by | Feb 25, 2013

Blank Walls Stare Back At You

Have you ever looked at a blank wall and thought, there needs to be a punk rock elephant there?

The first page of google images gave me exactly what I was after.


Colour choice was probably the toughest part. Hot pink and lime green were considered, and black with blood red. I settled on the same theme as my bike, Kindergarten Style – blue and yellow.

The exact shade is worth noting. Colours are defined by their hue and saturation. If you’re a web designer, this is something you deal with constantly. If not, think back to middle school art class when you had to make a colour wheel, showing the primary colours, red, blue, yellow, and all the intermediate colours that you get when you mix them up (lots of different types of brown, as I recall). The background of this website, for example, is #424242 – equal parts red, green and blue, fairly saturated, chosen mainly because the number is easy to remember.



You can have blue with red overtones or yellow overtones, and it’ll end up looking either a bit purple or a bit green in bright light. Or you can have a yellow with no overtones at all, and no subtlety either.

Saturation is the other thing – intensity of colour. A lightly saturated (20%) pale pink is good for a baby’s bedroom. An unthreatening, cool shade of blue (50%) for a website header, to promote a feeling of trust from your users.

I chose 100% saturated yellow, and 100% saturated blue, cause I feel that you should do it hard or don’t bother.


  • Paint, 40 bucks
  • Paint tray, found in a cupboard
  • Rollers, 9 bucks
  • Masking tape, 4 bucks
  • Poster printing, 15 bucks



First step: wash the wall. How many years of bacon grease have baked into this paint?

Then, masking tape and three coats of yellow.


The next step took a while. How to get the image onto the wall? My first idea was steal an overhead projector from school for a day and use it to make pencil outlines. That was scrapped when my boyfriend sold his car.

The next idea was to print the image, all 5 by 7 feet of it, on many sheets of 8×11 paper. Then… I don’t know… I guess the plan broke down at that point.

Luckily I have a friend at the Camosun print shop. She pointed out that they have a large format printer. That meant I could print 4 big sheets of paper instead of 56 small ones.

So then it was a matter of getting the file to the printer. For some reason I had the idea in my head that I should Photoshop a massive, 5×7 foot .png version of the drawing. Since my laptop has an excessive 16gb of ram, I could do that.But every other computer I tried choked on it, including the printer’s.

Eventually I made it a .pdf and learned to my shock that .pdf file sizes are way, way smaller. So we’re talking about 2 weeks of hum and haw for me to figure this out. Finally I had these 4 huge chunks of paper that I rolled up and left in the corner of my dining room for a couple months.

I was blocked. I had gone as far as I could on my own and was terrified to take the next step, in case I screwed it up. So I called a friend to come over and help me – at least that way I would be forced to actually work on it.


The friend was more talented than I. We cut the stencils in half an hour. Arranging oddly-shaped ribbons of paper to lie flat on a wall is the sort of task that brings me to tears of frustration. But Suzanne managed it without much trouble – I just passed tape as we placed and replaced the stencils about 4 times.


Then we traced them in pencil, which also took a surprisingly short time. I didn’t expect to do any painting that day. I thought there were months of work still ahead. But no, we finished tracing and wandered up to Home Depot for sponge brushes (93 cents each), and finished painting in another hour. Shocking.

Here’s the result. Better than I imagined I was capable of. You can see that it’s adjacent to another mural – my brother’s work, from a couple years ago. Now I’ve left my mark in the house as well. When I move out in a few months, some more students will move in and marvel at living in a house where you can paint any silly thing you want on the walls.


I Would Have Sold The Land Years Ago

The landlady will probably sell the place and knock it down pretty soon, but I don’t mind too much.