Fixed Supports (Walls)
(Excerpts from ART HARDWARE: The Definitive Guide to Artistsí Materials, by Steven Saitzyk © 1987)
THE SCOPE of this book is limited to painting and drawing materials used to produce portable, and, as much as possible, permanent artwork. Mural painting is, with rare exception, neither portable nor particularly permanent. Although most of us like to think of the walls of our homes and buildings as permanent, weather, sun, heat, cold, acid, alkali, air pollution, earthquakes, wars, fires, bulldozers, and interior decorators have all contributed to their impermanence as well as to the impermanence of any artwork applied to them. In fact, today's muralist counts himself or herself lucky if an outdoor painting survives for ten years. Examples of indoor murals that have lasted for centuries are due to extraordinary care and protection, and have often undergone conservation and restoration several times. It has recently been discovered that many murals currently under restoration have been so poorly "restored" several times in the past that some repainted areas bear no resemblance to the original painting.
Murals become a fixed part of the environment and, for the most part, cannot be protected. Paper artwork is framed and protected from the environment. Oil or acrylic paintings are executed on grounds and supports chosen for their per≠manence and portability. They are also varnished to protect the surface and are kept away from the surface of the wall when hung. Murals are attacked from both the front and the back by the environment.
To produce a mural that will last several decades outdoors, and several more indoors without extensive protection and care, requires an extensive knowledge in several areas, some of them well beyond that of artists' materials. Assuming the artist knows which pigments have the highest lightfastness rating and are alkali-proof (modem walls tend to be highly alkaline), extensive knowledge of building materials and their chemistry is also required. For example, it is not uncommon for an inexperienced muralist to find a painting on a new concrete wall peeling off after several months. This is because the form oil (used to prevent the wood moulds from being cemented to the concrete after it has set) had not been removed before painting. This oil can stay in the wall for several years and must be removed (usually by sandblasting) before painting begins. It is knowledge such as this that cannot be left to trial and error. Anyone who wishes to do serious mural work should apprentice with an experienced muralist.
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