACTION TO FIX UP IT’S NEW DENVER STORE WITH A MURAL, I COULDN’T GET ON A PLANE FAST ENOUGH. ADAPTING MY DESIGN WITH A LOVE OF STREET ART, TO CREATE AN ORIGINAL MURAL ON A MASSIVE SCALE.
FROM FIRST DESIGNS TO THE FINAL BRUSH STROKE, READ ABOUT MY EXPERIENCE IN A NEW CITY AND STEPPING UP TO THIS CREATIVE CHALLENGE!
Arrival in Denver
I decide to go straight to sleep when I get to my hotel so I’m ready to face the day tomorrow. I’m pretty nervous about the whole thing. New place, new people, and a new MASSIVE wall to paint on. These projects come with their own characteristics. Pressure, expectation, adaption, publicity. But I’ve prepared the best I can, trying to familiarise myself with the techniques I’ll have to use to adapt the original artwork to a grand scale, and also with the thick exterior paint I’ll be using (rather than the fluid materials I’m used to).
There are some good people behind this project so with a bit of luck and some hard work I’m hoping that I can quickly find my feet and let the process evolve.
Day 1. Heights and Pot Heads
Today went really well. But now I’m laid in bed at 5am with jet lag/ bodyclock mash-up so it seems a good time to reflect on yesterday. I met Dave, Faction’s Colorado team member. We had fun cruising around in the Faction van collecting last minute supplies while the scaffolding got erected. Dave is a total legend and helped massively with the initial drawing up of the grid, which I had underestimated. I don't know if it was the pot fumes coming from the medicinal cannabis centre next door or the skinny ladder up to the sky that made my head go funny, but I had a brain freeze when it came to measuring out the dimensions. I eventually got used to the height and the swimming sensation of the top platform and settled into drawing in the outlines. Especially when the day sank and a beautiful pink sunset floated above the distant mountains.
I have a love hate relationship with the scaffold. It is both exciting and scary. Theres a point right at the top end where I have to reach into space. My brain rejects this. I try to employ the mental tactics I use when navigating the narrow paths that wrap around the summits of Verbier like flimsy ribbons, but I can hear the scaffolding shaking below me and it sounds like a taunting rattle snake. This is all part of the ingredients that make up the challenge though. It isn’t supposed to be easy. A big part of painting a mural is managing how confrontational it is. It’s not just about the finished piece, which will hopefully be pleasing. The art is a product of accomplishment and a reminder to get outside your comfort zone and live a little more.
Day 2. “Be at one with the wall”
…So said the guy with three fingers. I have experienced America’s homeless situation before, so it’s no shock to see so many people living on the street, but it still saddens my heart. I constantly hear the slow shuffle of the hobos as they walk past my wall. They walk at a different pace to the rest of society and without turning around I know they are passing by, pulling their half broken suitcases behind them. This morning I was at the wall for first light. It was quiet, apart from a drifter in bright red sneakers carrying a boom box! He walked around in circles and I wondered what I would say to him if he approached me. Artists usually seem like common ground for most people, we offer easy talking points that most people can connect to. I tell red sneaker guy that I’m just trying to make a living doing something I love. He seems pleased with that answer and swaggers off down the alley.
Later, a guy with three fingers came by. He shouted up to me…“Be at one with the wall!” “I’m trying!” I said. He looked intently and described every part I was painting. “I’m glad you can see it all”, I said. “Sure, I can” he replied. “I am your visionary”, and with that he shuffled away with his suitcase.
Painting the mural, I become invisible to the public. You would think it would be the other way round, that I would be on show. But I seem to blend into it, and being out there all day I witness the full rhythm of society that passes by.
Day 3. Don’t dump at the dumpster!
Another early start. I love being up at dawn. Evo have loaned me a bike for the week and I bike to and from the wall as the sun rises and sets. Because I start work before the store’s opening hours, I have to stash my paint somewhere overnight. The only available place is in the recycle dumpster. After a very idyllic cycle to work, my ‘chuffty badge’ was crushed when I went to collect my paint and found a huge human poo in the unit! I need a new hiding place.
I put the poo out of my mind and make the long accent to the top of the scaffold with my gear. Each day I have a target of what I need to achieve in order to make the deadline on Friday. I’m basically working a straight 12-hour day, with a couple of little breaks which I take at Tony’s Market. I love how they wrap my sandwich up like a present
At 7pm I”ve reached my target so decide to call it a day. I wave bye to my new buddies assembling under the sidewalk trees – Mike “aka St Louis” because “…there’s too many Mikes around here”, and the guy that whizzes round on the electronic wheelchair, a step up from a wheelie suitcase. As long as they don't poo near my paint, we’re all good.
Day 4. Keep it legal
I’m feeling quite at home here now. All the Evo staff are making me feel very welcome, and I especially like Milly, the resident shop dog. I’ve got a little routine going on and, let’s face it, once you source where to get your lunch, you feel like you've become a local. I’ve been doing well at completing my daily checklist, but today I fell a little short so Dave is going to organise some flood lights so I can paint after dark. Usually Id be anxious about meeting the deadline, but I have had so much fun doing the graffiti sections that I came back to my digs chuffed with the progress. I love street art so much, I think I could happily become a drifter myself and just wander around with my spray cans and paint brushes... painting on anything that doesn’t move. However, I am a mother and a wife as well as an artist, so I’ll have to keep my art within the legal boundaries.
Day 5. Vigil
I’m starting to become a living embodiment of my art work. This isn’t down to fact that I’m wearing most of my paint on my clothing now, but that the original inspiration behind the art is reflecting my life here. For this year’s ski designs, I had been motivated by the need to connect with nature whilst living in an urban environment. Back home I’m currently living in the suburbs and it’s scary how you can quickly morph into your surroundings. Creating art always get me psyched, and pulls me back to my centre. Living in a place where consumerism is rife, it’s easy to start to find comfort in material things and a surface existence. When I’m near nature, I care less about stuff, and more about experience. Here at the wall, I am fully focused on what I’m doing and every waking moment is spent emerged in being creative. The subject of my work holds me close to the distant mountains and I’m at the mercy of the elements working outdoors 12-14 hours a day. This experience has woken something up in me that has been sleeping since I left Verbier, and of this I’m grateful because it’ll keep burning away inside of me like a personal vigil once I return to my family.
Day 6. An incident
So today was eventful. I got robbed. A brief summary of what happened is that I was working up on the scaffolding and a nutter decided to climb up onto platform and take my rucksack. At first I thought he was coming to maybe tell me something, and I was confused as to why he was up here. But he had a lifeless look in his eyes, like he had removed himself emotionally from the situation and he walked over to my bag and picked it up. I quickly realised what was happening and pleaded with him to leave if alone as it had my art stuff in. I couldn’t make out fully what he was saying, but I got enough to know that I should let him be as he wasn’t going to let me stop him. It was a very creepy and sinister experience as he moved almost ghost-like amongst my stuff and it still gives me the shivers now when I think about it. Losing my money and some personal belongings was annoying, but not the end of the world. I was gutted he got the bag though as it was our family rucksack – a checkered, old Vans bag that we use at home to ferry all our daughter’s clobber in, so it annoys me that he got her bag. The other blow was that he got my sketch books… books I’d been working in for a year now, building up ideas and notes for all my past and present work. (Luckily everything I needed for painting the mural was backed up on my phone).
I’ve had things stolen from me before, and when something’s taken from you with no warning, it’s always bracing as you feel the full force of what meaning your possessions have. I own many things that are superficial and replaceable, but these days I try to only buy what I need and therefore these things get imbued with meaning and memories.
Day 7. A dilemma
I wasn’t going to write about this next bit, as I felt that if I made something out of the act it’d take away it’s honesty. Each morning, as I’ve been cycling to work, I’ve been dropping breakfast parcels off next to the sleeping homeless people. I’ll be honest, it scared me to do it. I wasn’t sure how someone might feel about me intruding into their world, but I felt determined that I couldn’t ignore them and go about my business pretending that they weren’t there. When I got robbed, it totally freaked me out and therefore created a dilemma in my head. Although I’d felt weary putting myself in close proximity of people I didn’t know if I could trust, I grasped the nettle and did it anyway. Buoyed by that confidence you get when you feel fortunate and happy. After having an experience that showed me the crueler side of human nature, I was rethinking about continuing with my morning deed.
But here’s the thing. Do you let isolated negative experiences influence what you do in the grander scheme of things? Maybe that’s how you fight the good… fight by pushing through the bad stuff to reach the positive.
I have met a lot of crackpots whilst at the wall, but it’s been enriching and taught me more about life. A full life is often scary, but I’d chose that over a sheltered one any day.
Day 8. The end
Today is the last day. I fly home tonight. I have managed to reach my painting targets, mainly due to the last two night sessions that Dave set up. Ever resourceful, he came armed with lights and a guard dog (the brilliant Dango) who kept watch over us as night fell, and even some thermals to keep me functioning! I have only the finishing touches to put on the mural before I get to add the Faction logo and my name to claim it complete.
This has been one of those experiences that adds a layer to your being. It’s something I will remember and hopefully build on in the future. What started as being outside my comfort zone, soon turned into the place I wanted to be. I shall return home happy, and with a much broader horizon.
Thank you to everyone involved with this project, I feel very fortunate that our paths have crossed.
I am chuffed to say that by donating my fee and having Faction and evo match the amount we have raised over $8000 for Save the Children charity!
Faction: Tony, Harriet, Jesse, Dave, Dango
EVO: Chris, Jordan, all the radical guys and girls in the shop, Milly
Sara @ Denver Paint
Freeskier Magazine and Level 1: Josh and Zach
Here's the link to their blog post
All my new friends at Tony’s Market who kept me going with cups of tea and lemon cooler cookies.