One of the reasons I decided to DIY my own dining room mural was so I could share how to do it with others. Well, I realized about 10 minutes into it that I was totally flying by the seat of my pants and I didn’t know if it would even look good in the end! It’s hard to teach something when I’m just making it up as I go.
This project had been on my mind for a few months, but I kept dragging my feet on actually starting it. As I would begin to formulate a plan and gather colors, memories of a failed attempt at a chinoiserie mural haunted me and intimidated me. Years ago, pre-blog, I decided to paint a white-on-blue chinoiserie-style (sort of an asian toile) mural in our master bedroom. I knew just how I wanted it to look in my head. Jeff was at work, Marshall was napping (he was just a baby) and I pulled out my paint and brushes to make the idea come to life. I got about 2 hours into it and I realized it looked terrible. It looked amateur-ish and not in a charming, folk art sort of way and the scale was completely wrong.
I took out a roller and the wall paint and painted over the mural. When Jeff got home, he never knew I spent the day working on a mural and then painted over it before he could even see it.
So, that memory kept creeping in as I tried to get this started. I had learned my lessons, though, and had a much better grasp of the look I wanted and how to create it. There still wasn’t a detailed plan, but there was enough.
Also, milk paint will wash right off of the walls with a damp cloth, so I could always “erase” and start again if I messed up. (Yes, that does mean this mural will be sealed, so it can’t be wiped off.)
The base wall color is Pearly White by Sherwin Williams in a matte finish. Any nice creamy white will do, though.
For the sky, I used a watercolor technique to see if it would achieve the soft, barely there color I was hoping for. I brushed water onto small sections of the wall with a 3″ chip brush.
And then dipped the same brush in just a little bit of of a custom color I mixed for the sky (Shutter Gray, Lucketts Green, & Linen) and brushed it onto the wet section of the wall. The pigment flowed and dripped through the water, creating a beautiful effect.
The color starts out a little stronger at the top and gets more translucent as it heads down the wall, giving a sense of depth and clouds.
Similar to the way I painted the grass/land, I painted some distant hills or mountains in a mix of Lucketts Green & Kitchen scale just above the Lucketts Green land.
The look at this stage had me so excited! Even if you just stopped here, it’s a lovely effect that gives a hint of a landscape.
I then added some distant evergreen trees. They were painted in the same color as the mountains and I added a little more kitchen scale for the shadowed side. (In the video below, I show how to paint these trees.)
Just to note, the distant trees should sit in front of the mountains/hills, not on top of them. You can also paint some more emphasized land around them, just to give them something to sit on.
For the trees, I started out by drawing the trunk and branches with chalk, just so I made sure I liked the shape and placement before I added paint. Then, with Lucketts Green again, very watered down, I brushed random “clumps” to create the beginning of bunches of leaves. You can already see how a tree is taking shape.
I then added layers of leaves in Boxwood with some Lucketts Green mixed in. I did two layers, mixing the paint a little darker for each layer, so there would be some value variation. This gives the tree a bit more depth, even though it is a very two-dimensional folk art tree. I didn’t want it to look completely flat.
The trunk was painted with Linen and Lucketts Green mixed with a tiny bit of Burnt Umber artist’s acrylic paint. This made a nice, soft brown…
And, lastly, I brushed out some grasses and small brush under the trees and around the mural in Boxwood. As I did with the trees, I added these in layers, with more translucent grasses applied first.
Here is a video showing the strokes I used for the trees and grasses…
I wish I had taken a video of the entire process, because I know this isn’t completely thorough. I hope this will help those who want to do this on their own, though! It’s actually easier than it looks, I think!
And, the best part, this mural required so little paint, you could use sample sizes of MMS Milk Paint and that would be enough! That makes this a huge impact project for very little money.
A few tips for those who are going to give this a shot…
- Relax! It’s just paint and you can always wash it off if you don’t like it. Practice first on a wall you are going to paint anyway, so there is no pressure.
- Make sure your colors are very watery and soft. It’s amazing how much a tiny bit of color can show up when it’s brushed all over the wall. This mural will run away from you and look harsh if your colors are too strong.
- Step back every 10-15 minutes to take in the overall look of the mural. When you look at one of the trees close up, it’s sort of a mess of leaves and drips, but when you step back, it has a great effect!
- Be intentional about it not being perfect. The leaves, grass, everything will look better if they are random and not over-thought. Put on some good music and allow yourself to get into a groove. If you find yourself getting tight, just walk away for a while.
- Remember that your “hand” is different than mine. Trying to copy my mural exactly is like trying to copy my signature or my handwriting. Yours will look different and that’s a good thing! Embrace the uniqueness of your mural created by your hand.
- Don’t judge the mural until it’s done and know that there will always be parts of it that “bother” you. There are a few clumps of grass that I wished I had done a little differently, but done is better than perfect!
I hope some of you will step out and give it a try! Please share pictures if you do!
This week, I have been helping out with a kid’s drama camp at our church, so I haven’t made much head-way on other projects, but I have a lot of my list to tackle in the next 2-3 weeks!