HED:Mural, mural on the wall
By Lena Mitchell
A painting on canvas becomes an extension of its creator, sometimes handed down through generations.
By contrast, paintings on walls and ceilings murals are generally perceived to be temporary art, something that will be painted over with a change in ownership, or simply a change in decor.
Artists who create murals that add a special element to a home are no less dedicated to rendering inspired results, whether the work is permanent or temporary.
Lost in island paradise
David and Deborah Ellis have been in their Tupelo home three years.
A 36-foot-long, 8-foot-high mural painted on the privacy fence surrounding their swimming pool has just been completed by friend and artist Gary Wright.
That painting is likely to be a factor that will tie them to the home as securely as the memories they are creating in it with son Phil, 17, and daughters Mandy Ellis and Candace Kemp.
They are fond of saying the scene depicted in the mural, reminiscent of a private stretch of Hawaiian beach, shows Candace relaxing in her beach chair, cool drink at her side, looking off into the sunset.
In the distance an invisible Mandy skims the ocean waters on her sailboard, and Phil strolls outside the frame along the shore.
Wright, a part-time art teacher at Belmont High School and full-time postal co-worker of Ellis’, says the scene started as “just a few palm trees” and grew.
“I started with something small an ocean, mountains, the sun and ideas of things to add just kept popping up,” he says. “David’s daughter on the beach, a bird, seagulls, plants to blend in at the end with the plants in the yard.”
Working with the enormous dimensions the painting required was nothing new for Wright. He guided his art students through conceiving and painting murals on all of the walls in the building they use for art classes on the Belmont campus.
“I have a wonderful principal, Johnny B. Moore, who let us paint every wall in that building,” Wright says. “I’ve got some students with talent that make my work look silly.”
Wright says that although he trained in college to become an art teacher, he was seeking a job during a time when there were deep budget cuts for humanities subjects.
“I really love teaching. I went to school four years then ended up at the post office,” he says. “It is something I’ve always wanted to do, and now that I’m able to do it part-time I see what I’ve missed.”
Working with Ellis on the mural gave Wright a chance to promote his philosophy that art is teachable.
He got Ellis to pitch in on a couple of occasions with a paint brush or more accurately a paint roller.
“When we moved in here my wife and I were talking about having maybe a couple of palm trees on that fence would look good,” Ellis says. “She asked me if I could do it, and I said ‘No, but I know somebody who can.’ I helped out a little with a touch here and a touch there.”
Altogether, about 40 hours of work went into the project, Wright says, two or three hours here and there over about a month’s time.
The work was a gift to the Ellises, in part a pick-me-up for Deborah who was recuperating from an illness.
Wright says he is willing to accept a few small commissions if people want him to do some work, but having a full-time job on the second shift and teaching two hours a day during the school year doesn’t leave him much time.
“I’m finally getting around to doing something for my wife at our house, and my next project is a mural in my grandson’s room,” Wright says.
Animals at play
Kittens, dogs, turtles and other four-legged visitors to the All Animal Hospital in Tupelo may not be able to appreciate the murals of Juliet the Himalayan cat on the exam room walls.
Most two-legged pet owners, however, will immediately recognize the painting of K.C., the practice cat who helps them through the time their pets are with the doctor.
“We wanted something that showed how we felt about our pets without advertising our affection for animals,” says veterinarian Timothy Fleming. “It turned out better than we could have hoped for.”
Kit White is the artist who has accomplished what they had in mind, immortalizing his home cat Juliet, and K.C., who lives at the office.
“She did a beautiful job,” he says. “We had seen some other vet hospitals in the past that had these and we hadn’t seen any locally. (White) came up with some of the concepts and we came up with others.”
The completed effect is several large and several small scenes decorating the walls of the practice’s waiting room and exam rooms.
White used very traditional-looking scenes of children interacting with animals, work that will remain fresh for years to come, Fleming says. “I thing they are timeless drawings. Ten years from now they will look like they do today.”
Cartoon fun at home
Two-year-old Carson Burcham, and his 3-year-old brother Wesley, can play with Winnie the Pooh, Tigger and friends whenever they like.
The characters are permanently enshrined on Carson’s bedroom walls in vivid color and life-size form.
Artist David Burcham, the boys’ uncle, says the project started out as a way to cover their scribbling on the walls with permanent markers.
“My sister-in-law Donna asked me to do something to cover it up, and this was the first time I ever attempted anything like that,” he says. “I learned from my mistakes on that project and it’s something I’d like to do more of.”
The size was a challenge for Burcham, but it was a challenge he met and overcame. “Donna went through some children’s books to find what she wanted. Then I drew a smaller size and projected it on the wall.”
Burcham is able to practice his art only part-time. Unlike Gary Wright, though, he feels being an artist full-time might take away his enjoyment of it.
“I’ve been drawing since I was little,” Burcham says. “I started making my own cartoons from Sesame Street characters and it went from there.”
Burcham is mostly self-taught, though he has taken some courses at Northeast Mississippi Community College. He works full-time at FMC in Saltillo.
“Since high school I guess I’ve done it on the side as a hobby,” he says. “I have done a lot of work around the area for different people. When I graduated high school in Baldwyn in 1987 I was asked to design the cover for the annual.
“For the past six or seven years I’ve created the T-shirt design for the Froglevel Festival in Baldwyn. Other than that, I’ve mainly done it as a gift for friends and family.”
Burcham and friend Sonny Lemmons, a Tupelo native living in Columbus, are collaborating on a comic book.
“He is a writer and we got together and came up with an idea for a comic book that we plan to publish ourselves,” Burcham says.
The artist in you
The trend to decorate with murals is regaining popularity, both as pictures on walls and as faux finishes, also called trompe l’oeil (fool the eye).
The depth that a mural adds to a wall often gives the illusion of more space. For example, a picture showing a path or road winding into the distance gives the image depth.
Commissioning an artist to pain a mural may not fit into every budget. Prices fall in the range of $15 to $25 per square foot and higher.
Pre-printed murals are available through many wallcovering retailers that are applied like wallpaper. An 8-foot-tall by 13-foot-wide mural usually sells for less than $100 and takes only a few hours to install.