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60-FT BUILDING MURAL PROCESS: "AGE OF THE COOL PEOPLE"

This archive diary from artist, Storm Ritter, dates from January 1st to February 3rd 2022, with periodic updates throughout the production. Follow her process in this archive and view the full coverage in the portfolio.








ARTIST DIARY

by STORM RITTER


 

ARCHIVED PROCESS
January 1 - 10, 2022

Starting off this divine year with an estimated 60 ft. mural on a side of a building in Downtown Dunedin, Florida. The location of the painting will be the side of the eccentric and historical bar/nightclub, Blur. Last year in 2021, I painted The Cool People wall inside, so it's serendipitous to be working there again in 2022. Honored to showcase my work in such a brilliantly eccentric and unique town. Huge thanks to and love for Kathy, Dan, and Virgil of The Blur for giving me the canvas of the century! And of course, endless gratitude for Lisa Sampietro of Dorky Daisy Photography, who shot GoPro and digital photo content, daily.

Preparing for the project, I've been creating a series of conceptual layouts. The design is broken down into four parts: The Earth, The Sun, The Star, & The Moon. I want the piece to have a magical, otherworldly feel; evoking a joyful, colorful, and ethereal sensation. And, it's a huge treat it feature my motif of The Cool People to share a glimpse into their world.


My 2021 work has roots in the esoteric, tarot, and zodiac, so the mural will infuse imagery from my current fine art series, Realm of The Cool People. And with my theatrical scenic painting history, I'm not a newbie to painting large-scale spaces. From 2015-18, I was a manic painter inside my two-story NYC clothing/art storefront, Storm Ritter Studio, where I painted, floor to ceiling. So, this is such a thrillingly fun project to embark on!


I've been lucky to spend an extended time in Dunedin to focus on the mural. Velvet and I had the opportunity to set up a siesta studio to finish new pieces, including The World. Alas for my studio cat, she is truly heartbroken not to be riding in the lift, but I promised to sneak her into the painting. I dedicated time in December to make stronger drafts of the mural. On raw wood, I constructed three progressive versions of the mural design. All are excellent process archives and will be used as guides for me to create, with a plethora of ideas to jump off from. The final draft will be the main source of composition. At the competition of the mural, all three will be available for purchase, as well as art prints.


 

First Draft

- 18 x 48 inches, on wood -

Right off the bat, I wanted to created an environment before establishing a story. With elements from a past pieces, like Zodiac Rising, and composition of Morning Masquerade, I roughly starting building a world. Subtle elements started to birth, but lots to develop. A magical mood is nicely coming together. A basic idea, but fabulous jumping off points.



Second Draft

- 11.5 x 24 inches, on wood -

This second draft was done shortly after the first to re-adjust scale and placement of the elements. Playing with colors a bit more, I took note to what to re-construct for balance in the third draft. The more the concept is painted out, the easier it will be to visualize it in larger scale. There's an organic nature needed when painted, so as long as I have my landmark moments locked down, more detail and story will bloom. Still wasn't 100% on the undeveloped lay-out, so on to another version.



Third (Final) Draft

- 18 x 48 inches, on wood -

This is the final mock-up for composition, adding new small elements from past paintings, Frolicking Foliage For Fools with dancing flowers, Gemini Moon with the pearl, Gemini Games with an checkered egg, a balloon, and surrealist sun, The Star with pouring water and detailed pirate ship, Wheel of Fortune with surrealist faces as people, and The Hierophant with the divine crown. The mermaid concept was re-constructed to change the layout of the land. With the column in the center of the building, I wanted to make sure it was balanced with an abyss essence at the bottom center. The intent of the mural is to showcase a surreal world of mysticism and beauty. Luckily the wall has rectangular sections, so as long as I follow the placement of the main concepts, I am free to organically paint. I rather not project onto the wall, but us my brushes as my guide.



- References -

After the general layout was established, I still wanted to plan deeper with additional specific references from past paintings 2020-21. The three rough mock-ups created include "anchor moments" in each of the four panels, meaning, I have my landmarks to develop the composition. But there is a requirement for more hyper detail and storytelling in all elements. So, these cropped images are key moments that would seamlessly marry the mural's story together. I would prefer to use my own reference images during the mural process.



 

January 10-12, 2022

- Paint Prep -

Choosing the color palette is always challenging as most of my work is created in an organic nature. I planned out the paint strategically by concept: water, land, figures, magic elements. I use gold more than white in blending and mix my colors directly as I work on canvas/clothes/wood, etc. So, it's still a generous palette with opportunity to create countless additional colors on location. The rough mock-ups are painted with my stock of leather paint, so my palette was not as open as I would have liked, as I am away from my NYC studio materials. But choosing the paint for the mural was a gas as I can see the potential for intense color combos.



In preparation, all brushes, sponges, rags, buckets, etc. were acquired for the project. Typically mural artists can use spray paint or rollers, plus project on the wall or paint by grid system. But, I'm approaching the mural as a scenic painter with old school rogue values. Obviously I prepared quite a bit, but there's a honesty and beauty about painting on-location that I don't want to lose. And music is a massively important friend in such creation. You can listen to my go-to mural playlist on Spotify. Lots of The Who, Mama Cass, Joplin, Hendrix, Nina Simone and The Monkees, just to name a few.


 

- Day One -

Jan. 13, 2022: Started mid day on Wednesday, and it took quite some time to learn the lift. It's like a circus ride, I swear. But, by the 6pm, I felt so much more confident moving and grooving. Love to hang on a hammock on the bottom and live there. Kidding, but not really. Game plan is to create the environment and layout first. Just a primary layer of color gradations. Started painting around 2pm, so half day of painting.







- Day Two -

Jan. 14, 2022: Starting 8:30am and working until 6/6:30pm, it's feeling good. Next two days, worked on painting the water and the land. Laborious work but so enjoyable. My set-up is so accommodating and grateful for the assistance from the team at Blur and my dad, Tim. Paint brush cleaning and daily break down is a bitch! When I start really painting the full story, it will be easier to work into the night, as I have a light source on my lift! Definitely a labor or love. Build the world, then add the soul!





- Day Three -

Jan. 15, 2022: Continuing the land/earth and expanding the composition. Beautiful weather and many visitors. A positive and productive day. Time to start planning the second layers of dimension on water/land too.




- Day Four -

Jan. 16, 2022: It's rainy and blustery outside this morning, but itching to get back down there! The paint of course is dry and safe. Due to the weather, I waited it out, but still ended up going down to help trim the tree near the right side of the building and start adding on more land/face shape. Painted a couple hours then called it quits due to the high winds and rain. Blur is right by the Gulf of Mexico, so the wind tunnel was more than expected when up high!




- Day Five -

Jan. 17, 2022: Thankfully a gorgeous day although a bit chilly for FL! Next up today is the main anchor of the red sun and portal door. Initially designing the wall, this was the first concept I put in place due to the existing window frame. Each step is crucial to ensuring that the sizing is correct for the following pieces. After the sun and door frame were added, the first three Cool People were born! Extremely happy with their size and emotion. Sketched in the castle placement as well. I'm using nautical gold paint, which is highly toxic and quite permanent, so it's important larger images are shaped out first in exterior paint before adding the gold boat paint.






- Day Six -

Jan. 18, 2022: Sharpened up the castle, placing another red circle into the composition. Repeated images and colors are always in 3's (yellows), 5's(blues), 6's (reds), etc. Numbers appear as colors so I often use those as guides when I create compositions. There's a madness to my balancing technique, but it's all in my head. Added in the anchor of The Star, and couldn't be happier! So far, the concepts are lining up nicely with the mock-up yet still feeling organic.