At Kafka’s Coffee and Tea in Vancouver, Canada, not only do they serve damn good coffee, you’ll notice that the signature red front building is now a beautiful black/white work of art.
After 5.5 days of art production, 160 working hours, and veins full of delicious caffeine, we're proud to have wrapped up our latest mural piece at Kafka's Coffee and Tea as part of this year's inaugural Vancouver Mural Festival! Over the course of three weeks, more than 40 local and international artists created 35 brand new permanent murals all along Main Street between Prior St and 16th Ave. We’re pleased to have been invited to create one of these beautiful murals.
Before we begin
We've never painted a large mural outside before which gave us both a sense of exhilaration and fear. We carefully planned how to tackle such a big wall on one of the busiest streets in the neighbourhood. We began our mural installation having to remove the cafe's existing signage, then having to determine the best way to cover up the existing thick, oil red paint which covered the cafe. Painted over six years ago, the cafe's wall was due for a makeover to match the newly renovated interior decor of black, white, and silver.
Pushing our idea forward
First, we measured the walls and conceptualized the exterior of the cafe, all while sitting inside the cafe, drinking their delicious coffee. By knowing the proportions of the wall, we can prototype it, and answer questions that are sure to come.
Installing the artwork
Once we had measurements, we designed and created the artwork composition that would cover the wall, and carefully fit it into place.
Next, a thick oil-based white primer was applied with fat paint brushes and wide rollers. Since the existing red was very dark, we had to apply four thick coats of the white primer, then a matt finish white latex primer was applied. This process took over two days time and required 2-3 hours drying time between each coat. Finally, our efforts had left us with a fresh white canvas ready for patterns!
As the primer and white latex paint coat dry, we applied a thick, tar-like, oil-based black paint to the entrance door, and upper ledge stripe. This paint was extremely smelly given its industrial strength, so we hustled to apply it as quickly and carefully as possible. We selected this high-gloss black paint to match the black latex that we would use to create the patterns in the final design. It was great to have contrast between the glossy black shades, and matt white background.
Time for patterns
Given the location of this mural on Main Street, we were unable to transpose the original art to the wall using a projector. We overcame this challenge using an old-fashioned grid system, subdividing the horizontal space into 8 sections, and the vertical space into 15” sections. Then meticulously hand drawing in pencil before a paint layer was applied.
Once we began the initial pattern work, we quickly felt the challenges of painting latex over stucco and brick textures. There were many contours, angles, and bumps which had to be addressed with each paint stroke.
We had no choice but to quickly overcome any fears of working on high ladders! At 20’, we spent over 12 hours a day, for 3 days on extension ladders with standoffs to help with stability.
Given the heatwave Vancouver was having that week, the hours were long, the sun was hot, sweat streamed down our backs, and we overcame stages of mental and physical exhaustion.
With a deadline of August 20th quickly approaching, we had only hours remaining till the Vancouver Mural Festival. Once Kafka’s Coffee and Tea closed at 8:00pm on the Friday evening, we spent additional hours transposing and painting while bent over the roof of the cafe!
Light at the end of the tunnel
The next morning, we woke up at 5:30am so that we could arrive and begin painting at 6:30am for the remaining few hours before the festival began at 12:00pm. The sun had just peaked over the mountains, and the cool air quickly began to warm while we applied our final paint strokes early into the day.
Wrapping up the project at 10:00am, we left ourselves only a few short hours till the start of the Vancouver Mural Festival! Over 100,000 people were expected to attend during the day! We made it, time to relax.
After 5.5 days, 160 hours, and coffee-filled veins, we had finished the mural! Following our final paint strokes, our 'Pellvetica 2016' signature was applied to the top right-hand corner of the art, the vinyl 'Kafka's' decals were installed in the windows, the re-designed branded 'Kafka's' flags were hung, and we celebrated another successful mural installation!