In the late spring of 2013, I supervised the restoration of the mural we painted for the State Auto Insurance Company in 2005. The painting itself was still in great condition, even after seven years — due primarily to the protective powers of the UV-blocking Golden MSA varnish that covers it. But the warehouse wall the mural is painted on had settled, and some serious cracks had formed in the cinder block. The repairs to the building, which took place in the summer of 2012 and included grinding out old caulk and putting in new mortar, damaged the painting. In order to repair it, we re-painted the damaged areas, and then re-varnished the entire mural to give it another 5-10 years of protection.
May 17, 2013 - Brent (left) and Fred (right) strap in to their safety harnesses before using the scissor-lift.
May 17, 2013 - Brent models the latest fashion in safety harnesses.
May 17, 2013 - Fred, twenty feet up, scrubbing down the mural with a solution of vinegar and water.
May 17, 2013 - After being wiped down, the mural is thoroughly rinsed with clean water to remove all particles that may interfere with the paint adhesion.
May 17, 2013 - Our scissor-lift is feeble, unable to raise more than one person off the ground at a time. This means that two members of the team are working on the ground level, while the one person on the lift has to handle the other fifteen feet of the wall's height. The company that owns the lift will come on Monday to either repair or replace it.
May 20, 2013 - On a repaired scissor-lift, Fred continues to find areas of loose paint. This particular spot is very bad -- no one can figure out why, but there is substantial moisture in the block behind it.
May 20, 2013 - Fred applies epoxy primer to the area he has just scraped. The primer is thick and gluey, and will help cement all loose bits into place to create a stable support for the painting.
May 20, 2013 - Brent applies epoxy primer over the new mortar in the repaired areas.
May 20, 2013 - Andrew Ina, videographer for WOSU TV, gets some footage of the project. WOSU's ArtZine plans to create an update to the documentary they made about our project in 2005. (By the way, Andrew Ina is a CCAD alumnus and my former painting student, and is now a very up-and-coming abstract painter and independent filmmaker. Check out his work at www.andrewina.com)
May 20, 2013 - The joints with a first layer of epoxy primer applied. We'll do a second layer tomorrow.
May 20, 2013 - The wall with its spider-web of cracks, now primed with a first layer of epoxy.
May 21, 2013 - We arrived on Tuesday to find the garage where we had been headquartering filled to the brim with giant nutcrackers.
May 21, 2013 - The garage is part of the warehouse owned by State Auto on which the mural is painted. Usually, this garage is dedicated entirely to the maintenance of State Auto's locally-renowned, larger-than-life Christmas display. Seems that the giant nutcrackers have arrived for some repair work.
May 21, 2013 - with a little shifting, we managed to clear a path to our supplies.
May 24, 2013 - taping off the sidewalk before re-painting the blue border.
May 24, 2013 - Unusually cool temperatures for late May (in the low 40's!) made for cold work this morning. Brent is either wearing the red towel to keep warm, or he is really, really excited about the Superman movie coming out in a few weeks.
May 24, 2013 - Fred rolls on a new layer of blue paint. The color doesn't quite match the original, but we believe it will be close enough after varnishing.
May 24, 2013 - Without the reflective varnish, the new blue paint has a light-absorbing matte surface that intensifies its color. Hiding all of the patched areas in the border makes the whole mural look better already.
May 28, 2013 - Small pieces of metal in the cinder block have, over the years, oxidized and dripped rusty "tears" down the face of the mural. As part of the repair work on the wall, we had the worst of these metal pieces bored out and then patched over with mortar. We then used denatured alcohol to clean off the long, rusty stains below the holes. The alcohol removes the rust streak but causes the varnish on the mural to cloud, or "bloom". Here, you can see one such patch at the top of a long streak of discoloration. The bottom of the streak has been cleaned off with denatured alcohol, leaving clouded varnish behind.
May 28, 2013 - The clouded varnish caused by the cleaning of the rust stain will be rectified by re-application of new varnish. Here, the "bloom" is gone in the lower half of the figure's red shirt, after we applied a single test coat of gloss varnish.
May 28, 2013 - The new blue paint we applied in the border is not an exact color match, even though we had some of the original custom-mixed paint left over in the original can with the color recipe printed on top. Mostly, the difference is due to the fact that the new paint has not yet been varnished, and its matte surface refracts light differently, making it appear more purple, and less vibrant, than the old color.
May 28, 2013 - Once again, varnish may be the answer to our problem. With two sprayed coats of gloss varnish, the new blue area looks much closer in color to the old blue area.
May 29, 2013 - The inpainting begins! Brent works on the ground level, tempting fate without a drop-cloth.
May 29, 2013 - Fred takes naturally to heights and works on the upper level.
May 29, 2013 - The process: references hung next to a damaged area.
May 29, 2013 - The process: closeup of a damaged area.
May 29, 2013 - The process: closeup of a damaged area, after inpainting.
May 29, 2013 - day one, starting at the south end of the mural.
May 29, 2013 - the work site setup.
May 29, 2013 - Fred and Brent at work.
May 29, 2013 - a rare shot of me at work. It was terribly windy, so I had to tie my hat on with string!
May 29, 2013 - Fred working at ground level.
May 29, 2013 - Oh, those dastardly buttons!
May 31, 2013 - inpainting continues... Fred checks his reference.
May 31, 2013 - the excellent, cool, dry weather helps us move quickly down the wall.
June 4, 2013 - This rickety orange stepladder gives us access to the mid-level areas of the mural. I'm becoming an expert at balancing on it while holding palette, brushes, and rags.
June 4, 2013 - the binder of reference pages, in the blue light of early morning. It's fortunate that I saved all the documents from the original mural project - they are coming in handy now.
June 4, 2013 - Brent works ground level, Fred works on the lift, and I take the middle sections on the orange ladder. It's a good system, and works.
June 4, 2013 - we were visited today by the entire staff of State Auto, when they were evacuated from their office building for a fire drill!
June 4, 2013 - Even a small area of damaged quinacridone (the intensely pink color) requires re-painting the entire shape occupied by that color. Because this color effect is achieved by multiple layers of a highly transparent glaze over bright white, it is impossible to repair a small area and have it blend in with the same color on either side of it -- the edges of the repair are just too apparent. Here, I have just repainted a large area with white in preparation for the glazes of quinacridone.
June 5, 2013 - Clementine contributes to the mural restoration cause by packing in a bag of ice every morning, to chill the Gatorade in our cooler.
June 7, 2013 - driving the lift out of the garage, a morning ritual.
June 7, 2013 - Brent concentrates on making the unwieldy lift go where he wants it to go.
June 7, 2013 - today we wrapped up the inpainting. The final step was to walk along the wall, over and over again, looking for any areas we missed. When we found them, we flagged them with tape, then went back and filled them in. Now the paint cures for two weeks, after which we can begin the varnishing phase.