In February 2019, the City of Guelph in Ontario, Canada issued a public Call for Artists to submit design responses toward their request-for-proposal (RFP). Their goal was to add four new murals to their downtown core to further brighten up the area. A friend of ours promptly sent us the Call for Artists, suggesting that we submit a proposal–so we quickly jumped at the opportunity!
Two months later, we found out that we had been shortlisted to the final three designs to pitch artwork ideas for Site A: Market Side Wall (12.4’ x 5.8’ = 71.92 square feet). Feeling inspired, we got to work and completed a design that we felt confident in submitting.
Visiting the Site
Our first step was to visit the site so that we could get a sense of the size of the wall and its environment. After we completed our measurements, we took notice of how small and short the wall was. Our main idea was to design an interactive mural that was similar in nature to past #KitsWings and #GaltWings murals. The small area definitely posed a challenge for us to find a universal centre for each person's height. A welcome bonus though was that we would be painting on portable metal panels rather than painting the wall itself.
We love to go out for breakfast or coffee together to sketch and brainstorm our initial ideas. After one such lovely morning, we were excited to propose painting a gorgeously-detailed interactive Monarch butterfly wings mural. Admittedly, we were a little concerned about over-using a concept that we had already done in the past, but we also loved the challenge of continuing to try to improve on fun ideas. The wall was the perfect location for a highly-interactive, viral “selfie” magnet that would soon become an attractive and memorable icon for the City of Guelph.
Why a Monarch butterfly? While endangered species like lions and elephants have grabbed global attention, the decreasing population of the Monarch butterfly was only very recently noticed. From the year 1990 on, around a billion Monarch butterflies vanished. Today in Ontario, Monarch butterflies have reached the “Special Concern” status, which means they still live in the wild, but they may become threatened or endangered due to a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats.
We would like to draw attention to the Monarch butterfly’s connection to Guelph agriculture. Since our artwork is built on a balanced, and often symmetrical, grid foundation, we felt this creature was the perfect fit. Through an abstract design, our mural would emerge out of the gorgeous, highly-detailed, ornate pattern work. Each of the shapes used would be inspired by natural repetition of patterns found in our world’s most beautiful cellular structures and textures.
When considering art for this space, we took into consideration how our Monarch butterfly mural would work within the social dynamics of the area. After spending time there and watching visitors engage with the space (and the nearby bench), we noticed that people from all walks of life spend time here. From young children, to seniors, to joggers, to mobility-restricted explorers, and beyond–this mural needed to become a place that was fully inclusive and accessible to everyone. Also, regardless of a visitors height or mobility, our mural would be designed in a way that it won’t be an issue. No matter who you are, by posing in front of butterfly wings–anyone can fly.
The final design was created to fit the boards that would later be applied to the wall at the site. We could now use this design and proceed to the next phase of production with confidence.
The great news was that our design was later selected by the City of Guelph as the winning design of the final three short-listed. The next phase of production could now begin!
Preparing the Panels
Shortly after the three large metal panels were shipped to our studio, we began meticulously sanding and priming them so that we could properly adhere exterior paints that would survive all Ontario seasons.
Our backyard became the perfect outdoor studio to prepare the panels before they moved into our indoor home studio.
Let the Painting Begin!
After months of planning, it was finally time to paint the final art!
The main luxury about painting on panels, aside from their amazing durability, was the ability to paint and prepare the artwork in our home studio, instead of on site in Guelph. This was where the process also got very exciting because we could finally see our vision come to life.
Special thank you to the project lead, Jen Rafter, to the City of Guelph, the provincial funding partner Applied Arts Grant and to Guelph City Hall for helping make this project possible!
More photos to follow in the spring and summer!