Tomorrow is the May First Friday Art Walk, and normally we would have converted our studio into a pop-up gallery for the evening, and opened it to the public, but this month I’m working on a huge 1% for Art project for Gladys Wood Elementary that is taking up most of the space in the studio, so open studio events have to be postponed. This is our second 1% for Art project. The first one was in 2017 at Ryan Middle School in Fairbanks. Right about this time last year I was awarded the Gladys Wood Elementary project, and now I am finally putting oil paint on panels.
Signing the contract and receiving the first payment installment took about a month. In the meantime I started working on design concepts for four large ellipse paintings for walls in two different hallways, themed Spring and Fall, and six circles for the ceilings in those hallways. The committee of ten people approved the designs immediately, which was so much faster and easier than I expected. Then we left the country for a month, but when we returned we started looking for contractors to help us install the panels securely, especially since six of them are going to be on the ceiling. I decided to hire the same crew that remodeled the school, since they know the admin staff, and everything about those walls they built. Luckily Cornerstone General Contractors agreed to work with me, even-though this project is small potatoes for them. About a week after my conversation with the contractor, that 7.1 earthquake hit, and I didn’t hear back from those guys for about two months, which was totally understandable. I didn’t really mind, because the holiday season was in full swing, and we were busy mailing orders, and selling art at craft fairs around town. So finally, in January, I ordered all the panels from Hardware Specialties, a great wood store, and arranged with the property manager of the building where we lease our studio to get some extra working space. Luckily, there’s a huge room downstairs that is vacant at the moment, with a garage door for easy unloading from the truck! So we unloaded all the wood panels, and then Maria and I went to the school and made templates out of paper and tape of the four ellipses, so I could trace the templates onto the panels. That took us two evenings.
The next step was to trace and cut the panels, which I accomplished with a skilsaw and my trusty sander. I finished that step right before we left on a two-week ski trip to Idaho and Utah.
So now the contractors finally came into the picture. We hired two strong guys to help us pre-install the panels. I really wanted to make sure they would fit, before I started painting, and also, to figure out where all the screw holes would be, so I could try to camouflage them in the design. The pre-install took two evenings. Those guys were great to work with!
Next, I sanded the surface of the panels to remove any wood texture, and coated them with two coats of white primer. Then we coated them with gold paint. The gold shines through small gaps in the oil paint, making my paintings glow when light hits them at certain angles. Before I could start painting the design with oils, I had to figure out where I could work on such large pieces. One option was to lay them out on the floor, but I’ve worked on the floor before, and it’s painful after many hours of crouching. So I modified my existing easel with 1x3s so it would hold an entire ellipse at once. The whole set up barely fits in my studio!
At this point I have finished one ellipse for the Spring hallway, and am now working on the second one. Progress is steady, and I’m expecting to finish on time and on budget. The deadline is October 2019.