My client, Lynn, put together a wall with family portraits and keepsakes. She asked me to make a calligraphy mural to fill in the blank parts of the wall. Her request coincided with a Zoom class I signed up for from Loredana Zega titled “Calligraphy Walls” (visit her website or read about my experience with the class here). Lynn and I slated this project for the week after I took the class.
Colors and Design
We settled on turquoise, copper, and brown to compliment the rest of the room. I sent Lynn mock-ups using these colors. I arranged the two plant quotes at the bottom, a quote about flowers along the shelves. There was plenty of space for rest of the expressions in the wall space above the shelving. I made all sketches to scale using graph paper so I could accurately transfer the different elements to the wall. Lynn excitedly approved my sketches. Sometimes in my dedication, I forget how much my clients are looking forward to having my work in their space!
I completed the painting in 4 sessions. The things I learned from Loredana — speed, design, and confidence — continued to support me as I worked. I typically waste time waiting for the “perfect” moment to arise to work. When I’m on location working, something different happens: I rely on what I have and what I know. I am learning that the “perfect moment” is when I am actively doing the work.
I lightly laid lines with colored pencil and tape and checked my sketches against the space on the wall. Then, I started mixing up paint to match Lynn’s walls and for each color to match each other. I painted the backgrounds of the lower murals and added the letters on top. “The planning takes longer than the actual work” is how I describe my work, and this was no exception.
This was the day I set up the 10 foot ladder (3 meters) and set to work on the background. I chose a treble clef to “capitalize” the main line of text, and painted it in. I added a few lines of music from Chopin’s “Nocturne”. Lynn’s late mother was a piano teacher. I asked Lynn for some real sheet music to use as a reference since I am not a musician. I wanted the notes to make sense to her — if it were in my home I would want the same. So I mapped where the text would go, then mapped in where to have the music flowing through. I lightly painted in the notes and added the phrase over the top of them. That, honestly, was the most nerve-wracking part.
Day three had me mapping in the top and bottom phrases. Where else could the phrase,”The best view comes after the hardest climb” go besides the top?! I placed the phrase, “Egeszsegedre”, Hungarian for “Cheers” or “to your health” at the bottom. I drew up large versions of the phrases I wrote as circles in my studio between painting sessions. This way I could lightly transfer each to the wall for accurate placement and then paint them in. This Hungarian word is honestly my favorite part of the entire design.
After I transferred the circular scripts to the calligraphy mural, I placed the phrase, “experiment. fail. learn. repeat.”. Before the Calligraphy Walls class, I didn’t know how much I would love writing big letters with a big brush. Normally I work with small pens and 5mm letters. But something about the way letters flow out of a brush is sooooo satisfying. This phrase was no exception. After this, I painted in “Egeszsegedre” using copper paint and a small flat brush:
Last day, best day! I came in ready to finish this baby up. Using a small flat-edged brush, I wrote the circular calligraphy. I was apprehensive about this step, so I took my time and tried to keep my breathing regular throughout the whole process.
After I finished the circles, I added the top phrase. It took me a few tries to get the placement right and I’m glad I plotted it in with colored pencil first. I used a small, flat-edged brush for these letters as well, and copper paint. I added some final shading to all elements of the top mural and climbed down the ladder.
The phrase on the shelves was the last piece to this project. I painted some decorative calligraphy strokes and white flowers and added the phrase, “There are always flowers for those who want to see them”. I divided the sentence up between the shelves. Since the flowers were on such a light background, I used a fine pointed brush to add details in blue to make them visible. To tie everything together, I painted a three more flowers at the very bottom of the wall. I signed and dated the wall near these flowers and cleaned up.
Each day I was there working, Lynn *spoiled* me with lovely lunches that she made. As we talked, I came to realize that the phrases she selected for her calligraphy mural were not necessarily from her family. They were words that celebrated the greatest joys in her life. They marked a gateway that she had just passed through — Lynn is newly retired. The placement of the calligraphy mural on the family wall tells me how supportive and integral her community has been.
Lynn and her vibrant sister, Bobbie Wilson (president of PaperWorks) reinforced the unfolding of life to closely align with our purpose and truth. Just because things don’t look like the picture in my head or the plan I had doesn’t mean it’s wrong. I don’t need to be ashamed of the difference. The more I show up for calligraphy, the more my clients offer me. This is bigger than money in exchange for me writing words for them. Language is an attempt at conveying thought and emotion. To me, the space between them is divine. I always find that clients request my work when they arrive at a gateway and I have yet to explore in words how much that means to me.