Friday, July 15, 2011

Living in the Material World

The alternate universe to the usual day to day running of my online shops and selling to stores across the country, is doing murals.

It's like another world, where i'm bizarro Superman and everything is backwards.

You go into people's homes and stand in front of a blank wall, and suspending time and fear, you begin to paint. The first couple of times that i did this i thought , as i was painting "Am I insane? What if i make a mistake? What if they hate it? You can't erase a wall!! I need to leave..if I just go out the door, they can't make me come back.." Once the screaming in my head subsided, I was able to finish. But the fear is always there..You're in someone's home..the most private space there is in their world, and what you do is something that they will have to live with and you better get it right.

One of the first murals i ever did was for a couple that had just had their first baby..they asked me to a John Lennon themed wall in their nursery with his whimsical characters. I agreed to do it in one day because they were having a party the next day (people do this ALL the time!) I told them the price, gave them a sketch and the next weekend, began the job..I got there at 7 am and painted thru lunch til 5:30, and they loved it. The mom handed me an envelope and the husband helped me load my car and we hugged and said goodbye and just before i drove away, i looked in the envelope..there was $25 in it!! I laughed, thinking that it was a joke and walked up to the house and rang the bell.."Very funny," i said laughing and the mom said "why?"

"Well you gave me $25 and we agreed on $500" "NO" she said I never would have paid that kind of money.." (Lesson #1..after that job, i learned to always get the estimate signed and half the balance before i started work) After about 40 minutes of my yelling and embarassing her in front of their neighbors and the husband threatening to have me arrested and me threatening to go in and paint the wall black..they threw $200 at me and slammed the door.

Once when i was painting a mural, the mom said "You're almost finished..I have to go to the ATM to get the rest of your money..the baby is sleeping and i'll just be gone 10 minutes" before I could say "no!!!", she left and of course the baby (who was two) got up and seeing me and no mommy started to scream and continued for the next hour and a half until mommy came back from her mani/pedi..i charged her an extra $100 for babysitting.

I was painting two rooms in a beautiful house for two exceptionally, physically obnoxious twins..i don't say this lightly..these devil children terrorized me the entire time i was there, smacking me in the back, throwing around my supplies, as the mom said "aren't they adorable?"..finally i had to barricade myself in one of the rooms and threaten not to finish the job unless she took them out of the house. When she had her third child and asked me to come back, i was too afraid to go..really afraid..of two 7 years was like the Omen.

One job, a very detailed transportation themed 4 wall job had to be done over a weekend. The morning of the first day, the husband and wife started to fight..he was cheating, she was crazy, she was cheating, he was paranoid..yelling, breaking dishes and then one of them would come in "Do you need anything? Water? Coffee?" And then they'd start again..the first afternoon, she came to me for some therapy..crying while I painted ..what should she do? I 've sort of touched on how hard it is to create in someone's home, and to be able to focus and bring their vision to's even harder when you are giving advice to a stranger..even harder when the husband comes into the room and makes a pass at you from behind while you are painting a helicoptor, (which became a hot air balloon, 'cause my brush went nuts)

Or the time that i started to paint a Pooh mural for a young couple and the mom asked if she could watch.."Sure" i said even tho it's a little difficult to concentrate with someone sitting behind you , asking questions about why you're using that big brush instead of the little one and wouldn't it be better if the blue was yellow and why is Pooh bigger than Piglet? At one point, I turned around and there were 5 people in the room, eating , drinking coffee and watching me..and then her mother -in - law said "Why are you paying this woman to paint? We could have gone to Target and gotten some stickers"
Of course , there have been clients that welcomed me and cooked for me and treated me like where i have painted rooms for each new child and repainted as they outgrew their nurseries and became big kids. And those are outstanding memories, just like my more "unusual" clients.

Sitting here at the computer it suddenly feels good to be safe in my Omen twins, or babysitting, or audience, or backache, or husband ambush....but in spite of the basic insanity of mural work, it's very special to be able to create the vision that some one sees in their mind and thinks enough of you to have you place it on their wall..sometimes.


  1. This is great! I was signing up to follow all the blogs on the list from Statteam and I couldn't stop reading your post and laughing!!! I will be back to read some more!! :) I love your work :)

  2. I'm here from Statteam too, and WOW, I can see you've really earned your title as muralist! Great post.

  3. Your stories never fail to make me giggle, Leslie. It's so kind of you to post the lessons you've learned so that other people don't have to go through as much insanity. I know that if I were a mural painter (which is so far from possible it's ridiculous), I would have a clause in the contract that I absolutely could NOT be bothered during painting.

  4. Loved your post, Leslie! The stories are so funny! Someone couldn't make this stuff up if they tried ... truth is so much stranger than fiction! While I'm reading, I'm thinking "how dare they treat you like that?" ... you deserve to be waited on hand & foot while you're creating such beauty in their houses, treating you like the goddess that you are. Can't wait for your next post!!

  5. Oh Leslie, I am laughing and cringing for you at the same time! What experiences you've had, all in the name of art.

    I'm following your blog! =)


  6. I love your stories, Leslie! I'm not artistic enough, or brave enough, to paint murals. You go girl!