Creating Murals, Step by Step
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Creating Murals, Step by Step

A class helps aspiring wall painters learn the art the of the mural.

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Queenie Chow and Maria Khan work on their mural.

On Saturday, at the Flemingdon Park library branch, the final installment of a mural-making course concluded as participants painted their final creations.

The course, called Step by Step, is one of many programs run by Mural Routes, a mural-art nonprofit. Participants met on Saturday mornings during February and April to learn everything about how to make a mural, from the initial design stage, to the layering of colours, to brush-stroke techniques.

“This has been a really encouraging group,” said Tara Dorey, program coordinator, her jeans splattered with paint and a blue smudge on her nose. “This group that’s here today, they are the consistent group that has comes out every Saturday. They’ve all been a really positive contribution to the class. It’s been really exciting to see such a variety of people get along so well and use their strengths to help people out.”

At the final class, participants worked in pairs on miniature murals, many of which were on themes related to the environment. Queenie Chow, a high-school teacher, painted wispy clouds on the mural she was making with her partner, Maria Khan, a 19-year old OCAD student. Their painting consisted of a rainbow-coloured sky, representing the transition of seasons from winter (dark purple) to fall (yellow and red).

“There are a lot of hands-on opportunities here,” Chow said of the program. “[Instructors] Rob and Tara have been great at teaching us techniques and building on top of them week by week. What really surprises me is how mural art affects a community.”

The murals the students made in this final class are being used as inspiration for a painting that the Mural Routes team will be putting on the interior of the rainbow tunnel, located near Lawrence Avenue and the Don Valley Parkway. Many of the students wanted to incorporate rainbow colours into their design.

Shannon Foster worked on her creation with Emily Harrison, who will soon be an OCAD freshman. Their mural contained a menagerie of urban animals in a wilderness setting.

“I went and scoped the area myself, and there’s a lot of wildlife down there and a lot of beautiful trees, so I thought it would be really cool if we incorporated that while keeping almost a surrealist feel,” said Foster as she painted part of the sky deep red. “That’s why we’re using the bright colours, to pull out the natural things from around it. Plus, I liked using the rainbow colours from the actual tunnel, so it keeps in sync with it.”

The mural course was about more than just how to make art. It also taught participants about how public art can enrich a community. “I’m planning on being an art therapist,” Foster said. “So I’m planning on having art in my future a lot, and I like the idea of working in a community. I think that would be really good for me, if I keep doing this and keep up the mural-making tradition.”

Hosna Sahak—who, at 14 years old, was the youngest person in the room—was grateful for the chances the course had given her. She plans on being an engineer, but says she would love to be involved with community murals on a volunteer basis.

Mural Routes will be starting on the interior of the rainbow tunnel soon and hopes to have it completed by July. The contributions of the Step by Step students will be integral to its design.

“I want these pieces to be there,” said Dorey. “They put so much work into it and a lot of these participants have never been in any kind of art show in a professional setting, so it would be huge.”

Photo by Chris Riddell/Torontoist.