Matthew Forrest: Early Mornings and Patience with the Weather

When I originally envisioned this mural project, the plan was to create a mural on a single wall with multiple portraits in it. As time has gone on, the project has grown into a series of murals on multiple walls. This has meant quite a leap in the amount of time spent actually painting and all of the things that go along with that, such as setting up and taking down scaffolding and surface preparation. I also dialed-in the focus of the murals to significant figures in the local art scene, as they will be going up in the Art District. Through my research, I have chosen three Tallahassians who represent the creative spirit of our fair city.

Nan Boynton was my first choice because she originally had the idea for an artistic community in the space that is now Railroad Square Art Park. Without her initial investments and ideals, the Tallahassee art community would have no home base. Since Nan is no longer living, her son, Adam and daughter, Lilly, have been my primary sources for information and reference photos about their mother.

For the second mural I chose Mickee Faust. Mickee Faust is a character played by actor, producer, and author, Terry Galloway. Operating out of Railroad Square for at least 29 years, the Mickee Faust Club is “a non-traditional performance venue shaped by the Ethic of Accommodation, an ethic that allows a diverse community—those who are not just under-served but overlooked—to develop its own artistic voice. Foremost involved in these ongoing creative collaborations are people from the LGBTQ community and people with disabilities.” Terry, herself, is a primary source along with her memoir, Mean Little Deaf Queer. What makes this mural especially meaningful, is that it will go on the eastern facing wall of building that houses the Mickee Faust Club, which is the first thing you see when you enter the park from the main entrance on Railroad Ave.

The third mural is still being researched and designed, but there have been talks with the team of a certain member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame who resides locally. I hope to have a chance to work with this visionary artist directly, but I am waiting for him to return from his current tour. Right now, I am reading his autobiography and developing a mock-up for the mural.

The biggest issue with scaling-up the project is the logistics of it all. There is more to do, just to be ready to paint. I am using premium spray paint that will be highly durable in terms of color and adhesion, but the trade-off is that I have to order it online and it takes a minimum of a week to get my order. For this reason, I first placed a smaller order for the colors I am using in my palate for this series. I began painting the first mural to test these colors in real life (as opposed to digital representations of the colors) and see how they look in large swaths next to one another. Then I place a large order of all the colors that worked, and another small batch to test the few that needed to be changed. I am keeping a spreadsheet to help track paint usage and anticipate necessary replenishments of inventory to avoid running-out and having to stop painting.

More time painting also means more dealing with the weather. As I type this blog post, a hurricane sits at sea threatening to make landfall in the next few days. Knowing how much time can be lost to rain, I try to paint as much as possible whenever it is not raining. Since the sun is insufferable when it’s not raining, I have been painting a lot in the early morning. I am the rare artist who doesn’t hate mornings, so this has actually worked out pretty well for me. I am also working on the 3d modeling and augmented reality aspects of the series when I can’t be outside.

The physicality of this medium should also be noted. I had only limited experience with spray paint before, but I am getting a ton of it on this project. You use more of your body in spray painting, especially the fingers. Strain in my finger muscles has led to me using my right middle finger and even painting lefty at times so that I can keep going. Luckily, my finger strength has been improving over time. Moving scaffolding around by oneself is no walk in the park either. In anticipation of the amount of physical labor required, I began a rigorous yoga practice a few weeks before I began painting. I am continuing this practice to aid in recovery and maintaining strength and balance. Yoga is a very important part of my artistic practice that had been missing during the pandemic and having it back in my life has had an extremely positive effect.

Overall, I am only slightly behind schedule, but since the project has grown so much, that is to be expected. The process, in general, has gone smoothly thanks to a combination of past experience and new research in spray painting and street art techniques. The money from the grant has allowed me to purchase a heavy-duty extension ladder and several books related to my portrait subjects and street art.

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