How to paint a mural with students! - Part Two

I’ve had a lot of questions about painting the mural at Springville Elementary and how it was accomplished in a WEEK! I decided to write about the experience and offer some insight on a few things I learned along the way. Please know that I am no expert and I am happy to hear suggestions for future projects. In this post, I am going to go over how we painted the mural with students. For tips on how to prep a wall, read my post here.

1.Plan ahead!

Before you begin any mural, have a plan for how you want students to work together. For this mural, I wanted to design something simple enough for all ages to do with little skill level required.

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I first drew the design in Adobe Illustrator to plan out how the mural would be laid out. Always think two steps ahead! Since there are letters in this mural, I knew it wold be difficult for students to try to paint around them. Instead, I decided that we would just paint the background first and then later paint the letters on top. When it came down to painting the background, paint-by-number was the easiest method.

2. Draw the mural!

Everything comes down to PLANNING. From the very beginning, I knew projecting a design on the wall was not going to be an option. The wall is also a weird size (7.5ft high on one side and 9.5ft on the other). Picking a geometric, abstract mural helped with that problem a lot. Here is the wall after being primed.

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Drawing the mural was a bit of a challenge because of the uneven surfaces and the various straight lines in the design. I knew ahead of time that drawing it with a pencil wouldn’t hold up well with lots of hands touching the wall while painting. I ended up using a metal ruler and just a regular sharpie to draw on the wall. After I drew the entire design, I numbered the different shapes to ensure that no two of the same colors would be next to each other.

TIP: I left the plastic wrap on the ruler to protect it from the sharpie and for later use while painting!

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3. Decide when, where, and how you will paint

Have I mentioned that you’ll need to plan this out? I’m pretty sure I did 90% planning and maybe 10% actually painting. Which is what you want! Remember this is for your students. I often found myself giving directions a lot more than having a paint brush in my hand. Before you even begin, you’ll need to think about how, when, and where your students will paint. For instance, I was teaching 100 students in the middle of the summer in ALABAMA. We needed shade and access to water.

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Several people helped us by lending tents and tarps to keep everyone in the shade. Next, I planned that students would paint in grade levels to reduce the amount of people painting at once. I divided the grades into k-1, 2-3, and 4-6.

4. Paint!

In my previous post I talked about the types of paint I used for this. Before students started, I assigned the paint cans and the containers with numbers. In the beginning I assigned students numbers and told them they could change numbers once they ran out of spaces.

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With 4-6 grade, they were instructed to find spaces that they could reach at eye level. I didn’t want students to worry about bleeding over into other shape, so I told them to stay one finger distance from the shape’s borders. With K-1, I had 5 students paint the wall at a time and the rest paint rocks while they were waiting.

TIP: Remember, this is done by students and it’s just paint. If someone messes up, it’s OKAY! It’s about building confidence and having fun!

5. Final touches, letters, and sealing.

After a day with students, the mural was not quite finished. I invited the community to come out and help over the weekend. The adult volunteers primarily focused on cleaning up the shapes to make them look sharper. I also needed help reaching the top of the wall. Don’t be afraid to ask the community to help with projects like this. The support from Springville was incredible.

How we painted the letters:

This was the most difficult part of the mural. Once the background was dry, I mounted a laser level to the wall with command strips. I then traced the level line with chalk. We projected the letters on to large pieces of thick paper. After cutting the letters out, we carefully taped the letters to the wall and traced them with more chalk. Lastly, Wendy, Chelsea, and I used angled brushes to paint in the letters.

Sealing the wall was a little bit of challenge with finding the right material. After calling a few professionals, we decided that an epoxy was the best option. We did two coats to secure it.

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Gallery

How to paint a mural with students! - Part One

I’ve had a lot of questions about painting the mural at Springville Elementary and how it was accomplished in a WEEK! I decided to write about the experience and offer some insight on a few things I learned along the way. Please know that I am no expert and I am happy to hear suggestions for future projects. In this post, I am going to go over how we prepped the wall first!

It all started with an ugly wall right outside my classroom door.

BEFORE

BEFORE

During the school year, this area of our school sees a lot of traffic. The wall sits in between the elementary school and middle school (right outside of the cafeteria). Honestly, this area of the school was not the most glamorous and it needed a little TLC. In the past, it had served as a garden planted by the students. My classroom sits directly in view of this area and I just wanted to give life back to the space.

After my principal approved the design for the mural, I started planning how to prep the area for paint. Below are some things I learned through the process.

1.Don’t be afraid to ask for help

If you are planning to tackle a large wall, interior or exterior, don’t turn away help. People will be excited to be a part of something neat like painting a mural. Even more so if its at their child’s school. If you have a few adult volunteers to help, don’t be afraid to accept their help. There will always be a task that needs to be done. Also, some parents or teachers may want to support the endeavor by offering materials or supplies instead of giving time.

I love the community I live in and I am fortunate to have had so many people donate supplies, time, and energy.

2. Clean the wall

Like any surface you paint, make sure it is clean. This wall is an exterior wall that had seen a lot of dirt, grime, and water drainage. If you were to paint an interior wall, this would obviously be a different scenario. In order to clean this space, a pressure washer was necessary. Renting one can be very expensive. Instead, I asked on social media if any one would be willing to lend one. Several people offered in a few minutes!

Below was the first pressure washer we tried to use, but it was taking a little longer to clean the wall than we wanted (1700 psi). We ended up using a pressure washer with 4200 psi. My friend, Brittany, and I took turns cleaning to save our arms and shoulders. It only took an hour.

This pressure washer did not have quite enough power (1700psi).

This pressure washer did not have quite enough power (1700psi).

Brittany working hard!

Brittany working hard!

The pressure washer we ended up using (4200 psi). I needed windshield wipers for my classes!

The pressure washer we ended up using (4200 psi). I needed windshield wipers for my classes!

ALL CLEAN!

ALL CLEAN!

3. Let it dry!

Now, let’s paint! NOOOO. Concrete will retain water for up to 24 hours after pressure washing or rain. The wall will need to dry out completely before any paint or sealer is applied. If any moisture is in the wall while it’s painted, it will become trapped and eventually crack the concrete. Fortunately, it did not rain after we pressure washed and was completely dry the next day.

Look at that clean wall all dry!

Look at that clean wall all dry!

4. Prime, prime, and more priming. Make sure you know what paint you are using. (optional)

If you’re like me and are planning a mural within a budget, you have to get a little creative. Right after the mural was approved, a teacher told me her husband was a professional painter and they wanted to donate paint to the school. He had various types of latex interior and oil exterior paint left over from jobs that he wasn’t able to use. I gladly accepted. I also knew that there was no way I was letting students touch oil paint and worrying about cleaning that up. NOPE.

Oil or One Stroke enamel is honestly the best for painting an exterior wall and doesn’t need a primer. HOWEVER! If you plan to paint a mural as part of a class assignment, with students, you may need to consider a water based paint. I chose to prime the wall to allow the paint I was using to adhere better.

Below is the primer I used. TIP: have the store tint the primer with a few drops of gray.

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There are a lot of primers out there but I have used this one before and I didn’t have any problems with the coats. It’s pretty thick and went on pretty smoothly. Make sure to edge with a smaller brush any areas a roller won’t quite touch. The roller pads will also need to be designed for use on concrete to endure the texture.

2 inch angled brush for uneven areas of the concrete.

2 inch angled brush for uneven areas of the concrete.

Thick, roller covers.

Thick, roller covers.

I bought one gallon of primer at first because the wall is less than 400 sq. ft. Unfortunately, I had to buy an additional can because I ran out! I also tinted the second can too dark so the wall looked a little funny in the process. Whoops!

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The concrete slabs had a lot of seams to cover and weird textures.

The concrete slabs had a lot of seams to cover and weird textures.

Can you tell where I ran out of primer and had to buy a new can? Barely noticeable, I know.

Can you tell where I ran out of primer and had to buy a new can? Barely noticeable, I know.

5. Let it dry! Again!

I allowed the primer to dry for 48 hours (because, life). Make sure to check the labels on any primer paint for drying times. Alabama summers are no joke and the humidity alone will choke you. Humidity also can cause paint to dry slower. Instead of sitting around literally watching paint dry, go home and relax.

In my next post I will cover drawing the mural and teaching students to paint! Click here for part TWO!

First Grade Shape Robots

This week first grade explored what kind of robot they could create with just using shapes. As a class, we went over our shapes from the board. I had the students call out what each shape was when I pointed to it. I asked them to think about what their favorite shapes were as well. Scissors, glue, markers, and construction paper were placed on the table and the students used their imaginations to create!