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What is a Mural?

A mural is a very large type of art that is painted on a surface of a building, usually a wall or ceiling. Murals might be created on the exterior or interior of a building.

Murals are some of the oldest pieces of art in history, and they have humble beginnings as crude cave paintings during prehistoric times. As time went on, however, modern man began to perfect his murals, eventually creating masterpieces. Some of the most famous and recognizable works of art are murals that were painted during the Renaissance period in Europe; one good example of this is Da Vinci’s painting, the Last Supper, which still adorns one wall of the dining hall in Santa Maria delle Grazie, a church in Milan.

Today, murals are slightly less common, but they seem to be making something of a comeback. In today’s consumer driven world, murals are commonly used as eye-catching advertisements. They can also be used to make a social, humanitarian, or political statement.

Because of the size of these paintings and where they are placed, artists usually need special permission to paint murals. They can’t simply choose a building or wall and start painting, for instance. However, this does not stop some artists from covering exterior building walls with murals. These types of artists are often dubbed graffiti artists.

What Does a Muralist Do?

Like any other artist, a muralist creates works of art. One of the main differences between a muralist and other types of artists, however, is the size of the artwork. Muralists typically create very large paintings, usually the size of an entire wall or even the entire side of a building.

Ultimately, a muralist is a painter. Therefore, the muralist uses similar materials and tools as other painters, such as:

  • Paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Paint sprayers
  • Sealers
  • Drop cloths
  • Pencils or charcoal

Depending on where a mural will be created, a muralist may not be able to use just any type of paint. For instance, on exterior walls, a muralist will usually need to use a type of paint that will withstand the elements.

A muralist should also choose a type of paint and painting style that will help reflect the message he is trying to send. For instance, a mural that is meant to have hip urban undertones can be created with spray paint, much like graffiti. It may be more appropriate to paint more conservative murals with the old standbys, like cans of paint and paintbrushes.

Before a muralist makes even one stroke on his canvas, he must first come up with a concept, or idea, of how he wants the mural to look. Some muralists may be bound by the wants and needs of their clients, such as advertisers or city officials, while others may have a bit more creative freedom.

Once a muralist has a good idea of how his finished work should look, he may then draw it out on paper. The initial outline of the mural can then be drawn or painted onto the canvas, and the muralist can work to fill in the details. As mentioned above, this may be done using one of several techniques, or a combination of techniques. Some of the mural may be spray painted, for instance, while finer details may be painted with paintbrushes. Some muralists might also use stencils to paint difficult shapes.

When a muralist is finished with his painting, he might also choose to cover it with a coat of sealer as well. This will help protect the mural, which will help it last longer than if it was unprotected.

Where Does a Muralist Work?

Muralists typically work as independent freelance artists. Some, however, may work as employees for mural creation companies.

Independent muralists might be hired by any number of businesses and organizations. For instance, they might be commissioned to create murals by city officials, advertisement agencies, or private business owners. Private homeowners might even hire muralists to create a spectacular eye-catching piece of art in their homes. In their spare time, muralists might also create smaller paintings and offer them for sale privately or in galleries.

What Are the Education Requirements for a Muralist Career?

Generally, there are no strict education requirements for starting a muralist career. Some aspiring muralists can sometimes study as apprentices under established and successful muralists. However, as artists, many muralists choose to attend art school and earn an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree in fine arts, with a concentration on painting.

Aspiring muralists should take several courses on painting. In these courses, artists can learn basic and advanced painting techniques. Some art schools and colleges might also offer courses in mural making. Muralists who wish to work as freelancers or open their own businesses may also want to take courses in business as well.

What is the Average Salary for Muralists?

Pinpointing how much muralists make can be difficult, particularly because the majority of these artists work as freelancers. Depending on the amount of work available at any given time, a muralist may make thousands of dollars in a month, or nothing in a month. As with many other art careers, it is often “feast or famine” when you choose to become a muralist.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does offer some insight on how much some artists can make in a years. According to the BLS, fine artists – which includes painters – made an average annual salary of $53,400 in 2011.

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