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Association of General Contractors - Austin Chapter

Build A Great Life Mural

During the summer of 2021, I heard through the grapevine that the Associated General Contractors (AGC) Austin Chapter was looking to have a mural installed on their North facing wall to celebrate 75 years of working in Austin. My dad and stepmom are both architects, so I grew up around the building and construction industry in Austin, and thought I would be a great fit for this project. I reached out to Phil, the current president of the AGC Austin Chapter to see if he was interested in scheduling a meeting to chat about the project, and he was excited to get to know me!


During our initial meeting, Phil told me more about AGC, and how they wanted to upgrade their exterior, as the building blended into the background and traffic in that area, and they had made upgrades to the interior the previous year. They wanted the mural to highlight the construction industry, while also showing that the work they do isn't just about construction, but about building a better quality of life for everyone who lives, works, and visits Austin. After sending my initial quote and having a few board meetings to discuss the mural, I was brought onto the project as their official muralist and got started with the design process!


THE CANVAS


Phil wanted to include elements of the construction process, as well as certain iconic buildings from the Austin skyline, while also integrating cultural aspects and the natural beauty that you find in Austin. The building is just south of the Lady Bird Lake, and the wall faces downtown Austin, so it made sense to integrate the Natural and Urban in the same way that the layout of the city does. Having these specific elements to highlight helped me with my illustration process, which always starts with a digital design.


ROUND 1




I always start the design process with an initial round of renderings, which includes one flat image (right), and one image with the design superimposed digitally on the wall (left), so that my clients can see an example of what it would look like on the wall. Colors are always slightly different in person due to natural light, shadows, and the fact that the digital design is seen through a screen, but sending this kind of rendering helps people visualize how the mural will change the space before paint is ever applied.


FEEDBACK


Phil enjoyed this initial rendering, but had a list of changes that he wanted me to make. I always allow for at least one opportunity for revisions with my projects to make sure the client is happy with the final result! Here are the changes we discussed:

  • Some of the changes were color specific; for example, the water was too green, the grass didn't look natural, the Long Center arch was too orange, etc.

  • We eliminated a few items; the building that looks like a sail because the contractors aren't members of AGC, and the Thom's Market lady and Magnolia Cafe signs because we didn't want to cause any confusion by highlighting specific businesses.

  • We decided to use a different angle for the Bob Bullock Texas State History museum so that the star didn't take up so much space.

  • We wanted the phrase "Build A Great Life" to pop more.

  • And finally, there were additions to make! We chose to add the Willie Nelson statue to go with the Stevie Ray Vaughn statue, we added a building currently under construction in Austin that was being built by J E Dunn (a member of AGC), and the Spring Condominium building. We also added various elements of the construction industry, including cranes, a concrete mixing truck, and a diverse team of industry professionals.

With these changes to make, I got back to work, and after a few more discussions, I came up with...


THE FINAL RENDERING

Everyone agreed that this rendering checked all the boxes, so I got to work prepping for...


THE INSTALL!


Every project is different and presents with its own set of challenges. This project was particularly challenging for the following reasons:

  • This wall is exterior, so you are at the whim of the weather, and the install started in February, so it was chilly and unpredictable weather.

  • The wall is brick, which means that the texture and grout lines can slow you down.

  • The building was approximately 25' tall and 30' wide, which meant I'd need to safely get up in the air. However, there was a planter in front of the building which makes using a ladder or scaffolding dangerous, and the parking lot is sloped so a scissor lift was out of the question.

  • Because the wall is exterior and so large, using a projector to get the initial image up wasn't an option - my projector won't project an image at this scale, parking lot lights wouldn't allow for the image to show up on the wall, and there are safety concerns when working at night, so I had to figure out how to get the image up so I could paint it!

  • Another problem with it being an exterior wall is that you run the risk of taggers coming through and making their own "artistic changes" to your mural without permission.

But with every challenge comes the opportunity to find a solution:

  • I made sure to give myself enough time and flexibility in my install schedule to account for crazy weather changes.

  • Because the wall is brick, I made sure to prime the wall well, and used Montana Spray Paint to get the initial color up. I use this paint because it is made for exterior murals, and is highly pigmented so it won't fade quickly. The black lines would then be added with a small but sturdy brush, and exterior latex house paint.

  • To get up in the air safely, Equipment Depot generously donated a boom lift rental for this project, which allowed me to reach the tallest parts of the building without needing to climb on anything, and accommodated for the slope of the parking lot.

  • The method I used to get the image up on the wall was called a Doodle Grid, which allowed me to work during the day without having to use any extra tools. I will make another blog post to explain how this process works at a later date!

  • To deter taggers during the install, we had a construction camera donated and recording a live stream for the duration of the project by Evercam, and signs posted that recording was in progress. Once the installation was complete, I coated the entire wall in Vandlgaurd, which is a clear coat that makes it hard for paint to stick on the surface, and also makes for an easier time removing graffiti without damaging the mural.

Once I identified the challenges and came up with the solution, it was time to get painting. I installed this mural by myself, and with some freezing weather and just one pair of hands, the install took about a month. Below are progress photos from start to finish, I hope you enjoy!



Thank you for reading the details of this awesome project! I was so happy to work with Phil and the rest of the AGC Austin team, and look forward to the next time our paths cross.


Cheers!


Emily

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