Friday, March 25, 2016

Coming Soon: Mega Mural in Chimachoy!!!

Part of the soon to be painted wall
If you paint murals for a living, you tend to look at walls before anything else. So when I visited the Maya Kaqchikel community of Chimachoy for the first time, it wasn’t the splendid view of the volcano or the women in their brilliant traditional dresses I noticed first, but the ugly cinder block wall leading into the village…If only…

A few months ago I was surfing the web looking for possible sponsors when I found The Pollination Project. Not only did I instantly like the organization and its objectives, it happened that for once, as a small grassroots project in Guatemala run by a foreigner, I was able to apply! The Pollination Project was very honest in stating that it can only reward a small number of all proposals they receive and that it really helps if you have a reference from one of the organization they work with, which I didn’t. So I didn’t have much hope, but was getting excited anyway while writing my proposal and my project getting shape.

Three weeks ago I received the exciting news I was rewarded a $1000 grant! The next day I immediately signed the contract and wrote to Laura, director of the high school in Chimachoy, whom I hadn’t notified about the project yet, as up until then I had no funding and I hate promising something I might not be able to fulfill. Luckily, Laura was as enthusiastic as I am and -unbelievably- within 48 hours I had all the necessary permits, the collaboration of the teachers and students of both schools and the local citizens’ committee. Laura also talked to the mayor and he promised to provide his stonemason for preparing and stuccoing the wall. We’re about to get started!

Within the next few weeks I’ll go to Chimachoy to talk to all people involved, pay for the supplies to plaster the wall and conduct my first introductory workshops for the students of both schools. After a general introduction about the history of muralism and its significance, we’ll be exploring local culture through a series of art, journalism, photography and storytelling in the next few months. The children of the elementary school will determine the theme of each section of the wall (a cultural element of the community), which will be investigated deeper with the students of the high school. Then the students will express all different aspects of their own culture through photography in a week long project directed by Dutch photographer /teacher Sabrina Gaudio. The results of those workshops will be the base for the final design. And then it’s time to get the painting started! We’ll first prime the wall with the help of the younger kids. The older students will then apply a grid in chalk and copy the design before the real work can begin. When exactly is hard to say, it all depends on what the weather will be like, but by the beginning of September I hope to have the whole 75 meter long wall finished for a grand inauguration.

I’m incredibly grateful to The Pollination Project for rewarding me this grant and am looking forward to working with this organization! $1000 is a lot of money and we can get the work started, but in order to conduct all the workshops I’ll need more donations. The more money, the more workshops, the deeper the impact of this project in the community. In order to develop all the activities planned, I figure I’ll need a budget of $2250. Since the wall is 75 x 3 = 225m², that comes down to only $10 per square meter, which is a bargain, don’t you think? So the first 100 square meters are sponsored, looking for 1250 more! So if you want to sponsor a square meter or more, please donate through the Paypal button on this page or contact me at for additional bank info. More news will follow soon!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Behind the Scenes: Painting Kittens and Lots of Lines

Note to self: No more designs with lines on the background! I knew it was going to be a pain in the butt because I’ve done it before, so what was I thinking…. It looks cute, yes, and it’s a good way to paint a partial wall, but on this particular surface with its crumbly texture each line took me almost an hour to finish and there are 15 of those, so that’s a lot of line painting. (And no, masking tape was no option.) They turned out not even that straight! (The walls fault of course, not my painting abilities!).
And after painting many a dog, I didn’t think that four kittens would be a big deal, but they took me much longer than expected. Why? I guess because they are much smaller (just a little taller than my friend Judy) than the figures I usually paint, because of the space’s requirements. The mural is located in a corridor where people pass right by. There is no space to step back and take the painting in as a whole, so too big a design won’t work. Typically a restricted space requires smaller and more detailed images that take longer to paint. That answers the frequently asked question why I generally charge more for a “regular” painting to be framed and hung in the living room than a much bigger mural.

I must admit I’m so naive to think that after having painted dozens of murals I’ll never get surprised, but of course I’m proven wrong each and every time (and I guess that’s one of the reasons I like creating murals so much). This time I thought it would be an easy one, done in two days, not even needing a ladder, but it didn’t work out that way. Not just because of the lines and details but also because it wasn’t easy working with the adorable Kittens (the human variety that occupy the classroom) running around or hanging from my neck, as adorable and inspiring as they are. I even learned to say “cat” in sign language” (Thanks Abner!) and the adorable Melanie was happy to see me back the second day, telling me grammatically incorrectly but very poetically: I saw you tomorrow!

Anyway, mission accomplished, the Gatitos are happy with there kittens on the wall and that’s what matters most. Ready for the next one! The Universe is on our wish list, we only need to find a sponsor and we’re ready to continue! (We only need another $250!)

Thanks a million to my good friends Suzanne and Cita van der Linden who never ever forget about these whereabouts and are always willing to help, this time generously sponsoring the kittens’ mural. Also thanks the staff of Brillo de Sol and of course those kittens in kindergarten.

Los Gatitos mural painted outside the kindergarten classroom at Brill de Sol; San Gaspar Vivar, Antigua Guatemala. 6.5 x 1.6m. March 2016

For more information about Brillo de Sol:
(Foto by Letty López)
(Foto by Letty López)

(Foto by Letty López)