Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Unveiling!

Please come to the official unveiling of the new Lloyd Hall Scholars Program mural, Language: The Quintessence, from 7-8pm on Wed., January 25th, in the auditorium on the 4th floor of Palmer Commons.  The student artists will share their experiences creating the mural. Refreshments and ribbon cutting ceremony to follow!

(For directions to Palmer Commons please go to

This mural was created with generous support from the University of Michigan Office of Undergraduate and Graduate Education, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts; Lloyd Hall Scholars Program; Office of the Provost for Academic Affairs, Palmer Commons; and Arts at Michigan.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mural Installed!

After four full days of painstaking work, the entire 78 feet of mural is finally installed! Special thanks to Charles Repholz from C and P painting for bringing John MacKenzie on board to oversee the installation of this artwork. With able help from Dave Saaristo, John worked miracles with patience and humor throughout the arduous process of hanging over 1200 feet of this spectacularly painted muslin.

Due to the weight of the large sections of mural, many smaller pieces had to be cut and pieced together. It made it easier to handle on the one hand, yet created more difficulties on the other. Once wet with glue the muslin wanted to shrink and stretch simultaneously, and unpredictably, making it a real challenge to put it up into the correct position on the wall.  However, I am pleased to report that the results of John and Dave's hard work has resulted in a true pleasure to behold.

I would post pictures of the finished mural, but photos don't do it justice--plus I don't want to spoil the surprise my students will enjoy when they see if for the first time in person.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011


We're on day two of installing the mural. It has been a challenging pocess as we've had to cut it up into more manageable  puzzle pieces. The installers, John and Dave are doing a great job putting it all back together 20 feet up in the air. If al goes well it will be completely installed by the end of the day tomorrow!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Silver Lining

Meryl Waldo lends a hand!

Since students weren't available to come put the finishing touches on the final panel of the mural on Friday, my able student assistant, Meryl Waldo, came to the rescue. Meryl (a talented senior theater major getting her BFA in costume design) and I had a grand day together chatting, laughing, eating and finding more and more details that needed attention, until finally we threw down our brushes and declared the mural truly finished this time. This was the silver lining for having to create an emergency panel; getting to spend some quality time with Meryl, and sneaking a chance to put a little paint on the mural myself. 

My students will be examining this last panel closely, no doubt, to see how badly we messed it up--(well that's what happens when you don't show up:-) By Sunday, all 78+ feet of the mural will be rolled up for transporting over to Palmer Commons for the installation process starting Monday morning. And Meryl and I will start painting another 16 X 40 foot backdrop on Sunday for an upcoming production of "Once Upon a Mattress"...happily, the creative opportunities just keep coming!


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Last minute design challenge!!

I have to thank a number of my students who came back to the studio during the past two days (just when they thought this ridiculous class was all over!) to help design and paint another 5 by 16 foot section of mural.  The size of this little “addition” would normally constitute a very large painting all by itself. Still, we need it badly to make sure the mural fits perfectly into the space where it's scheduled to be installed next Monday. (The installers believe it will take about 3-4 days to complete the complicated task of fitting together the 5 sections of paintings that will cover almost 1200 square feet of wall space.) Once completed the mural will go from one end of the 4th floor Palmer Commons lobby to the other, with cutouts for doorways, exit signs, and elevators.

The elevators are what caused the last minute design challenge. Once the mural was half finished we realized that some really special parts of the mural were going to be lost when we had to cut around the elevators. So, we shifted the mural to the right about four feet to avoid this problem—(which meant we had to cut out about four feet of our design on the opposite side as well--prior to painting).  I knew that this move was going to make us about four to five feet short on the opposite end--but I was hoping that it would be ok if we came up a bit short on one wall. However, I was wrong. The furthest section to the left now had some unfortunate real estate to deal with.  A particularly beautiful passage would have to now navigate around a utilities chase which would have rendered the faces in that section of the mural unmercifully deformed. 

Since my students had their last painting class already, and were now in the midst of studying for finals and writing papers, I really felt terrible having to ask those who could, to return to redesign and paint another 60 to 80 square feet of mural. But return they did.

My heartfelt gratitude goes out to Jesus, Simi, Anna, Daniela, Zach and Tashina for making great sacrifices, returning to the scene of the crime, and producing a final fantastic section of the mural.  These students really went beyond the call of duty to help ensure that this mural, newly enlarged, is going to be the very best ever!  My entire class has proven to be a very, very special group of students which has made this entire experience extremely gratifying for me as you can well imagine.

Please do come to our mural unveiling scheduled for Wednesday, January 25th, 2012, on the fourth floor of Palmer Commons. I think everyone will be pleasantly surprised.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It's still not over!

I'm not sure how to feel about this.
It was a bittersweet ending when we thought we finished the mural.
But now we found out we are still missing a section...
So now we can eliminate the bitter taste :3
Somehow I find this to be hilarious...but then again, it was a pretty small section (Only 60 square feet)
Oh, what a twist of events. We should be a reality show or something....

~Jesus (planning on waking up in 5 hours... ;____; )

Saturday, December 10, 2011

We Started Together and Finished Together

I was the last person to stop painting the mural, finishing the old-school type writer (above). While everyone cleaned up, I rushed to finally be done. It was a long successful day and when I put the last number on one of the keys, I was so overwhelmed with happiness. It was complete. Well, except for a few minor things here and there. All I could think was it's beautiful.

But here I am now, one of the last people to write on this blog! I realized with this class, everything we do is a team effort. It wasn't just a one-person thing, we started together and finished together.

What I took away from this incredible experience was finding that art is what I what to do with my life. I've always known, but it wasn't really an option in a small town in the Upper Peninsula. When people asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I replied, "I know what I don't want to be." I could never be a doctor, mathematician, or lawyer. Art always allowed me to do something different, something exciting and new. This class allowed me to create the tools I need to be able to do what I love. I can see the world around me so differently now. Everything seems more interesting and beautiful in it's own way. This class also taught me to push myself, and that everyday might not be easy. While painting the six-foot baby head I wanted to quit! I was so frustrated. The colors weren't blending the way I wanted them to and I felt like I was repainting everything over and over. It scared me that it wasn't going to turn out, but five hours later it was breath taking. It was worth everything. I know the work I have done on the mural will definitely help my portfolio when applying in February to the School of Art and Design here at the University of Michigan. I'm excited for everything now, and I can thank the friends who were there putting their time and love in too.

- Tashina Emery

Random thoughts about my Public Art experience

Art in Public Spaces, for me, was definitely a much needed class. This class taught me so much about cooperation, communication, and determination all while having a little fun. Scratch that, a lot of fun! The ability to create something, especially art, is a big accomplishment. To me, art is personal. Most of the art we see is made by an individual mind with an individual body doing all of the work. The fact that we collaborated and made such a unique beautiful piece just goes to show how amazing team work can be. In my mind, a single person could not have such an extravagant complicated piece. It takes different personalities, interests and talents to make something like this. I think that's a message that everyone needs to realize. Everything isn't meant to be done individually. Even art. You learn from working with others. I think what's important about this version of Mark's class is that we worked together. If I had been in one of the previous classes and made something individually, I doubt I would have enjoyed the class as much or have been so proud of the outcome.

I love that this class has taught me so many skills that can be related to other aspects of my life. At first, I just thought this class was a way for me to relax while still getting credits. BOY, WAS I WRONG! This class was far from relaxing. It was hard. We had to get covered in paint, do things when we didn't quite understand why we were even doing them, and confront our doubts about our own talent as well as the possibility of not getting it all finished, all while working with people we hardly knew. All that work is what made us a family.
 One thing I really liked about this class was that no matter how bad I thought I did, someone was always there to encourage me or say how nice it was. I guess that's the thing about art, there is no wrong answer. Who's to say my work or my interpretation is wrong? This class wasn't like most others here at the University. With this class, you actually got to be a part of something big, literally. I'm part of a small group that leaves a major mark on this campus. That's incredible.

This class also allowed me to see the importance of art. Art had always been important to me, but without this class, I would have probably never realized the impact it has on people and how important it really is. I want everyone to be able to experience what I did. The sense of accomplishment you get when finishing a piece of art work is absolutely unreal. It's nothing like getting an A on a calculus test. You put your heart as well as your mind into something, interpret it, and then actually create it!

Eventually, I will throw all of my paint covered clothes out. The paint on my nails and skin will wash away, but I will always have that mural, that beautiful piece of art that a bunch of teenagers with little to no experience put together for the world to see. THAT, and the memories, will stay with me forever <3 

Destiny (:

Art and Music

I am sitting at my computer and constantly deleting each thought that enters my "reflection letter." I initially  expected this to be  an easy way to vocalize my thoughts about my experience in this class. What I am now realizing, is that this all-encompassing experience is nearly impossible to explain on a blank email page. Coming into this class we expected to paint and make a mural, but what we extracted is the true meaning of art. Not the evidence which lays upon our remarkable mural but the process, the conversations, and  the experience which is real, raw and ART.

Playing the viola has always allowed me to delve into my unconscious and express my deepest feelings without a need for words. I thought that music was the only thing that would ever enable such a feeling of catharsis and alleviation from a sometimes very materialistic and mundane surrounding. When this journey in art began, technical work was the main focus. This seemed solely mechanical and tedious, but once we started working on the mural itself, I found  my peers and I discussing the mural more often then not. From the first time I put my brush on the white canvas (which is now our mural) I lost a sense of time and external stress. Fast forward to yesterday, and my five hours in art class seemed like not nearly enough time. I felt that therapeutic sense of catharsis, the most authentic sense of meaning, and now I even feel my own sense of identity reflected within the product of our art.  Art is my language and language is the quintessence.

Daniela Lapciuc

Friday, December 9, 2011

What a bittersweet kind of day...

So it is December 10th, and the day I thought was miles away has already come and gone. In the last 10 hours, our mostly-white and empty third segment of the mural has come to life in a rather remarkable way. It would be really easy to say that this process was a simple art class which I seemed to glide through with no problem, but I would be lying. With more emotion than I would like to admit, I feel as if I can confidently say "I am an artist." I was hesitant for a while, thinking I was undeserving of such a title, but after looking down from the staircase tonight and seeing what I have created, what WE have created, I can no longer doubt myself. This process has been nothing short of a challenge. With the encouraging voice of Mark in my ear, I had to reconstruct my view of art. I had to get rid of my 'realistic' eye and see the lines and the shades that I too often overlooked. I had to lose my notion that painting with a small brush was always okay. Its not! In fact, painting huge expanses of canvas is not only so refreshing, but it is liberating. With all the chaos of my freshman Fall at Michigan, I knew that twice a week, I had control over something, something so beautiful, something so powerful.

Yesterday WE finished OUR masterpiece. As the eleven of us, (twelve including good old Mark) cumulatively left our mark on the University of Michigan for a long time to come and it is an accomplishment I will smile about for a while. We have devoted our time and our attention to something much bigger than us, something that has molded us in more ways than one. Our individual artistic journeys slowly merged into one as we learned of each others'  strengths and weaknesses. We learned to work together as a team, producing brilliant art for all to see. We learned to respect each others' space even if we wanted to be a part of it. This mural has brought some of the most unique people together into one studio and I have met friends I will have for a lifetime. But most importantly, I have met a teacher that has truly inspired me. Mark Tucker, thank you for telling me I am not always right. Thank you for pushing through my barriers, thank you for opening my eyes to a whole new world.

And so it is over. Oh, how I will miss it.

Anna J. Berger

Heart & Soul

Well, we did it. I almost can't believe it, but WE DID IT. Honestly, I'm still on a bit of high from it all. I felt like a little kid, so excited and happy that I couldn't wipe that silly grin off my face if I tried. Seven and a half hours in the studio and our class culminates with a final brush stroke on the canvas.

 During this rather long time at the studio, we took a pizza break and talked about what this class has been and what the mural means to us. Something Mark said stuck with me, and I totally agree with him. He said you can tell by looking at the mural that the artists put their hearts and souls into its creation, that you can tell that it wasn't a mere recreation of randomly found images, but purposefully chosen ones that were painted with creativity stemming from both our minds and hearts. I totally believe in this statement. I truly do. I feel like we really worked together and had a passion for what we were doing, and that passion shone through in our work.

I'm going to miss this class, it has taught me so much. I've met new people that I've enjoyed getting to know. I've learned that there is more than one way to do things well, even if I thought my way was best. I've found that you can do anything you set your mind to. And most of all, I've come to realize that the sum really is greater than its parts. Less and less often I see the individual images that each of us painted, and more and more I see how they fit together like one beautiful puzzle-- so much more glorious together than they would ever be on their own.

Thanks to Mark for being such a great teacher and for trying so hard to defeat my inner critic.  It's been a blast and I won't forget it.

~ Simi

How Can Art Help an Engineering Student?

I believe in order accomplish any task, one must first have a plan that they are confident will work. In congruency with my study of engineering, this "Mural-Making-Class" has challenged me to approach problems with the ideology that problems must be solved and cannot be put-off till later.
Aside from developing into a more tenacious problem solver and critical thinker, this class has truly helped me to relate to others.  Before taking on this project, It was safe to say that I did not understand visual art.  Not that I now "understand" art (after painting for only a couple months), but rather, I better understand why others appreciate visual art so much.  I think it is important for a member of a community to strive to have some understanding of other members of that community.  This class has helped me to do this.

I would like to thank Mark Tucker for the artistic skills he has taught me and for the lessons which "can't be taught in school".

~Tim Newberger

And It Lived Happily Ever After

The mural is finished? The mural is finished. The mural is finished! (I Don't know why saying that out loud makes me think of Paul Revere's Midnight Ride).

But seriously, it has finally been completed! After everything we all have been through for this thing, it is finally completed!  I've poured sweat and blood unto this mural!  I've poured my sweat priming the canvas!  And I've poured blood on the last mural when I cut myself with a stapler.  So I have legit poured sweat and blood into this mural, not in a figurative manner.  I have yet to shed a tear on the mural, but I do plan on it once I'm all alone.   But as of right now, at least I can say this mural is somewhat part of me if not completely part of me.

Ahh, this course has been such a great adventure.  I remember right from the beginning when Mark asked us to draw a self-portrait of ourselves.  I forgot to do it, so on the ride here I scrambled to finish it.  It was a rather pathetic portrait and I seriously comtemplated just not turning it in since it was so bad. But I did turn it in... and it did seem like the worst... however, it did create some laughs.  :D  Then, we had our art exercices which were such a pain in the ***.  But when we finished, it was truly the greatest feeling ever.  Like that feeling when you finally complete an essay due in 2 hours after you have procrastinated for 2 weeks.  After those exercises I was so excited to start the mural.  When I first saw the canvas for the mural and design I was like, "Oh Fudge".  Two thoughts then popped in my head which were, "We can't finish this" and "I can't do any of this".  But I wasn't going to have my way, Mark pushed us and me to complete it and to work on different sections of the mural.  Over time, little by little and step by step I was noticing that I was getting better, I was getting bolder, and this mammoth of a project was being finished.

Little by little we all helped contribute to the mural and helped each other become better artists.  We all tried to help each other and we all seeked help from each other.  In no other class have I ever see such cooperation, or have I been a part of.  It was a great and very inspiring journey.  So now that the mural has been finally finished, we all get to live happily ever after...'till next semester :(

But one thing we have to look forward to for next semester is the presentation of our mural :D

After that, we all lived Happily Ever After!... The End/El Fin
~ Jesus >:3

Free Spirit UNLEASHED!

It's truly amazing...I can't believe that almost three months ago I was sitting in class and drawing that dreadful upside down man. Or even before that, I had to draw a self portrait of myself. It wasn't the best idea to do it five minutes before I had to catch the Commuter South bus--you live and learn. But of course I had to learn the hard way with Mark teasing me about the picture. I guess that was okay because I learned that when you do something, it's either ALL or NOTHING. And from experience, I can honestly say that since being in this class, I had tried to put my everything into this masterpiece. My blood is literally in this painting, my tears of the stress from the week as well as getting the perfect color, and finally sweat--sweating over how long I have before Mark sees the mysterious small footprint that I'm trying to cover up/dab out.

 On a more serious note, I'm glad that I took this class and didn't run for the hills when I found out we had to paint a huge mural and that people outside of class will get to see it in such a short time. I remember when the thought quickly ran through my mind, there is no way that this is going to happen, but it did, and I'm so happy that I got to see it being born. This class has really let my--I mean, our -- free creative spirits be unleashed. Our hearts and souls leaped from our chest and onto the canvas, in a massive explosion of colors--our free spirits nesting on a blank canvas and then coming together to form a masterpiece.

Today, December 9, 2011, is the last day of the mural and Mark talked about art and what it means to be visually illiterate. I found it funny that I was agreeing with everything he was saying because one, this is one of those things that Mark is completely right on about, and two, because I am someone who even before taking this lovely art class, has always seen the beauty in things that others are too blind to see and it's hard to explain sometimes why I can see the beauty to a person who cannot. Mark did a great job explaining that to the crew. I'm sad that this is the LAST class, I really love art and have a huge passion for it--I get inspired to create something every second of the hour. Saying goodbye to this class and this mural will be one of the hardest things I have ever done. I am never really satisfied with anything I produce, but I can say that this may be the first time that I am. So much of our time, effort, blood, sweat, and tears have been mixed into this painting. We all should be happy, proud, and overwhelmed with emotion because WE created something so beautiful and so meaningful to us-- not everyone can say that, and not everyone can say they have an "eye" for art, if they can't see the beauty in everything in life.

Free Spirit Motto: Love, live, learn, and create.

--Armenthia Mimee Stewart

Magic Key

I'm really going to miss this class. We're almost completely done with the mural, but instead of thinking about the little things I can do to make it better, all I can think about is how weird it's going to be not to hop on a bus every Monday and Friday to get down to the studio. I've kind of already said this, but I wasn't expecting to like this class as much as I did. I had a full 18 credits this semester and I remember telling my friends, well, if I don't like my art class then I'll just drop that, but I was hooked from the very first day, and thinking back, it's weird to think that I ever even considered dropping it.

In one of our earlier pow-wows, Mark asked me if I thought that some people had a magic key to understanding art that others didn't have. I told him yes, I did think that that was the case and that I never felt like I could relate to art in the way that some people could. I love looking at art, but I've never been able to stare at a painting for an hour because I was so overcome by it's message. He assured me that there was no magic key, but I'm still not convinced. I think it takes time to appreciate art. It takes time to understand it. While I don't think I've necessarily received the magic key yet, I know that I'm much closer than I was at the beginning of the semester. What is so amazing about art, is that it makes you think differently about the world. You really start to see it as not the whole, but rather, the sum of it's parts. It's the colors of the changing leaves and the texture of the snow. Everything becomes more vivid, more real in a way. I can now appreciate the simple beauty of the world in a way I never could before.

I'm going to miss this class. It's taught me more than I can put into words. So thanks Mark, for believing in me when I didn't believe in myself. Thank you for forcing me to paint the portions I was afraid to, knowing how great it would feel when I actually accomplished it. Thank you for making this experience mean so much more than I ever thought it could. Thank you for giving me my sight back.

- Jamie

The End

So this is it, our last day of art class.

There is so much to say about this experience, yet none of what I feel seems to have as much meaning when written out. I have had a big dose of art instruction throughout my life from ceramics to any 2D art. However, I have never had the experience of working on a piece this big. An experience like this can completely change one's opinion on art. As an artist in the past, I only worked on small art projects never going beyond my comfort zone. I would have never learned that working big can have an even bigger reward and I am so glad I have found that out.

Without this class, I would be stuck reading from books and answering questions. This is the best stress relief and great way to enjoy my week. It's basically freeing and a great escape. Thank goodness for art, I have no idea what I would do without it. My appreciation for art just grows and grows with each passing class. I will definitely miss this environment and all of the people that I was able to share this experience with.

Now all there is to do is wait for the mural to go up in the building and see all of our hard work  pay off. I can't wait for the day.

Thanks for this opportunity, I would'nt give it up for anything.

Reflection: Perspectives of Zach Mandell

On the final day of class, we had a closing discussion of the class over pizza. Mark began asking us questions about our experiences with the mural and one that I felt strongly about was whether our experience with the mural or the mural itself was more important. My answer: the experience

I have a feeling that through this class I have undergone somewhat of a change in my perspective of art. Mark often refers to the idea of "visual literacy" which I like to think of as the ability to see art. He feels that much of society places value on writing based literacy and lacks visual literacy. At first, I could somewhat grasp the idea of visual literacy. After visiting UMMA and the DIA (Detroit Institute of Art), I developed an interest for art that I never had felt before. The reason for this change in my view of art is a result of my ability of this thing called "visual literacy". While I have seen an improvement in my artistic skills when I'm painting, I am most enlightened by my ability to now sit in front of a painting for a number of minutes and still be engaged.

I'm just so visually literate right now that it hurts to type.

We Did It!

It's the last day of mural work. And everyone - including the student's and myself- are going to miss it. It's still not entirely done, actually. There's still a few white spots, but they are disappearing quickly. Whatever stress is amounting from limited time is probably a good kind of stress, at least. It's probably better than the stress of term papers and finals that everyone is anticipating in the following week. I think most of us would much rather be frantically applying brush strokes in vivid colors than frantically shuffling through papers, flashcards, and unfinished readings. Unlucky for me, I'm stuck with the frantic studying instead of frantic painting. I would trade if I could.


The Big Day

Ahh, it's the Big Day, huh.  We have all been waiting for this.  To finally finish our great masterpiece.  It's been such a long adventure with it's ups and downs.  Now writing this, I'm thinking of what life is going to be like without this class.  No more waking up at 9:45 A.M. to wait outside in the cold for the bus, then drifting to sleep on the bus ride to the studio.  No more free pizza and random talks about art, philosophy, and just life in general around the pizza.  ;____;  No more struggling to make colors and always asking Tim, Destiny, Tashina, Mimi or anyone else if I made the color right.  Today is somewhat sad, but hey, looking back now, it was totally worth it.  I'm leaving this class with a new perspective.  I can now truly appreciate the beauty of the outside world. 

One day while waiting for the bus, I was looking at the cement after it snowed.  I was looking at the wet patches and I was thinking, hmm that wet spot did a great job, wow that other spot really outdid itself with the color transition. Hmmm, how can I make this brownesque color? (I think it has something to do with Yellow Ochre and maybe some Burnt Umber).

I'm glad I took this class so I can have these random moments and this new perspective on the outside world. Art is beautiful and art is everywhere.
So everything must be beautiful right?
I say YES!
Because if you can't find the beauty in it, then you're obviously not looking at it, right?   :P

~ Jesus :3

Public Art & Today's the Day...

Part One: Public Art

So an article came out in The Michigan Daily a few weeks back, just before Thanksgiving. It was on proposed cuts to Public Art Funding in the Ann Arbor area. What caught my eye, though, is that Mark is featured in the article! If you'd like to check it out, here's the link:

And if you're interested in the result of the city council's vote on this matter, you can click here:
(Looks like Mark made an impression!)

You know, if I hadn't taken this class, I probably wouldn't have given the article more than a passing glance. But after experiencing this class, and beginning to understand what it will mean to have some of my work on display for anyone and everyone to enjoy, I feel like it is important for everyone to be able to see art and experience it. Art really does make the world seem more beautiful, and if it can brighten someone's day, or make them just feel something, I feel like it makes a difference for the better.

Part Two: Today's the Day...

Today's the day this all comes to an end. The mural will be complete and all our hard work will be finished for the semester. Mark said it's going to be pretty crazy in the studio today what with people coming to take video of us and ask questions, and more importantly, us actually getting the third and final panel done. It'll be sad, but I'm trying to mentally gear up for this. But in the words of Dr. Seuss who always says it best, "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."

~ Simi

It's almost over!

I can't believe this class is almost over! It's the saddest thing ever! I loved working with everyone and painting my first face(: hahah! I'm so surprised with myself! I can't believe that I can actually paint something attractive. My favorite part of making this mural was definitely painting with Daniela on the couple. I was painting the man and she was painting the girl. It was magical! hehe. I'm really gong to miss this class. And I'm so proud to know that I, along with my colleagues( I've always wanted to use that word) will be leaving " a mark" on the University of Michigan. Not many people get to do that. I can't wait to show my friends, family, and future children what I helped create and all the great experiences I had doing it.


P.S. Making Black is the worst! For all you future painters and artists out there. Just buy black paint. It will save you  blood, sweat, tears and frustration ( Sorry mark, I had to say it. haha) 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Painting a new perspective

I took this class on a whim. I've never considered myself artistically inclined and my level of expertise ended at stick figures and select cartoon animals. I'd always been more of a writer instead so when I told my friends and family that I was planning on taking a class that produces a mural they looked at me questionably. "You do art?" they said, to which I would promptly reassure them, "No," with a little laugh "not at all. But the class said no experience necessary, so I'm gonna try...." Little did I know that it would soon become my favorite class.

I'd always been a fast learner, but it surprised me how quickly that I completed the little assignments that Mark challenged us with. I could whip out gradient scales like I had been doing it my whole life. It was weird. Art never has been my thing. But then we got to the mural and everything changed. It was real now. Not only was the canvas huge, now my inadequacy affected more than just me. It became increasingly clear that so many people were going to see this, and I wasn’t quite ready for that responsibility. So I approached it really slowly, timidly, and carefully. That was until Mark yelled at us to “Paint faster! Paint faster! It’s fine, move on. Don’t overwork it.” It was completely different approach then I was used to, but it worked. I painted faster, and I learned really quickly not to dwell.

As the class went on, I started attempting bigger and more detailed portions. I still stayed away from the faces, but with a class on a deadline I didn’t have the luxury of only painting the solid portions that I knew I was good at. I had to stretch and learn on the fly. I had to ask a lot of questions and most importantly, like my old softball coach used to always say, I had to not be afraid to be a hero.

This class has taught me so much, but I think the most important thing that it’s taught me is that there is so much that I can accomplish, if I just believe that I can do it. If you asked me a couple of years ago if I’d ever paint a mural, my response would have probably been along the lines of “Yeah, with what art skills?” and I would have probably laughed in your face. Yet here I am today, almost finished with the mural, and I’m so proud of myself and the rest of my classmates who came together to make it. I can’t wait to walk past it every day, my own little proof that you truly can be anything that you make yourself out to be.

- Jamie Monville

Tomorrow, D-Day

Well, our backs are up against the wall.  Mark is expecting us to be finished with our not-so-finished-mural by tomorrow.  Here comes a long night in the studio.  I am anxious to be finished with this thing.  It's going to be awesome seeing it stuck up on the wall of the Palmer Commons.

Can't Wait For Christmas Break


Wow!! We're almost done.. ):

It's a little sad our mural almost completed. We are going to miss Mark. A lot. He is such a great goofy teacher and has crazy shoes. We are also going to miss everyone in our class and all the fun times we had like spilling water/paint on beautiful parts of the mural and attempting to clean it up before Mark notices. Like listening to the whole Justin Bieber CD. Like picking through pieces for the mural and arguing about all the hands. EVERYWHERE. Like trying to team up and convince Mark that the two paper squares were actually the same color so we could stop with color theory. haha. WE DID NOT CHEAT ;). Like going to Detroit and spending 30 mins trying to find Hamtramck Disney Land! Like cupcakes for Tashina's Birthday. Like Pizza with Jesus and  philosophical talks with Mark. (shoot, was i supposed to tell everyone that). Well, Tashina and I are very happy that we got to take this class together because now we have something to always remember each other by. 

-Tashina & Destiny!                                                                                    

How much does this all cost?

Recently we were contacted by Arts at Michigan who gave us the good news that we had just qualified for one of their Course Connections grants. This $1000 grant will go towards the cost of permanently installing the finished Mural in Palmer Commons. The actual cost of installing the mural hasn't been tallied yet, but we know that this grant will go a long ways towards helping to cover these costs. It got me to thinking that perhaps folks would be interested in knowing what it really costs to create a mural of this size (approximately 17 by 75 feet). My able administrative assistant in LHSP, Ruth Marsh, has tallied the cost of paint, muslin (the material we are painting on) and other miscellaneous supplies, (such as tape, primer, brushes, containers, etc.) and the grand total comes to $1,986.49. Where does this money come from? Well, amazingly enough, not only are our eleven students giving the mural to the university (and the greater public) to keep, but they also helped pay for most of the production of this mural through an additional lab/studio fee of $150 per student, above their tuition. So, not including the overall university cost of running the class--paying for staff and faculty, studio space, etc.--we will end up just about $350 shy of being able to cover the expenses directly related to the creation of this marvelous piece of public artwork. Where will this money come from? Just a minute, I've got to call Ruth again.......but seriously, just to put these expenses into perspective,  if this kind of artwork were to be commissioned professionally, the cost would have been prohibitively expensive for the units involved to cover--similar projects that have been created for other buildings on campus (granted they are usually paying big name artists) generally cost tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars. 

So, thanks again to Arts at Michigan for coming forward to help us with this unique project. And special thanks to my students for giving so generously of their talents, time, effort, and...yes...their money too.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Beginings of a 3rd Panel

Students have been working on panel 3 for about a week now. So far, it is just as large and turning out just as nice as the first two. A lot of faces and humanness in this one. I think this is an end piece so some of the colors are more muted in this one compared to the last panel which I am assuming was the center. This one's not dull, but just has more neutral tones overall which is probably from all of the humanness I was talking about. There is still a lot of white space, though, so it's hard to say yet.

Next Friday, I believe, the mural will be installed. Thanks to my unlucky finals schedule (last one isn't until the late!) I will be around to see it. I still haven't gotten around to taking a picture of Palmer Commons where it will be installed. Maybe I will this weekend to make use of my new camera (my Black Friday splurge which I am loving so far).

Also, it's Tashina's birthday today (and also Britney Spears's -- I heard that on the radio) so make sure to pay special attention to Tashina's work including her huge baby face in the far corner as well as listen to some Britney Spears for old time's sake.


Friday, November 18, 2011

"Less White"

Mark says "less white" should be Art in Public Space's new motto. It seems to be the reoccurring goal when it comes to mural progress. As you can see, students have been achieving it. Mark was also able to remix the mysterious shade of purple that Simi has been trying to remake - that must be a relief.  The painting of the purple lady can now continue.

We also had a guest come in today, Toni Auletti, with some words of wisdom. She told students that the faster they worked, the better their work would be. She also suggested covering all white spots with at least some kind of wash before leaving the room today (even if it's in underpants colors, as she says!), also reinforcing the "less white" motto. Maybe that can be a new technique used for panel 3. They'll be starting it soon enough! It looks like panel 2 is nearing completion. 

I'm going to try to take or find pictures of the space where the entire mural will be installed and post those later to get a better idea of the size and everything. It will be a fun surprise for everyone seeing how the panels will look when set next to each other. Soon enough.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Just to set the Scale...

As you have probably realized, this mural is massive. Here's a picture just to emphasize that some more. Mark plans on having this segment of the mural finished before or around Thanksgiving. We will see...

In earlier posts, Zach and Simi mentioned how Mark and the rest of the students were discussing the importance of a joint effort, or stylistic unity, or however it was put. I'm not totally sure because I wasn't actually there, but I think student's have done a really great job at creating a cohesive work. The styles seem to flow in and out of each other with ease. It's apparent that a number of different hands were at work, but where those separating boundaries end and begin is pretty ambiguous - which I think is a positive thing. It means the students are really in sync with each other and instead of being a bunch of individual paintings forced together, the mural becomes a collection of interwoven paintings complimenting each other to create one united piece.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Mural updates

Another week of progress. Here are some photos of Friday's work. I would have had them up sooner...but due to a crazy weekend of massive paper writing, I never found the time. I figure better late than never!

I know Mark's student's had a great time in Detroit last weekend. They went to the Detroit Institute of Arts and visited a sculpture-garden-esque ensemble of work from a particular artist. Seeing all of the art forms probably stirred some inspiration in them.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Color matching can be more frustrating than you'd think...

the purple lady

On Friday we spent the first hour and a half of class having a discussion about our work and art in general (if you're interested, Zach posted some of our discussion questions below.) While the discussion was good for our group to have, I was very restless to start painting. However, earlier in the week I had used up the main color of the purple lady I've been working on for this piece of the mural. So, in order to start painting I had to recreate the color from scratch...yeah, that didn't go well.

Painting is very much a release for me. I love the freedom a brush can give an artist. Sometimes unexpected things can result from the strokes of the brush and they make a piece even better, it's amazing. But for the first time since we started actually painting, I hit a point where I had to completely walk away from my work and go accomplish something else to get me back to a good place mentally. The perfectionist in me was so frustrated at myself for not being able to do what I thought was something so simple, just mixing up a new batch of paint to match a color I'd already made before. I was actually surprised by how worked up I got.

This class is teaching me patience, though. And just as importantly, to also try to balance my ego and inner critic, which is something I'm not afraid to say I struggle with sometimes. Having a bad day in the studio perhaps isn't the worst thing, and having a setback every once in awhile can maybe motivate me to have a super productive day next time I head in to do some work. I'm happy with where we're at as a class on our piece, and I look forward to coming closer each day to our goal of creating a work of art that's worth sharing with others.

- Simi

Friday, November 11, 2011

First Class Discussion

Very interesting start to class today. We all sat down in a circle and began to reflect on the mural so far. Mark brought up the fact that we shouldn't allow OUR work to become more of an individualized project. We don't just want to feel like we painted this face, the apple, and the box over there. On top of that, it seems like some of the more unexperienced painters are shying away from painting the most prominent and detailed parts of the mural. As a group, we should all feel like we played an important role in the mural.

After discussing what we should change in the process of making the mural, we drew questions out of a bucket that Mark prepared. I think it got everyone thinking a lot and we had a great discussion. There was much talk on whether or not the mural has meaning, which has been brought up many times before. I've listed some of the questions below, but I wont share many details. If your curious on how we answered the questions come to the grand opening event.


What does it means to be an artist?

What does it "feel" like to paint?

Who should see this mural and why?

Does the mural "mean" anything?

What does it mean to collaborate creatively?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Round 2: Another panel is coming along

Surrounded by the undulating sounds of reggae, french, and an eclectic assortment of musical sounds, students are working on panel 2. They started with a blank slate on Monday and as you can see, it's coming along already. There's still a lot of white space, but as the color builds, images inch closer and closer together and the white spaces become fewer and fewer. 

There's a strong sense of team work and support among the students, which I'm sure helps smooth thing along. There's probably moments of conflicting visions, but overall I'd say it's been fairly agreeable. I'm hearing mostly, "that looks great!" and "I like that a lot" from student to student, which is a positive thing. The Festifools puppets, who fill every corner of the room, would probably be very complimentary as well if they could talk. They've been watching the mural's progression all along.


one of the panel references

waiting for paint to dry can be very energetically costly

Mimee's sun 

another panel reference

Zach's work

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Little Background

About the project:

Earlier this summer Meghan O’Neil, Melanie Pizzulo, and David Disney from Palmer Commons approached me to see if my class would be interested in creating a large-scale artwork for installation inside Palmer Commons. After our initial meeting we decided that a particularly interesting expanse of wall on the fourth floor would make a suitable “canvas” for my students to work with. This space, which overlooks an outdoor plaza, (and welcomes guests to the Palmer Commons meeting rooms and auditorium) is quite large—77 feet long and 18 feet high--A beautiful, spacious location, able to be viewed from the outside as well as in; this would be the perfect space for my students to create a mural.

About my class:

This is a pretty unique class of students embarking on a unique project.

The goal of this class (called "Art in Public Spaces" and offered through the Lloyd Hall Scholars Program) is to collaboratively create this large-scale mural for Palmer Commons that is conceptually and aesthetically challenging and appealing. This mural must contain ideas—cogent ideas that are communicated via visual means. This is no small feat.  Asking eleven bright students to figure out a way to create one holistic design meant coming up with a process that both protects and supports their own creative egos along the way.  The students first need to develop a common language for creating the design at the same time that they are actually making the design (verbal communication in this part of the process is very limiting). This "language" must try to transcend communication constraints while acknowledging various skill levels and unique personal aesthetic and conceptual preferences in order to help understand, appreciate and incorporate everyone’s ideas into a realized whole.

Some of the questions students had in the very beginning had to do with just how to begin. Should we have a theme—or not? I mentioned that the LS&A theme for next semester was “Language: The Quintessence”.  Some students thought that could be a powerful way to start. Others (including myself) were dubious. Personally, I’m not sure that themes (particularly non-visual themes) help to jumpstart the creative process—sometimes they can hold too much weight, particularly as an idea begins to gel in a different direction. Eventually some students get married to the theme, while others want to hop on another theme train altogether.  The risk of ending up in a thematic impasse is always imminent.  Themes also have a way of bending ideas towards the trite. (“Love” means Hearts, “Happiness”: Rainbows.)

So my nebulous attempt to introduce and yet not require a theme left some of the students designing based on the “theme” and others not—at least that’s what I think. But somehow the resulting design holds together quite well. The strength of the design decisions made in a collaborative setting (under an artificial time constraint) produced a multi-faceted and exciting design, which I’m sure means something different to each of the individual students involved.

I’m looking forward to being a part of this creative process and, of course, to see what the finished outcome will look like. I hope others will come along on this journey with us and help celebrate once the completed mural is installed later this year.

Special thanks to Dora Zobou Sobze who has volunteered to put together this lovely blog for us!


One down, two to go

Here's the completed first panel, running 25 feet! Students have been working so quickly, but that's obviously not detracting from the quality of their work. It looks very vibrant and crazily similar to the original magazine-cut-out collages. Remember those?


Friday, October 28, 2011

It's growing!

The first panel is already full of color, it looks like. Barely any negative white spaces are left and it looks great! There's subdued music playing in the background - maybe it's channeling creative energy and focus into the students' work speed. If you are dying to know who these talented artists are, then check out the "Meet the Artists" tab I added recently. It will give you a little background info on their stories. They are all working pretty intensely (and contently) on their mural painting so I won't distract them by asking them to come write for a little about what's going through their minds. They'll let you know sooner or later. Artists are known to take their time with things!

Here's what the mural looked like last week:

Mark giving Zach some instruction
Anna's apple

It's looking a lot more detailed now with its layers of visuals. Here's how it's looking a week later (it's come a long way):

I like taking snapshots like this last one of segments. You get to see all of the details. I'll take more like this later on when it's more complete. It's really all the mini paintings strung together making one huge painting and it's a great piece of artwork as a whole. I would argue in this case though, that the whole isn't always greater than the sum of it's parts. In this case, I think the parts are just as good standing alone. 

I thought this color map was a neat idea (picture below).  Just like nomads and travelers need their maps, artists need theirs, too. Instead of arriving at some distant destination, this map guides you to a desired color. Or at least guides you towards one. It's probably near impossible to mix the same color twice unless you are a machine. But at least this minimalizes any surprises when color-surprises are unwanted. Sometimes predictability is ideal. Take a look:


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Painting the "Baby"

Initially, when I saw how big the canvas was for one section of the painting, I shook my head and thought no, this cannot be done. Now, after seeing how much we've painted so far, I see that it's not going to take as long as I suspected ^.^ Whew, what a relief!

 Now, all I have to do tomorrow is make the color for the grapes and make the grapes as real as I possibly can (tough) and then find somewhere else to paint (woohoo >.<) Thanks Mark for this painting "torture"


Monday, October 17, 2011

The Mural Baby is Born


So, the collage design is done. It's like a baby mural. It's waiting to grow into the finished work it's soon to become. Here is the collage cut into panels. There are grid lines laid over the design for spatial planing. I could tel the students really enjoyed working on it. A handful of them voluntarily stayed a long time after class was over to finish up their work. Maybe they were anxious to see the result or didn't want to leave their unfinished work to sit in the room overnight. Maybe they thought its unwholeness (made that word up) would detract from its liveliness. They'll tell you their thoughts when they start writing their own blog posts - which will be soon!


It's hard to see, but here's the panels side by side
This is the HUGE cartoon coming together. It takes up most of the floor.