One of the questions I get asked most frequently is, "Alex, how do I land mural gigs of my own?"
In this post I cover what I would (and a little bit of what I would not) recommend either from my own experience painting murals or through watching the experiences of other muralists in regards to becoming a hired muralist.
For years, I had looked up to hand-lettering, mural-painting rock stars like Lauren Hom, and Phoebe and Roxy of Pandr Design Co. (work shown below.) I always thought the world of mural painting seemed too "skilled" for me. I mean look at these amazing women and their beautiful pieces? I could never create something as rad as their work, right? WRONG!
No. 1 Anyone can paint murals, and that means you.
Can you dip a brush in paint and put it to the wall? You can? Perfect! You can be a muralist!
Have confidence in your ability as a creative! It's your job to come up with unique solutions to problems. It's most likely in your very nature to explore new mediums. Let me tell ya', I wish I would have started painting murals a lot sooner than I did, that's for sure.
Never convince yourself you aren't skilled enough at anything. If we lived by that line of thinking all the time nothing would ever progress. Life would be so dull! The same principle applies to painting murals. If you haven't picked up the paintbrush yet, have faith in yourself and go for it!
Yeah, your mural probably won't look like a "Hom" or a "Pandr" mural right out of the gate, but taking that first step is more critical than you might think!
No. 2 Paint murals for fun first!
This is something I wish I would have done before my first mural client. Also, a solid sorry and thank you to my first mural client who put so much faith in my ability without any, and I mean ANY, previous mural painting experience.
My first set of murals was 4 massive stylistic murals in a private residence. when I'm talking stylistic, I'm talking a massive galaxy in the living room, a bamboo forest in the dining room, mountain ranges in the bedroom, and a Spongebob sky in the hallway. Suffice to say it was insanity--a lot of fun mixed with a lot of frustration being a brand new muralist.
I don't share pictures of it very often because it definitely wasn't my brand's style, (and to be completely honest I needed the money.) The murals turned out way better than I could have imagined and overall it was a great experience, but I went through a tremendous amount of growing pains in an extremely short amount of time. I don't necessarily recommend voluntarily doing something like that.
However, the next few murals I painted were 100% for me and for funsies! At the time I started thinking about painting hand lettered murals for clients, I was renting a room in the basement of my sister's house. I made a joke that I wanted to paint a mural on the wall behind my bed one day, and to my surprise my sister was all for it!
I went to Home Depot and Sherwin Williams to snag some small paint samples and got to work on my first, 109% Pete&Pen style mural:
This "Rise and Freakin' Shine" Mural quickly turned into hosting an entire solo art show in the very basement I was living in, and even more quickly turned into more small, personal mural projects. I can't emphasize this enough:
Personal murals are fun and the PERFECT practice for the real thing!
Not only do practice murals let you physically practice applying paint to the wall, but it gives you a very clear knowledge of the scope of projects you are comfortable working on and can effectively complete. I'm not saying practicing assures your future commissioned murals won't stretch you down the road, but you'll know if you can deliver what your prospective client needs in their expected timeframe and scope! Gaining that knowledge is invaluable!
No 3. Paint even more murals!
If you haven't landed paid mural inquiries from sharing your personal mural work on your social media pages, start looking for "non-paid" or "trade" mural opportunities. DISCLAIMER: I do not mean painting murals for exposure and exposure alone. Make sure it is a worthwhile experience for you and your "client," whoever that may be.
These types of projects will help you to become comfortable with meeting client needs and specifications while gaining more experience and offering value to your community.
Donate your services as a form of charity to a local organization you support. Examples: your local farmers market, food bank, women's shelter, local elementaries, etc. The sky is the limit for charitable work! Certain organizations will even be willing to pay for your supplies if you offer to donate your services.
Offer your mural painting skills for trade to a service business! You can get very creative with the businesses you work with. For example, I painted a mural for an auto detailing shop for partial payment-partial trade (I had never painted such a sharp mural or had such a clean car before in my life! See for yourself below in the "Detail Addicts" mural!)
Does your city have an art alley that's open to the public? This isn't working with a client necessarily, but it will get a lot of eyes on your work while adding a piece of your artwork to your community for years to come! I painted the "Good Vibes" mural shown above in Puggslane in Downtown Idaho Falls, and have enjoyed the interaction it's given me with my community on social media when they tag me in their posts! (Photo credit: @jordanthefacelady)
And keep painting your own murals wherever and whenever you can! Keep building your portfolio and social media presence as a muralist as you go!
No. 4 Share your work and advertise your services!
This seems fairly straight forward, but don't be afraid to put your work out there! I know it might seem intimidating to share your work with the world when you're first starting out, but trust me: it's worth it.
People are interested in your work and follow you for a reason. They like your stuff! Your followers will be happy and excited to watch you experiment with new mediums and follow your progress in mural painting.
Once you're comfortable enough to offer your amazing muralist abilities to your audience and have your pricing model established (blog post coming soon on pricing,) be loud and proud about your new and exciting service!
Depending on your brand's connection to your local community and following size, it may take more or less time than you expect for mural inquiries to come in. Be patient, and remember you have what it takes to be a muralist!
If you aren't receiving inquiries as much as you'd like, start networking and reaching out to local businesses that you know could benefit from your style of murals.
Become comfortable explaining the benefits of murals to brands and businesses, and don't be afraid of rejection. Generally businesses will be polite if they aren't interested, and in some cases they might have referrals to give you for other local businesses that might be interested in a mural of their very own!
Below I included a time lapse of the final touches of the "Live Mahana" mural I was commissioned to paint this summer at a new Mahana Fresh location in Idaho Falls. My client had seen my mural work I was sharing to my personal Facebook page over the last year or so, wanted to hire local, and knew I'd be able to get the job done because of the floral work I had done in the "It's a Lovely Day in Idaho Falls" piece earlier this year.
If there's one thing I want you to take away from this: if you want to paint murals and make a profit you simply need to paint murals!
Don't wait for the day you'll be "ready," because that day will never come. Landing your first paid mural depends on the amount of preparation and practice you put into becoming a muralist, and applying that to your portfolio and social media efforts.
Through painting murals for yourself and for your community, you'll gain a deeper understanding of your current muralist-skill set, have wonderful community building experiences, create a kick a** mural portfolio, and yes--land your very own paid mural gigs.
If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment below, or sent me an email! I'd love to chat about your mural painting progress and goals.
Best of luck! I can't wait to see your mural projects soon!