By Jeff Monsein
Our Commedia del’Arte mural was inspired by a recent trip to Venice, Italy. Venice is an amazing city, filled with a colorful history. Although we unfortunately didn’t get to go during Carnival, we were still able to see many examples of costumes, masks, and Italian pageantry.
Our mural was painted on the walls of the entrance to the auditorium/theater at Wilson Middle School in Tampa. As the children enter the theater, it is as if they are surrounded by many of the characters from ancient Italian Comedy. It took approximately two weeks to complete the nearly life-sized mural.
We began this mural with a digital representation of our concept. We first took a photo of the actual space and then PhotoShopped our proposed mural on to it.
This allowed us to easily move the images around, flip them over, and resize them. It gave us a great starting point to show to the client what we had in mind.
Once the concept was approved, we gathered the absolute best photo references possible. You cannot paint something realistically unless you have studied it very carefully. We actually prefer to take our own photos when possible to get the correct lighting angle and viewing angle for our murals. Then we meticulously masked and tarped all areas to prevent accidental spills, etc. We even tarped a ‘walk-off’ area because sometimes paint sticks to bottom of your shoes and then invariably unsticks as soon as you walk on to the client’s carpeting. We filled all the dings on the wall, cleaned it, and then sealed it.
We used all kinds of tools both home-made and store-bought to get our images on to the Walls: levels, triangles, a compass, string, stencils for repeat patterns, an overhead projector, chalk lines, and so much more. We use A LOT of blue tape in our murals. We prefer the low-tack tape by Scotch as it is great even with freshly painted surfaces and it is reusable. We often have a spider web of blue tape hanging next to our murals until we are 100% done.
We usually sketch our images using lead pencils or watercolor pencils. Sometimes we base out of the larger areas our murals with a solid color and sometimes we use more than one color mixed wet-on-wet. It just depends on the look we are trying to achieve.
We generally work from the background to the foreground, bearing in the mind that the background is less detailed and slightly cooler in tone than the foreground. The idea is to try to work through the background quickly so that we have the most time for the more detailed foreground. This mural was a little unusual in that the background was detailed as well.
We always choose our light source before we begin the actual painting. Then we begin the process of applying the layers of paint and glaze. After we have painted the entire mural, we go back and add additional shadowing, paying particular attention to our chosen light source.
We take photos of our progress each day and then review them back at the studio. Working in the studio allows us to review our progress more objectively and then PhotoShop modifications to the mural, if necessary.
A good mural takes a lot of time, a lot of patience, and a lot of standing or sitting in one place. We always make sure that our ladders and scaffoldings are locked and secure. In addition, to keep our bodies from cramping up, we take a lot of breaks, listen to a wide variety of music, and have even been known to do a little moon walking on the scaffolding. (Editor’s note: Please do not try this at home!)
Painting murals on walls and ceilings is an amazing experience. And I can tell you that practice makes perfect. The more you do, the better you will become. Study your images carefully and think about what you can do to duplicate what you see. Above all, have fun and remember that it’s just paint. If you make a mistake, you can always paint it again.
Editor’s note: Jeff discusses the murals and his life as an artist click his name to listen Jeff Monsein
Jeff Monsein is the founder of Splat Paint, a Florida corporation established in 1990. Having spent 20 years as the owner/operator of trade schools and employment agencies in Tampa, all in the field of auto and diesel mechanics and truck-driver training, Jeff traded his diesels for easels in 1990 to pursue his love of art and relationship building.
Raised in Miami, Florida, Jeff is a graduate of the University of Florida and a Tampa resident since 1986. He is described as a real”people-person” and loves working hard to produce stellar results and happy clients. He is married and the proud father of two wonderful children, and loves to travel, paint, and enjoy the beauty of life.
Jeff has cultivated an impressive following as a Tampa artist and a distinctive portfolio that showcases work for private, business and non-profit clients in Florida, Maryland, California, and Mexico (Cabo San Lucas). His work has been purchased for private collections and has been auctioned at fundraisers for organizations that include the Boys and Girls’ Clubs, The Ophelia Project, Tampa Museum of Art, Holocaust Museum, MAD Theater of Tampa, St. Joseph’s Hospital, Tampa Aids Network (Art for Life), Beach Park Day School, JCC, Food Bank’s Kids Café Programs (Empty Bowls), Outdoor Arts Foundation (Manatee Menagerie).