Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Murals being made, part 44: Cyfi's first of 2017

You've seen a number of murals by Rock Martinez around Tucson. His best-known here in town is probably the huge one (more than 50 feet high) along Sixth Avenue near Stone; you can see it in progress last year in (Downtown) Murals being made, part 34: Rock Martinez.

Last spring, I met Rock (who also goes by Cyfi) at the Downtown Mural Project design open house. I always like to meet artists — especially because many artists don't sign their murals, but also to get a chance to talk with them and get to know them a bit. A lot of artists have seen this blog that I (and now David Aber) have done for more than ten years.

When I met Rock and mentioned my blog, he said something like “So you're the person who does that blog. I've gotten so much work from the blog that I'd like to paint you a mural!” It didn't take me long to say yes, but I thought a while. How about painting in a public area of my housing complex so everyone could enjoy it? After a while, though, I realized that the long white wall around my patio would look soooo good with one of Rock's murals on the inside. So my maintenance man scraped and painted with the sealer that Rock recommended: DryLok latex waterproofer. It contains Crystalline Silica, which helps mural paint grab the wall.

I waited the better part of a year for Rock to have time to paint my little mural. He'd texted me while he was painting Murals being made, part 41: Cyfi’s Día de los Muertos and invited me over to watch. By that time, I had a good idea of the style and subject matter I'd like. His much older mural Angelic mural on Santa Barbara had a beautiful view of the Catalinas on a cloudy day. I told him I'd like something not too abstract, but that otherwise he should just do what he wanted to. He stopped by to take a few photos of the empty wall with his phone.

We normally don't show murals in private homes, places the public has to pay to enter, and so on. But this mural was special enough, and I had such a close-up view, that Rock agreed I could take photos as long as I showed him as he painted, not full-face. (Also, if you happen to know where this mural is, please respect my privacy and don't spread the word! Thanks.)

On January 10, he had time to paint. He came over with a few cans of spray paint from the big collection he'd brought in his car and started experimenting to find the right palette.
After some experimenting, he came up with every color (except the saguaro he added at the very end). You can see them below, in shade and sun:

(The mural is on north- and east-facing walls, so parts of it often are in shade.)

On the 11th, he came over for a day of painting. He'd sprayed a bit of the orange color from the can onto a piece of cardboard, then took it to a paint store for them to make a gallon of color-matched wall paint. At 9:30, he'd sketched out the skyline from a design Photoshopped onto a photograph of the blank wall. Here's a photo I took while he was comparing:

(I've masked out a personal item that was just below the lowest "valley" between Rock and the saguaro sculpture. A bit of his original line was lost, sorry.)

I think I remember that, while Rock was painting one of his earlier murals, he — unlike some other artists who project the mural onto the wall at nighttime, or who "scale up" a sketch onto the wall — he doesn't draw much on the wall before he starts painting big areas of color, referencing his digitally-created version for guidance (but not the final word).

Twenty minutes later, he'd finished the skyline and spray-painted the sky. Next, Rock rolled the rest of the white wall with orange paint. In another half hour, around 10:20 (by the way, I'm getting these times from my camera; I didn't use a stopwatch :) he was feathering the edge between the sky and mountains with spray paint. After the photos below, he realized that spraying a slightly different shade of blue at the top of the mountains would make the mountains stand out from the sky, and I saw right away that it was true:

As he worked, he'd hold up his postcard-sized Photoshopped mock-up of the wall and paint the shady valleys in blue — with, as you'll see later, some deeper blue areas. So the orange parts stood out as sunny. In the first photo below is the mural an hour and a half later, just after noon. You can see that, after adding some yellow highlights to the orange, he's working on adding details of the lighter blue around 2:20:

When I stood close to the mural, it still looked pretty abstract to me. Unless I stood back in the corner where I took the previous photo, it looked mostly like blobs of color to me. Rock fixed that the next day. Actually, it was Friday the 13th (which really was my lucky day!).

At 10 am, he showed me his computer tablet with a photo he'd incorporated into his sketch. Here he could see a lot of detail that didn't show up well in a 4x6" print:

The sky looked plain. He decided to add some diaphanous clouds (thin clouds made of ice) in a color I didn't expect — until I saw it was just right:

A bit later, he was starting to wrap up. But I think something nagged at him that had also bothered me: The mountains still didn't feel “solid” enough; they felt a bit abstract, with long bands of orange at the bottom. Rock thought of adding saguaro, and that was perfect. (He had to leave to buy the perfect shade of green.) Around 12:15, he was adding saguaro:

Unfortunately, I put that big object of mine in front of the mural before I snapped a final photo that I can show you. (Actually, Rock arranged the patio, and a potted prickly pear as well as the simple holiday Saguaro (minus its strings of lights), to make the whole patio feel balanced. Here's the right end before Rock moved the steel saguaro closer to the camera:

And, around 12:45, that was it!

In the sunshine, the whole place just glows.

As Rock worked, I'd been sick. A few days later, he called to ask how I was feeling. He also sent me a list of the colors he'd used in case I ever need the mural repaired. What a great artist — and a gentleman! I usually wouldn't “pitch” an artist here on the blog, but I've always liked his work and I'm honored to have some of it to admire every day.

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