ABOVE:  The mural was created on a concrete block constructed wall. Although the wall is a south-facing, an ample roof overhang offers it some protection from the sun and elements.

Students collectively determined the various elements and images that appear in the final work. Problem solving skills helped students combine the elements into a single cohesive composition.

The tiger, which appears throughout the work, is the school mascot. Painting in images of local water towers, the train station and an automobile grill, the students paid homage to the various artists of the 20th century who painted non-traditional, somewhat industrial subject matter (buildings, factories and so on) in non-realism ways.
The images below break the comosition into three segments and were taken after the mural was completely finished.
Click on the images to view enlargements of each.
C.S. Poppenga
Ontario High School, Ontario, Oregon (USA)
In March 2003, I was an Artist-in-Residence at Ontario High School in Ontario, Oregon (USA.) The residency spanned two weeks, during which time I facilitated and guided about 130-150 high school students through the process of researching, designing and producing a 10 feet high by almost 45 feet wide mural on an exterior wall of their school.

As with all of my school residencies, the students create the art entirely. I facilitate, organize and instruct.

During the first week, each class visited the possible mural sites. There, they discussed safety issues, materials and audience concerns. Next, they brainstormed ideas for a mural theme, elements, and composition.
Details from the mural.
Click on the images for larger view of each.

The wall's texture was put to advantage by scumbling colors over colors, the layering building a rich color texture to complement the rough wall surface.

I was especially pleased with the rhythmic quality that developed in certain passages of the mural. The circular path the eye takes across the car headlights to the baseball in the woman's hand to the onions on the farmer's pitchfork to the roundness of his glasses and the "O" on his letterman's jacket or the "O" broach of the woman is one example.  Several others, some less obvious appear throughout the mural.
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"Dog Gentlemen"
DeForest, U.S.A.
Rodin, French.
"The Munich Olympics"
Jacob Lawrence, U.S.A.
Vincent van Gogh
left end of the mural
middle of the mural
right end of the mural
Students research images to incorporate into the mural. Graph paper was used to create a master drawing of each image selected. Students not the ones who drew on the graph paper, then used the graph paper drawings as guides from whch to draw directly on the wall.

A student's rendition
of the
Mona Lisa on graph paper. To facilitate students learnin to collaborate, I usually have students use another student's paper drawing as a reference when drawing the image on the wall. Working from an "unfamiliar" drawing (not their own), students will pay closer attention to what actually "is" rather than what they "think" is.
Below are photos of the mural underway.
Learning to control the brush for the desired effect.
Ladders were sufficient to reach the mural's highest areas.
Carefully selecting key lines to guide the painting process.
Collaborating on finishing touches.
Painting a rendition of a work by Russian artist Gorky juxtaposed with a representation of a prehistoric petroglyph to the right.
Painting the first layer of colors in the vanGogh sunflowers.
Discussing how best to portray a hummingbird's wings and tail.
A spot of warm color on the cool blue dog.
As an added activity, I conducted a drawing "warm-up" session in the classroom before beginning each day's work on the mural. Shown below are a few examples of students' charcoal drawings from one of these ten-minute sessions: Students rapidly drew the gesture of a live model (me) descending a small step stool. The resulting drawings were reminiscent of artist Marcel Duchamp's painting, "Nude descending a staircase."
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