We love to hear from people who have been inspired by our creativity. We recently heard from a talented amateur mural artist—Nicci Westbrook. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband Ed and their two pit bulls Norman and Molly. In her spare time, Nicci loves to quilt or work on home renovation projects. They've moved quite a few times over the years and have always found wall murals a gratifying and affordable way to make their home feel really special. Nicci asked us if she could use our 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea poster as inspiration for a mural in her home. We said, "Sure—as long as you take some photos so we can share it with our followers." Nicci blew us away with her mad skillz. We liked her work so much that we asked her to do a quick interview so we could share her work with you.
Here is the original design that inspired her mural. It's from our Literary Classics Collection:
And here are some shots of Nicci's work-in-progress:
Q. What inspired you to use our artwork as reference for your mural?
We've always been big readers and tend to gravitate toward artwork that celebrates our favorite stories. The 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Jules Verne image by Anderson Design Group was a perfect fit for this project for a few reasons. First, my husband wanted to house his collection of vintage Sci-Fi books in his home office, so we were looking for an image that celebrated a Sci-Fi story we felt a connection to. Second, the style and layout of the image were a good fit for the wall size we were trying to fill and for my abilities as a painter (which are very basic!) Finally, we both loved the image! A mural is something that is likely to be in your house for a long time, so it's important to choose something that will delight you to look at for many years to come.
Q. What was your process in creating it?
Once I've selected an image, the process of creating a mural like this fairly simple! I always use a projector to trace images onto my wall, so I start the process on my computer in Microsoft Powerpoint and create a couple of different types of slides. I create all of the slides to match the aspect ratio of the wall on which I will paint. So if my wall is 8 feet tall by 10 feet wide I might create a slide of the image that is 8 inches tall by 10 inches wide. This is where I work on any cropping that needs to happen. I then duplicate that slide and number all of the different colors in the image. This particular mural has 11, but I've done as many as 40 colors or as few as 1 color for murals in the past. Finally, depending on the size of the room and how far away I'll be able to set up my projector, I sometimes have to break the mural up into 4 equal quadrants and make each of those quadrants its own slide. I place registration marks on each quadrant slide so I can line them up on the wall as I move around to project and trace.
Then it's just a matter of tracing in pencil to transfer the image to my wall. When I trace, I try to be mindful of the shapes I'm making and my skills as a painter. For instance, curved shapes are much easier for me to fill than shapes with sharp corners, so wherever possible, I tend to simplify shapes to be a little curvy as long as that is appropriate for the style of the image.
The next step is translating colors from those I numbered in my slides to interior paint colors that can be mixed at my hardware store. I always start this process with a tool called Photo Match from Valspar. This tool allows you to upload a photo of your choice and then find out which Valspar paint colors will match it. This tool is just a starting point for me. Once I have paint chips in hand, I tweak the colors with a few goals in mind. First, I think about anything in the room we'd like to match. In this case, my husband had an orange couch that we didn't necessarily want to match, but with which we did want to harmonize. Think also about the colors of adjacent walls and adjoining rooms. Second, I make sure we like all of the colors! Sometimes the color matches are very close to the original, but we just don't love them and a slight adjustment can make all the difference. Finally, I make sure the colors align with the original effect of the image. For instance, this image has a few gradients in it. If the color matcher didn't provide me a gradient of blues that progresses evenly from light to dark, I'll pick that out myself in the store. Usually, the color matcher gets you close enough on most of these criteria and it's just a matter of fine-tuning. For most mural projects, all you'll need is a sample size of interior paint for each color.
Once I get the paints home, I label them with the numbers I assigned on my slides using a permanent marker. Then, it's just a matter of painting inside the lines!
Q. How long did it take you?
From inception to completion, this mural probably took 2 months with lots of inactive time at the beginning. We spent several weeks selecting images and contacting artists to obtain permission to use our final picks. That makes it sound like a lot of work, but really we just had a couple of conversations and sent a few emails. If the image you would like to reproduce is protected under copyright, make sure you contact the artist in advance! Most are very kind and generous, but there are also loads of images in the public domain that make amazing murals.
I spent a day or two working in Powerpoint and we visited our local hardware store to have paints mixed one weeknight evening. Make sure to allow plenty of time for your trip to the hardware store because both making decisions about colors and having lots of samples mixed take time. You might even want to take your paint chips home and sleep on them or make sure they look great in the room you'll be painting.
Tracing for this mural took me a full day. Sometimes getting that projector lined up just like you want it takes ages! Finally, painting took a solid two weeks with some long days but also some half days in there. Many of the darker colors needed a few coats and there's always touch up at the end for shapes that didn't end up quite like you meant them to on the first try or little drips or smudges that happened along the way.
Q. Do you have ideas for future projects?
Always! I'm planning a celestial painting project for our laundry room. We're also dreaming of purchasing a second property on the Oregon coast and we're planning a beachy reproduction of an old Paint By Number as a large scale mural when the time comes.
Q. Do you have any advice for people who would want to do a mural of their own?
Yes! You can absolutely do this! I know I was wordy above trying to give you as many details and hints as possible, but anyone with a steady hand and LOTS of patience can tackle a project like this. Folks who know me can tell you I'm no painter or drawer, so if I can do this, you can too! If you make a mistake, just let it dry and paint over it. You can have virtually as many tries as you need to get it right and if worse comes to worst, it's just paint and it's pretty easy to paint over. Give it a try!
Here are some photos of other projects that Nicci has done to decorate her walls:
We are so thankful for creative, adventurous people like Nicci and Eddie. They inspire us to keep on making new art!