When I was starting out in my art career some thirty years ago, I made a decision that I have always stuck with and it has yielded very good results. I had always greatly admired the heroic mural painters of the Renaissance including Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo,  Botticelli and Titian. These great artists seemed utterly fearless to me as they had created monumental works that continue to stir the imagination all of these centuries later through their impressive murals.

Trinity Mural 1981
Starting one of my first prominent mural commissions at St. Mary's Basilica in Halifax at age 21 called Trinity 1981. This  project was  small in scale (about 7' x 12') but generated a lot of notoriety. The die was cast!


My fascination resided not only in the breadth and depth of the conceptual strength of the works but also in the idea that millions of people from all over the world have marvelled at their creative genius through this very public medium of mural-painting. Although all of the works were commissioned (at that time predominantly by the Church) works, I always saw secret or coded messages from the artists apparent in the way they presented their artistic and aesthetic ideas. This idea of ‘embedding’ images into the grand scheme of things fired up my imagination in my youth and continues to exert a strong influence on my own ideas to this day.


The concept of over-riding the authority of the patron (usually in a very subtle way) while working within the parameters of the commission seemed to be a delicate balancing act but well worth the effort... bearing in mind that the legacy of the artistic mind-set usually includes an element of the subversive, if it is to survive the test of time and continue to stir up the collective imagination long after the artist is dead and gone.


While the faithfully-rendered image may appear on the surface to be something of merit; if that is all it is, then chances are it will be eminently forgettable.


On top of this, I ask you: how interesting can it be to simply play by the rules - play it safe- when it is conceivable with some well-honed instinct and a slightly subversive nature to make a statement as an artist that launches the work well beyond the mundane and into previously uncharted territory? Not to say that the work has to shock and terrify...only that it ought to be something more than a tethered drudgery that not only is boring to do but boring to look at.


Mural Painting - More than just Painting Big


Putting this aside, mural-painting per se is an entirely different animal from easel painting. Both have their inherent merits, but they are so different in many ways. First and foremost, the biggest difference is scale. Usually, an easel painting is of a certain dimension that is practical to mount on an easel. In my case, an easel painting rarely exceeds three or four feet by five or six feet in dimension. It would simply be too cumbersome to manage and that is simply the nature of the beast. Whereas there is no upper limit on the scale of a mural...it just depends on the size of the strata; or in the case of my latest free-standing mural, the size which it is constructed to be.


In mural-painting, size matters! When the observer looks at a huge mural his eyes and imagination are presented with the possibility of entering into an alternative universe which the artist has designed from the ground up. With judicious use of composition, perspective, hue, tone and contrast the mural-painter can create a stunning illusion of infinite space on a perfectly flat surface. It is surprising and delightful to see the effect of plunging space created by the application of paint to a two-dimensional surface and this powerful optical magic can be achieved on a monumental scale when the mural-painter does his best work.


A Green Broadway
A Green Broadway (35' x 35') was commissioned in 2000 by Jan Norris, executive of the Sierra Club of Canada to communicate the idea of a pedestrian and 'zero emission' traffic thorough-way in historic downtown Saskatoon.
Over the past thirty or so years I have designed and painted about sixty large murals across Canada. All of this painting has honed my skills and the experience of tackling the large compositions has taught me the hard way what works and what doesn’t.


Reaching the Heights of Mural-Painting on a Grand Scale


Which leads this discussion to my previous mural Trinity 2011 AKA March of Trinity, unveiled on March 3rd, 2011 at Sacred Heart Chaldean Catholic Church in Saskatoon, SK. This 1000 square foot mural soars to a height of about forty-five feet at the apex and covers the entire sanctuary wall of the Church. It was a life-long dream of mine to create a permanent spiritual work that would be in a prominent location to emulate my Renaissance heroes and I was deeply honored to have that opportunity in the winter months of 2010/11.


You can see the results of my labor at a blog that I set up to chronicle the project at Trinity 2011.


March of Trinity
Muralist Michael Gaudet rests with his daughter and apprentice Ilara S-Gaudet after the completion of the 'March of Trinity' aka 'Trinity 2011 at Sacred Heart Chaldean Catholic Church in Saskatoon, SK.

Building on Success: One Thing Always Leads to Another

 
Soon after I completed the Trinity 2011 mural I was commissioned to design another, bigger mural for the Village of Young, SK to commemorate the centennial of their incorporation. Called  forever YOUNG, this mural is being painted as we speak. The forever YOUNG mural measures twenty feet high by a running length of eighty feet, making it one of the largest of my career at one-thousand, six-hundred square feet.


I was contacted by a member of the Centennial Planning Committee prior to their big celebration to design a black and white version of the mural in pen and ink. The committee presented me with a huge dossier of over two hundred photographs gleaned from local family archives and the community history book. After many back and forth meetings, we narrowed down the ‘must-have’ list to about one-hundred images and then we finally ended up with just over thirty images which I combined in a final composition, ending up with a ‘montage’ style design. The fact remains, every image that is included may be identified and recognized by the residents so they have a huge investment on the project.


Young Design Approved
Representatives of the Young Centennial Planning Committee shown with the preliminary mock-up of the
 forever YOUNG design.
Once the black and white scale drawing was completed, I created an archival-quality reproduction which was offered as a fund-raising mechanism in order to finance the mural per se. This was a very successful strategy, as over fifty of the reproductions were sold at the Homecoming celebration later that year.


Mural-Painting Protocol


At the outset, I insisted that the mural be painted exclusively with professional-quality artists’ acrylics on an exterior-grade painters’ panel that features a waterproof paper coating for longevity. There was no argument from the organizers, as they are investing a substantial sum in the project and do not wish to suffer the indignity of either paint or material failure in the future.


I have set up a temporary studio in the hockey rink at Young in order to mount the panels on a frame for painting prior to its permanent erection outside of the rink, facing the busy #2 highway. The mural will be mounted on a heavy steel frame which will be strategically anchored to the structural beams inside the rink.


Young Mural Detail
My computer-generated mock-up that shows about how the 'forever YOUNG' will appear.


Murals as a Powerful Artists' Promotional Tool


Once the mural is complete and mounted, it will be one of the most prominent murals in Western Canada and as such will no doubt gain a certain amount of notoriety for both the Village of Young as a vibrant community but also for myself as a practicing artist.


Mural Sneek Peek
An early 'Sneak Peek' preview to the general public of the  forever YOUNG  mural generated a lot of interest in the community with over one-hundred and twenty in attendance.
 
Have you checked on the cost of a large promotional highway billboard lately? Well, let me tell you, this mural will be up for the duration and will be a very powerful marketing tool for this artist. Before you protest that art and artists are somehow immune to market forces and that an artist must patiently wait until he is somehow ‘discovered’ by an outside agency, I assure you that in most cases this is simply a fallacy.
Forever Young Mural
Long shot shows twelve foot height of eighty running feet of forever YOUNG mural. There will be an additional eight feet on the bottom for a total of  twenty feet by eighty feet or one-thousand, six-hundred square feet of painting.

Like with any other career, the contemporary artist must shuck off the outmoded idea that there is some fairy god-mother who will eventually sprinkle magic dust on your career trajectory if you just kiss enough butt. It is advisable in my opinion to get out in the cruel world and make your own way. The ‘eventually’ thing is for the birds. Let the ‘art establishment’ catch up with YOU after you are already madly successful on your own terms as a working professional, sought after and in demand. Then you can decide who will benefit you and your career and who is just riding on your coat-tails.


Michael Gaudet
Taking a pause for the cause after a long day's painting. The mural stretches a full eighty feet off into the distance.

I hope you will consider following my progress at the project blog as I carry on to finish, install and unveil my latest mural. Since I first started posting about seven weeks ago the blog has attracted over ten thousand visitors, so please drop by and join the party!

Project Blog – The Art of Michael R. Gaudet

 

Michael Gaudet - Artist's Bio

I love my job! I am on a full-time, life-long painting adventure that has taken me across the great country of Canada to create more than 60 large murals. My wife Sharon Gibson and I have lived and worked at the Resort Village of Manitou Beach in Central Saskatchewan (in Canada for anyone with a sketchy knowledge of North American geography) for 18 years. In the spring of 2010 we established "Gibson and Gaudet's Gallery & Gifts" (G'G's Gallery & Gifts) as an extension of our home here. G-G's Gallery and Gifts is in its third successful season in 2012 and has proven to be an excellent venue for high-quality sustained exposure of my original artwork as well as a variety of Sask-made gift items.

Specialties

Meticulously researched murals of almost any description, size and material(s) with an emphasis on professional quality paints and technique are a fave. I also enjoy easel painting with acrylics on canvas with a focus on landscapes, portraiture and historic renderings of Manitou Beach.









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  1. I guess I didn't actually say what 'decision' I made after alluding to it in the first sentence of this post :P The decision was: to explore the medium of mural-painting (as a legitimate art form in its own right) as a powerful career-builder.

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  2. Thanks for the guest post Michael!! You are awesome!!

    I welcome guest posts from all artists, bloggers, and writers. If you have a unique idea related to art, just send me an email about it... Thanks!!!

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  3. You are welcome, Graham. I think it's a great opportunity to get out there and mingle! I would recommend the experience to anyone!

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