Back in September we collected over 200 drawings of imaginary creatures from kids aged 1 through 14. Here is a sampling of what those drawings looked like:
1. Identify the submissions that were most suitable for the mural
2. Plan out where in the mural the various creatures would go, paying attention to overall composition and density.
3. Make localized decisions about the look and feel of each creature, trying to avoid too much replication of color, texture, or creature attributes, while maintaining the essence of each child's drawing
4. Paint the creatures.
All of these are, of course, easier said than done :)
To identify the best prospects, I first sorted the drawings by age. One of the first things I had noticed in the submissions was that there is a remarkable change in kid's drawing ability around age 5-6. Older kids submitted much better rendered creatures and if I focused only on the quality of the drawings, this would edge out our younger contributors. Sorting by age allowed me to first look for the best entries within each age group. Additionally I wanted to make sure to find and incorporate any themes that were popular across age groups (examples: unicorns, flying cats, girl-creatures, butterflies...).
There were so many good submissions to choose from that it took me several days of sorting, grouping, weeding, winnowing, before I managed to identify the 80 strongest prospects. (I had originally planned to do less than 50, but there were so many deserving entries, I just couldn't leave them out!)
The next step was to try and figure out where to put everything, with a balance between land, water and air creatures, and trying to populate the landscape evenly. For this a large printout helped:
For the overall image to read correctly, both as a landscape, and for the creatures to look like they are a part of the landscape, I have to be careful in my use of color and apply copious amounts of color theory. For example, I painted the landscape with cooler colors in the back and progressively warmer in the front to create a sense of space and depth. The colors for any particular creature have to fit the immediate local environment (otherwise it will look visually skewed). Since I am working with a limited number of light-safe colors, the color choices for any particular spot in the painting quickly become even more limited. The challenge then is to have multiple creatures next to each other without repeating the colors too obviously. Needless to say, figuring out the colors of the creatures took some concentrated thinking and planning, causing my per-creature painting-time estimate to mushroom by a factor of 4 to 6 (multiplied by about 75 creatures!!!)
[[[ To see the full set of transformations of kids drawings into fun creatures, see this facebook album. ]]]
But in the end, it was all fun. Here is a time-lapse video of some of the creatures being painted:
(Note; Varnishes are toxic - always use protective gear)
Once the varnishes have cured (which takes about a week or so), the mural is ready to install: