Last September my longtime friend Samantha Pascavis and I were selected from many applicants to paint a mural for the Fort Collins Mural Project in Fort Collins, Colorado. Neither of us had any experience with painting a mural, but we decided “screw it, we’ll figure it out!” When we first saw our assigned wall I think both of our stomachs sank a little. It was 20 x 20 feet (plus a little extra at the top where there was a gable roof).
It seemed like a daunting endeavor to accomplish, but we tried to remain optimistic.
So here’s a breakdown of all the things that went wrong…
The hardware store that I got the paint from apparently mixed up the wrong color on the card I gave them, and neither of us noticed until we had put a considerable amount on the wall and started on the next color. Only when we saw the two colors side by side did we see the big difference. Repainting ensued.
We used a projector to get our design on the wall in the right proportions but aside from technical difficulties with software compatibility, it was awkward as hell. It involved perching the projector on top of Samantha’s car a ways away, running multiple extension cords, and carefully leveling the projector on paint stir sticks and pebbles to compensate for the car's roof being rounded. This was all VERY time consuming and we basically wasted a whole night with figuring out these issues.
The next night when we had worked out all the projector issues and had a set plan on how to project our design…it rained. At first it was just a drizzle and we made a protective tent for the projector, but soon it was downpouring and we had to call it.
When we were successfully projecting and painting over the projection on the wall, we didn’t notice that things weren’t lined up correctly and our whole design was jacked up. It’s apparently hard to notice details when you’re working at such a massive scale. Repainting ensued.
We ran out of paint at a certain point and had to get more. “Not a big deal” we thought, “we’ll go get more.” Except all three of the nearest hardware stores were also out of the base we needed and we had to drive to the other side of the city to get more.
I inadvertently had trapped a wasp in with our paint one evening and the next morning when I went to unpack and set up for the day I got stung on the finger by a very angry little fella.
We were given a scissor lift to be able to paint such a tall wall. Something neither of us had ever used. We got a crash course in how to operate it from one of the coordinators and were left to it. Over the next few days we learned all the nuances of operating the heavy machinery. One such thing is that due to safety features, the lift would not go up if the ground was even a little bit uneven. This meant driving a wheel or two onto little stacks of paint stir sticks to compensate for the centimeter of imbalance. It was a pain in the butt because we had to recalibrate every time we had to move the lift forwards or backwards more than a foot.
We thought we had a handle on working our finicky scissor lift with its hair trigger and delicate sensibilities when we accidentally lowered it onto a plastic gas reader cover and completely demolished the thing. Luckily the building owner was a really chill dude and did not care even a little.
Then there was the coup d'etat. The scissor lift revolted against us. While both of us were on the lift and had it in the highest position, the damn thing decided to get stuck and wouldn’t let us down. It just kept screeching at us as it did when it would be off balance and be refusing to go up. We called, texted, and Facebooked until someone was able to come rescue us. It was probably about an hour that we were stuck up there in the hot sun because everyone was ignoring their phones. Some people came by, but didn’t know how to help. Eventually the mural coordinator happened to come by and rescue us. There’s apparently a safety switch on the bottom of the lift that allows you to raise and lower it without being on it. But it blows my mind why they wouldn’t put this same feature on the lift itself. We thought it was a battery issue, but we had fully charged it every night and the battery was full. We thought it was a balance issue but the level on my phone showed that it wasn’t. We don’t know why it got stuck, but we seemed to get the all clear from the machine and the mural festival coordinators, so we got back to work. And then…
It fucking happened again. This time we knew how to get down - we just needed someone to turn the switch from the ground. Luckily we were only stuck for about 20 minutes and help was actually on the way but my husband Peter decided to come visit and was able to rescue us even sooner. It’s safe to say after that we didn’t both go up on the lift at the same time.
Despite everything that went wrong, we finished our mural on time. It was down to the wire, but we did it! We had snack and drink deliveries throughout the week from friends, family, the coordinators, and even the residents of the apartment building we were painting on. It was a stressful week, tensions were high between Samantha and I, and I was pretty broken physically by the end of it, but we proved we could do it!