Posted by: jeanne | July 8, 2017

done with one mural, on to the next

this post is mainly so jim can see what has become of our collaboration.

when i say i’m done, i mean i’m mostly done.  i still don’t like the lightning bolts that i added at the last minute, so i’ll be back on the ladder at some point.  but i signed it for myself and jim.  it only lacks a few aforementioned adjustments, and a coat of varnish.  and maybe some signage on another panel so that people coming from the other direction will have something to catch the eye.

this mural is the most complete of all the ones i will do here in olafsfjordur this summer.  it didn’t take as long as the troll of iceland, which basically took me the whole month i was here in 2014.  this one took two weeks, minus the few rainy days when i couldn’t work, and i finished it on the full moon – today.

jim made the drawings, based on photos of the family that owns kaffi klara, but he had drawn the troll woman before he got any references, and it didn’t look anything like ida.  it was rather scary and ugly, as trolls tend to be (so the tradition goes), and i ended up changing it several times,


and then scrapping jim’s drawing of her face for one i did of ida, and it worked much better.

the process was simple – take the drawings jim left me and mark out a grid on them, based on the dimensions of the wall area.


then chalk up the walls in the same grid, sized appropriately, and draw the figures in according to where they are in each square.

the next step is to paint in the outlines, quickly just to get them up before it rains and washes the chalk off – i was successful more often than not with this, but did have to redraw the grid once or twice.


after the contours were all in, i found a bunch of house paint in the storage shed in back of the main art residency building, and transferred it all to the back of my alice’s car, where it stayed until the end.  i was very careful to go slow and steady whenever i moved the car, so there would be no chance of a nasty paint spill in the back.  that would have been terrible.  but nothing like that happened.  i was careful also to remove the paint from the car before opening, stirring, or mixing.  no use chancing it…


what did happen was a slow leak in one of the tires on my alice’s car, which i kept filling at the gas station (free!), but finally it was too flat to drive it the few blocks to fill it.  so i walked up to kaffi klara and told ida my predicament, and asked if her family had a jack i could use (i couldn’t get the jack out of its hidey place in the car).  ida looked at me like i was crazy, and called mulatindur, our local auto mechanics (wonderful people – i’m doing my next mural there), who drove down, took the wheel, fixed the flat, and put it back on while i was painting.


the mural proceeded by fits and starts – including painting out the entire first troll woman in the middle of the process because she was too stumpy and short, stretching the sketch out and repainting her longer.


connor and his friend having fun doing dangerous things


then there was laying in the body color, adjustments to colors (painting out with white and putting in a new color), skin tones (a few phases of that, ending with a lot of layers of scumbled and rubbed in reds, browns, whites, grays and yellows), highlights and shadows, and then restating the black contour lines.







in the middle of painting ida got a shipment of aprons from a friend of hers, and they were so beautiful that i decided to paint them in, which meant painting over everybody’s skirts.




but it was a real improvement, and tied everything in.  then i decided to continue the figures all the way to the ground, where i had started them 6″ off the ground.  and then i found the baby floating in the air, so i had to draw a stool under him.


the final part takes the longest.  it’s where all the details come in.  the hair with its strands and multi colors, filling in the colors of the eyes and the mouths, putting a little rosiness into the cheeks, making the hands look less like claws.  and then the smoke and steam coming out of the cauldron the troll woman stirs.

in the middle of this last bit, we decided ida’s portrait should be substituted for the botched evil troll face, so i took a photo of her without her glasses, went home and photoshopped it into jim’s sketch.


then i slapped a new layer on top and drew the contours of ida’s face, distorting it to fit.  i painted over the features, and started over with chalk, then black paint, then a million layers of colors, blending them in with my hands before the acrylic dried (i hate acrylic for that very reason).


but in the end it kind of looked like her, and kind of didn’t look evil anymore.  ida and barni came out and had a look at the finished mural, and bjarni pointed out something about the mouth on the baby.  it wasn’t red like everybody else’s mouth.  so i fixed that.  that’s one of our jokes, jim’s and mine.  when you show a portrait to the patron, they always find something wrong with the mouth.  i figure he’ll laugh out loud when he reads this.



all the time i was working on the mural, people would slow way down driving past the cafe.  and i talked to a gaggle of americans today who told me the mural was the reason they stopped to have coffee and wander around the town, instead of driving straight thru the way most tourists do.  that was very gratifying to hear, because the main point of my putting all these murals up is to make the town just a little more memorable, and enticing people to stop and enjoy its beauty for a little while.  it’s not my intention to turn this town into a tourist trap.  after all, it’s a place of great natural beauty, where nature-lovers are welcome.  it’s not a tourist trap.  the gift shop here only has handmade items for sale, and not a chinese-made troll or trinket in sight.  they’d like to keep it that way, and i totally agree.


on the strength of the troll murals on her wall, ida has organized a troll festival for next saturday.  the town is going to be very crowded that day, as the families of kleifar come for their annual reunion, swelling the town’s population by at least 100 adults and many millions of kids.  she’s planning a bouncy house, those round balls you can roll around on the lake inside, face painting, live music, some sort of troll treasure hunt, ice cream and cotton candy, troll soup (we’ll see what that is), and lots of food to eat.  i put out a call to our artists, and they will be helping with the face painting, and offering several art workshops.  they’ll be closing off the street, and i’m sure it’ll be a big hit.  i’m really excited.  i wonder how to paint a troll face







Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: