School Mural Woes
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  1. #1
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    School Mural Woes

    I'm kind of going to blow of some steam here even though I'm probably an over-reactive butt.

    So there's these Chinese exchange students that have come over for a couple weeks at my high school, and apparently we're planning a mural with them? I'm a little annoyed since this happens in my IB art class and it has nothing to do with the coursework itself? Additionally, the picture they pitched ended up looking something like this.

    This piece is a landscape that's from this island in our local area, and they wanted to paint it in the 40's when it had an amusement park. Our school "theme" is skippers and sailors and boats too.

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    Okay, from a mudane perspective, I guess it's workable, it's not horrible. But I see this everywhere in schools; nostalgic landscapes and badly patched together lighting and it's just really getting on my nerves that'd we'd be adding yet aNOTHEr generic landscape painting as pretty much all the murals in the school are landscapes and 2 now 3 of them (if this design gets approved, which I have a feeling it will) are going to be looking out windows. The landscape is bland, the perspective is bland. I like the boat idea but it's just...I've seen it before too much and I just. sdfafk;s

    When I tried to tell them it was tacky and unrealistic to smack a sun on top of the water like that, someone said "we're not painting a mona lisa here, it doesn't have to be realistic." The sunset they proposed didn't really have uniform lighting either? One moment they say they don't want it realistic and another moment they want it to look really gorgeous? I don't know.

    I suggested initially adding a skipper (our mascot, basically a sailor guy) figure in the foreground and using him to illustrate some kind of motivating image or an image with some kind of value in terms of school spirit or determination. He'd achieve this by navigating a sailboat that pointed towards the island. But they shot it down pretty quickly. Although they approved their design, I'm making one going off my original idea and see how the principle thinks about it (as he's the final say-all in the matter):

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    I'm not saying I'm a great artist but I've been consistently doing landscape studies (mostly because I suck at them) and many of the people who are working on it don't exactly have lighting down or haven't really seen or studied anything from any outside references or resources? I still can't get my input but that's probably because I'm not assertive enough.

    idk I might just be overracting or even acting like an asshole because I'm butthurt over my input not getting in the final layout but idk what do you guys think.

    Last edited by Toriknew; February 13th, 2013 at 12:18 AM.
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  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Toriknew View Post
    "we're not painting a mona lisa here, it doesn't have to be realistic."
    Oooh, that's the worst excuse you can hear from beginner cartoonists, and it ALWAYS irks me.


    Anyway, who was the one to said "It's better to aim high and fail than to aim low and succeed?"

    But seriously dude, it's high school. It's good YOU have standards, but it really doesn't mean much that no one else does.

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    First step: collect reference of the subject. Take photos of the location from various angles, seek a good viewpoint with future foreground elements (e.g. human figures) in mind. Hunt up old photos of the location from back when it had been an amusement park. Do multiple sketches to settle upon a composition.

    Don't try to be lazy and save on planning and preliminary work. It will only cause the project to blow up in your face. It pays off to underestimate your ability to draw and paint, never to overestimate it and think you'll be able to pull it off with no effort.

    The "we're not painting a mona lisa here, it doesn't have to be realistic" excuse is, indeed, quite clueless. Good cartoons that work are always, always grounded in reality, no matter how stylized or grotesque they may become. If you don't base it on reality, it will only look sloppy and amateurish - even if you think it is just "cartoony".

    As for this particular study, I suggest you desaturate it to grayscale, reduce it to small size and look at it again. You'll see it does not read as anything recognizable, because you haven't been thinking enough of the value composition.

    Try to redo it using only black, white and 3 shades of gray in between. It will help you think more clearly and create a more readable composition.

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    Sorry if the following is ranty and pretty angry, most likely unnecessary anger U_U

    It's been a while, but we've started painted the mural at this point. My idea was shot down, but it didn't have much of a chance in the first place. We're not going with the boat stern landscape, rather we're doing one with an island with the theme park and the boat on the side displayed. Kind of like one of those murals you see when you go to local touristy areas that show off the scenery. We're going off of a sketch, but the sketch isn't very well planned as the colors are pretty flat and it does not look like the sunset the people wanted to plan out.

    I was gone the day they made the initial sketch, and they made the horizon line for the lake waay too high, in that if land and a Ferris wheel were added to it, it would have touched the ceiling, but I fixed it afterwards. It's still too high, but the people wanted it to be high up and I didn't want to argue with four other people on it.

    Now today we've started the sky. And here is where I think the underlying problems really show up. At first they wanted to directly go onto the wall and paint the sunset without any reference. When I asked them if the girl designated to paint the sunset knew how to, they said "Of course she does; it's not like she hasn't seen a sunset at all" According to that logic then people who see landscapes or other people or cars can automatically draw them from memory because they've seen them before.

    Eventually we get a few references and start work on the sky. For sunset's there's usually gradation of slightly darker hues before it gets bright and it gets darker. This is a reference image I'm going off of, and it has a pretty similar composition to the thing we're working on.

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    When I lay down a medium tone on the bottom and try to blend it by adding light paint and blending it up, they stop me because their plan is to do a light yellow wash over everything and then add the dark hues later. I understand that there's different methods of blending paint but generally it's easier to put a bit of dark paint on the bottom an then blend it out using lighter paint to create more convincing gradation. I've been using this method for the majority of the skies I've painted in studies and it's a pretty good and tried/tested method.

    They also want to paint over things and then layer everything and if they don't like it, they'll just keep putting paint on it over and over until they find that it works. Is that really a good method for painting? It's important to add layers but it's generally better to do things in the least amount of layers so that the paint doesn't get an undesirable plastic-y texture.

    I also told them that if you want to make the sunset like you want to be, most of the details of the land will be lost as it becomes near-black due to the backlighting and the hues and values on the sketch image will not match up at all. All values in the boat and the water will be much darker as well. And they told me AGAIN to not nitpick and that they're not shooting for some "masterpiece" or anything. And that the point of the collaboration is to enjoy the experience of collaboration and not worry as much about the end product. Um, what. The group of 5-7 people working on the project may certainly experience the "collaborative goodness" in exchange for technical accuracy but if you leave a crappy painting on the wall it's going to stay there for at least five years and you don't want to leave a bad impression or really waste an entire wall like that.

    It's irking because yes, again I'm definitely not a landscape expert, but I know the teacher that instructs me on painting landscapes is, and what I'm saying is basically reiterating the points and advice my teacher says. Method of achieving certain looks can vary, but I feel like the fundamental rules with lighting shouldn't be skewed or disregarded because you don't feel like applying yourself to it or feel like it's not going to be "professional quality" anyways so let's just do it the "easy way". The people that annoy me the most are actually the people who don't paint on a regular basis, and yet they still get their say in things.

    Ever since we started working on the project, I've felt I've added a lot of tension in the group. I do generally disagree on a lot of stuff they do, but I do it because many of them are ignoring a lot of basic principles with lighting or even art in general. The planning was near minimal, they just wanted to dive in right away. There was no planning on the color scheme or the values, and they just wanted to wing it and let the spontaneous magic of art and sweet talking to themselves make the painting work.

    It's kind of ironic that my teacher told me to be the main motivator in driving and supervising the group. I just feel like I'm being shut out of the mural. My other friend is basically refusing to do it because of the terrible work ethic they adopted. Whenever I bring up something, whenever I try to assert myself they exchange exasperated glances among each other that seem to send the message that I'm doing something terribly wrong.

    IDK what to do at this point. I guess we can still fix it but I have to go up against 6 people to do that, and the social pressure is very hard for me. Should I be more assertive? Should I bring this to the teacher?

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    It sounds like you have an antagonistic team and you don't have the leadership skills to make them want to work with you rather than against you. You're going to have a hard time convincing people to do anything when you don't value their opinions and you don't want to compromise. If they already respected you as an artist then you might have convinced them with the "I know this better" approach. But it sounds like you never built any respect or rapport, and mostly what you did was tell them that they were doing things wrong. Now you're just that nitpicky guy who complains about everything and makes work for everybody.

    At this point nothing is going to move you out of that role except an attitude shift on your part. The teacher can tell the team to do what you say but then they'll resent it and you'll get shit work out of them anyway. Being more assertive is just going to give you more of the same because they don't respect you.

    The mural is probably fucked, but you can still use this as an opportunity to start figuring out leadership and the fine art of influencing people. Instead of going in there and throwing your weight around, go in and start observing how people interact. Sooner or later you're going to have to work with problem clients or bosses or lousy coworkers, and there isn't going to be a teacher to tell them to listen to you. You're going to have to learn to deal with them so that you get better results than this.

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    Quote Originally Posted by vineris View Post
    It sounds like you have an antagonistic team and you don't have the leadership skills to make them want to work with you rather than against you. You're going to have a hard time convincing people to do anything when you don't value their opinions and you don't want to compromise.
    Do you have any advice on HOW to achieve compromise? I've had to sacrifice a lot of things when planning the mural. The windows idea was accepted from me but the rest was their idea, which is a compromise. But when painting the mural I think our ideas were too divergent to come at a compromise so it's either this or that method, and at the point I've let them do their thing. I don't think passivity is a compromise but they're happy and that's their goal. I think they do know that my method is technically correct however they've implied multiple times that they just want to have fun and not invest that much effort into it. There are some people that do want to work hard on it but it's only a couple people and the rest are sitting on the stairs with their phones out talking about spring break plans pretty much every day we've worked on it, while voicing an opinion occasionally, with interest in adding details to the mural but not in actually painting it. How do I work with a team like that?

    If they already respected you as an artist then you might have convinced them with the "I know this better" approach. But it sounds like you never built any respect or rapport, and mostly what you did was tell them that they were doing things wrong. Now you're just that nitpicky guy who complains about everything and makes work for everybody.
    I've pretty much been a stick in the mud all year. I think I'm as annoying as heck in class for pointing out flaws during critique time because no one else really talks about how to improve on things even if the teacher asks them to? When I've asked the teacher if I've been too harsh she actually tells me to keep critiquing them like this because it's constructive but idk. I don't have a caustic relationship with everyone. It just so happens that the people I were assigned with aren't the people I have the best relationship with.

    At this point nothing is going to move you out of that role except an attitude shift on your part. The teacher can tell the team to do what you say but then they'll resent it and you'll get shit work out of them anyway. Being more assertive is just going to give you more of the same because they don't respect you.
    At this point an attitude change for me is to probably occupy a lesser role in this mural project or not do it at all, as it's not even for a grade and if it turns out bad I only get to see it for another year. I feel like I'm investing myself too much into this and I don't want to offend anymore people with prying if they're unwilling to accept it.

    The mural is probably fucked, but you can still use this as an opportunity to start figuring out leadership and the fine art of influencing people. Instead of going in there and throwing your weight around, go in and start observing how people interact. Sooner or later you're going to have to work with problem clients or bosses or lousy coworkers, and there isn't going to be a teacher to tell them to listen to you. You're going to have to learn to deal with them so that you get better results than this.
    I'll try to be less assertive I guess. Perhaps I'll voice concern with the teacher but I'll discourage her from confronting the other painters. I definitely don't want this mural to have just my ideas either; I just want the base shapes and colors to be set up correctly. That's pretty much all I want.

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    See if you can get hold of some scrap hardboard, slap some emulsion on it and get everyone to show you how they think it should be painted. don one yourself and come to a concenus as to the best method of painting it before starting on the wall. Learn to jolly them along and lighten up a bit.


    I didn't think it was possible to be called an artist when you have nothing to say. It's like being a writer who publishes individual words as books and expects to be praised for it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Toriknew View Post
    Do you have any advice on HOW to achieve compromise?
    Not without knowing the people involved in the situation. Different people have to be managed differently.

    Quote Originally Posted by Toriknew View Post
    There are some people that do want to work hard on it but it's only a couple people and the rest are sitting on the stairs with their phones out talking about spring break plans pretty much every day we've worked on it, while voicing an opinion occasionally, with interest in adding details to the mural but not in actually painting it. How do I work with a team like that?
    It depends if your problem is mostly with people who care, or with the uninvolved people.

    If the problem is that most of the people don't care and don't work and only yell out orders, then it should be fairly easy for the people who care to do what they want. If anyone who has a suggestion from the stairs, ask them to work on what they suggested. This tends to weed out people who want to tell everyone what to do and not do anything. The problem is that you end up doing most of the work, but the benefit is that it gets done the way you want.

    But if your problem is with the other people who care enough to be actively doing stuff, then it's a bigger issue because you can't make anyone do anything, you can only convince them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Black Spot View Post
    See if you can get hold of some scrap hardboard, slap some emulsion on it and get everyone to show you how they think it should be painted. don one yourself and come to a concenus as to the best method of painting it before starting on the wall. Learn to jolly them along and lighten up a bit.
    That's very great advice actually! I did consider doing it. But then I thought. This isn't for a grade, they're dead set on their idea, and I don't want to deal with this group work ethic anymore, and I don't like the idea for their painting either so I won't enjoy it if I were to follow through with their idea. At this point I don't care what the mural is going to look like. At the end of the day, it' just a high school mural; I don't have anything to invest in here, and if I'm stressing out this much over something like this I don't think I should really be involved with it anymore (on top of that I'm assigned to fix two separate murals within the school for NAHS with two different teams of people on those as well).

    I do want to thank you both for the advice though, because I'll probably be needing to use it in the future when I'm doing a group project that I'm more invested in.

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    I have got to see a photo of this thing when it's finished. Please do share

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