Creating a family mural has been the best thing about this winter. Wintering near NYC, for us means a lot of indoor time and as winter comes around I always wonder what it will be that we apply our creativity to. As I child my mother always had a roll of butcher’s paper on hand, (from back in the days when butchers wrapped fresh meat in paper rather than it being prepackaged in plastic) and she would tape this butcher’s paper to the wall in the hallway for my brother and I to draw on. I always loved this and so it was something I looked forward to doing with my children. When we moved to America, I could not find a roll of butcher’s paper – which is a giant roll of paper that stand a meter tall, and so I had to settle for ikea paper rolls, which are not very wide.
This year though I decided ikea paper just would not work for us anymore. I have sworn off going to ikea, and while I realise ikea is good for some things/situations, I feel like it is also the kind of place to go and buy stuff you do not need. Anyway….one day while fossicking at our local paper shop, I discovered they had giant (74cm x 102cm or 29″ x 40″) sheets of artist quality paper, that were only $5 each, which if you buy art paper, you will know $5 is pretty cheap for paper this size. So I bought 5 sheets. For the cost of going to the movies, we had a wall of paper that provided hours and hours and hours of entertainment, along with great reward and satisfaction.
Together Cam and I used masking tap to join all the pieces. We made tapped seems, so that it was one long continuous length of paper. Then together we taped it to the wall with masking tape, spaced intermittently to hold it secure, and there our blank canvas stood, for about 2 seconds before the girls (me included) dived in.
There was something about having the better quality paper, and using beautiful materials that made this mural more substantial and effective. We are using pencils and water colour paint. I believe in teaching children to value quality, and to use materials accordingly. For birthdays and christmas we build on our art supply collection, because good art supplies are not cheap! The girls are very respectful of their pencils and paper. Having quality supplies makes a world of difference to the product, and this lesson goes a long way in life. I think also the ages of the girls, being 7 and 5 now, has meant that there is something precious about this combined record of their mark making. They are old enough to follow through drawing ideas and they have enthusiasm about themes they like.
This whole process has been about togetherness, and about how working on something little by little, a bit here and a bit there, that over time it grows. It has shown us that if we work together and co-operate, and if we focus our energy repeatedly, we can create something large and wonderful, and substantial.
There have been moments this winter with a fire burning in the hearth, Cam playing the guitar and the girls and I sitting shoulder to shoulder drawing, that I have been overcome with the greatness of this bonding experience. I knew we would draw a picture, but what I did not imagine is all the welling of love I would feel in the process while sitting and drawing with the girls. There has been a richness to our life because of doing this together.
It has been a go to thing for us to do when we have not been sure what we felt like doing. It is just there…to come and go from, when we feel like it, or sometimes not. I have also used it as a tool direct restless energy. When we are tired and cranky about winter, or if the girls have been bickering I have made them work on the mural, imposing it on them. This has worked well too, sometimes if the children are doing the wrong thing they need to be guided and directed and there is only so many times I can make them tidy their room! The act of sitting and calmly drawing is cathartic for them and definitely helps sort them out of a difficult space.
When summer rolls around, our mural will be finished, and we will look on it proudly as an achievement of winter 2014. We will remove it from the living room wall, and just by coincidence the length of the mural is the same length as a wall space above their beds, and so that is where it will go. For years this wall has been waiting for something…and I never could commit to buying anything, and now the wall will have this mural. I do not have a set idea yet of how I am going to preserve the mural, but when I decide on how to frame/mount it, I will let you know. So far am thinking of a plywood backing and home-made frame, without a cover. I do not want it to be heavy, or too precious. I want to be able to feel the paper still. This was one of those projects that is going to bring us fond memories in many years to come.