In February 2019, the City of Guelph in Ontario, Canada issued a public Artist Call for mural artists to submit responses to their request-for-proposal (RFP). The goal was to add four new murals to their downtown core to brighten the area. A friend of ours promptly sent us the Artist Call and suggested that we submit a proposal, so we quickly jumped at the opportunity.
Two months later, we found out that we had been shortlisted to pitch artwork ideas for Site A: Market Side Wall (12.4’ x 5.8’ = 71.92 square feet). Feeling inspired, we got to work and completed a design that we felt confident in submitting to The City of Guelph.
Visiting the Site
The first step was to visit the site so that we could get a sense of the size of the wall and its environment. After we completed our measurements, we took notice of how small and short the wall was. Our main idea was to design an interactive mural that was similar in nature to past #KitsWings and #GaltWings murals. The small area definitely posed a challenge for us to find a universal centre for each person's height. A welcomed bonus was that we would be painting on panels rather than the wall itself. Painting on the concrete wall itself would have posed many new challenges we could now luckily avoid.
We love to go out for breakfast or coffee together to sketch and brainstorm our initial ideas. After one such lovely morning, we were excited to propose painting a gorgeously-detailed interactive Monarch butterfly wings mural. Admittedly, we were a little concerned about overusing a concept we've done in the past, but we also love to continue trying to improve fun ideas. The wall was the perfect location for a highly-interactive, viral “selfie” magnet that would soon become an attractive and memorable icon for the City of Guelph.
Why a Monarch butterfly? While endangered species like lions and elephants have grabbed global attention, the decreasing population of the Monarch butterfly was only very recently noticed. From the year 1990 on, around a billion Monarch butterflies vanished. Today in Ontario, Monarch butterflies have reached the “Special Concern” status, which means they still live in the wild, but they may become threatened or endangered due to a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats.
We would like to draw attention to the Monarch butterfly’s connection to Guelph agriculture. Our artwork is built on a balanced, and often symmetrical, grid foundation. Through an abstract design, our mural will emerge out of the gorgeous, highly-detailed, ornate pattern work. Each of the shapes used are inspired by natural repetition of patterns found in our world’s most beautiful cellular structures and textures.
When considering art for this space, we took into consideration how our Monarch butterfly mural would work within the social dynamics of the area. After spending time there and watching visitors engage with the space (and the nearby bench), we noticed that people from all walks of life spend time here. From young children, to seniors, to joggers, to mobility-restricted explorers, and beyond–this mural needs to become a place that is fully inclusive and accessible to everyone. Also, regardless of your height or mobility, our mural is designed in a way that it won’t be an issue. No matter who you are, by posing in front of butterfly wings–anyone can fly.
The final design is created to fit the boards that will be applied to the wall at the site. We can now use this design and proceed to the next phase of production with confidence. The great news is that this design is selected by the selection committee at the City of Guelph! The next phase of production can now begin!
Preparing the Panels
Shortly after large metal panels were shipped to our studio, we began meticulously sanding and priming them so that we could properly adhere exterior paints that survive all Ontario seasons. Our backyard became the perfect place to prepare the panels before they moved into our studio.
Let the painting begin!
After months of planning, it is finally time to paint the final art! The main luxury about painting on panels, aside from their amazing durability, was the ability to paint and prepare the artwork in our home studio, instead of on site. This is where the process got very exciting since we finally saw our vision come to life.
Thank you to Jen Rafter, the City of Guelph, the Applied Arts Grant (provincial) and Guelph City Hall!
More photos to follow in the spring and summer!