I had received a phone call from a client last year about repairing an existing mural. There was cracking and buckling of the wall surface. Upon inspection of the mural and getting a little background by the client: age of home (around 100 years old) age of mural (completed in 1973) I knew that I had to do a little more research. I pay great attention to detail and am thorough in every job because the end result will have my name on it.
I contacted Scott Haskins of Fine Art Conservation Lab in California ( www.fineartconservationlab.com ) He took the time and explained to me various options of what needed to be done. I am very grateful to this gentleman for sharing his expertise with me.
Because the house was older, traditional plaster on wood laths was how the walls were constructed. From close inspection of the photos, we both agreed that there was some kind of water damage. Therefore, the origin of the damage should be found to make sure it doesn’t happen again, and then the wall needed to be stabilized: scraping away the loose layers of plaster and reapplying new plaster to stabilize the wall. I took this information to the client and she had contractors come in to look at the damage. Superstorm Sandy was to blame for the water. Thank goodness there were no other water leakage issues. A plasterer came in and then repaired the damage. Last on the checklist was me to come in and repaint the areas of the mural that were gone.
Here’s a photo of one of the sections:
This area was the largest of the repair areas that had to be done. The other areas were smaller and were the result of necessary electrical work . Once the area was clean of plaster dust, I began with two coats of primer and then studied the mural work in the surrounding areas. Because I only took small shots of the damage itself, I didn’t take whole wall shots. My bad. I had to look at the contextual clues of the surrounding areas to paint in the missing pieces of the puzzle. I studied how the artist painted the sky, how the mountain range was done, the trees and the foreground . There were different colors intermixed and my eye is pretty good with such things so I honed in on doing the sky first. I always work back to front, top down. The sky was the most challenging area. One has to account for fading of colors, etc. Once I had addressed that area, sections began falling into place. Upon closer observation, the original artist did a red underpainting in the mid to foreground area! Consistency is the key, so in the repair, I did the same thing. While I was working, I thought about when I was a child and I would spend hours copying works of art. I always felt that in doing so, I had an understanding of how the artist worked and could understand his or her rationale in doing what he/she did.
Within 7 hours, this section was repaired:
The end result was to have everything look like it belonged. It was as it should have been.
I’m glad I was able to reach out to Mr. Haskins for his expertise. I’m glad that the client did the steps necessary to ensure a good result. The effort was worth it because the end result was seamless.