In the Spring of 2021, I decided to quit my corporate job (without the safety net of having another job to go to) after being in post for almost five years. After 18 months of covid craziness, I knew I needed to make a change. A drastic one. I needed time to myself to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, where I wanted to put my passion and energy and I knew I could not do this while burning out in a high-pressure, deadline driven job. I left on May 21st with no plans other than to relax, recharge and enjoy a glorious BC summer.Before I left, I had begun the process of digitizing some of my artwork and producing them as frameable postcards. I brought a bunch of them into the office for my team to pick what they wanted as a small momento of our time together. I have to say my team were awesome!
One of my team members told me at the time that her husband was opening up a new Indian restaurant in Surrey and that he wanted a mural painted as a feature wall. She asked if this was something that I could do, she thought I would be “fabulous”. I loved her enthusiasm!
I thought about it for a second and declined. Murals are huge, they are a lot of work and not something I’ve particularly thought about doing. Although, I’d quite forgotten, I did do a mural once, a long, long time ago. Like 40 years ago …
MY FIRST MURAL
When I was about 13, my High School ran an art competition for the design of three large panels on what we called the Link Corridor which connected the older part of the building to the newer quadrangle.
There were three themes for the mural art competition: woodland, fish and something else which for the life of me I cannot remember, I think possibly to do with air or sky. The woodland theme appealed to me the most and so I designed a colourful whimsical forest scene complete with trees, dense foliage, large butterflies, snails, snakes and bright red spotted toadstools. I was the winner for the woodland category and so set about the challenge of replicating my design onto the wall. The three panels were side by side and mine was the one on the far right beside the doors that lead to the T-stairs. I remember thinking the space was huge but in reality, it was probably only around 6ft high by maybe 10ft wide. It was a little off the ground with wooden paneling beneath.
The painting of the mural took place within my scheduled art periods. I remember it taking a while but in thinking back I can’t quite remember how long. When you are a young impatient 13-year-old, a few weeks can seem like forever, and I rather suspect it probably only took about three to four weeks to complete on a very part-time basis during class time. And I had help. I was allowed to pick a handful of kids from my art class to assist. I’m glad because the picture was a full wall painting.
I drew a grid over my original art piece and then marked it out on the wall using string pinned at the edges of the paint area, scaling it to size. The grid had been premeasured on the wall and marked. Once the strings were pinned in place, we worked our way down each string horizontally and vertically with charcoal from the art class, giving the strings a good rub. Once complete, we simply pinged the strings like a bow for an arrow to mark the wall.
As a team, we set about replicating the design into each box drawing free hand, then picked up the paint and brushes and painted the picture. I do recall being a little irked about the helping hands when it came to the drawing and painting. As an artist, it can be frustrating when the quality and style isn’t quite as good as you would like but it was a team effort.
Once the mural was complete, I have a vague recollection of bringing my mum in to see it with the then Headmaster Garvie. We called him “Batman” due to the fluttering of his long black headmaster robes behind him like a cape as he patrolled around the corridors. One stern look from Batman sent us all scurrying in terror. In fact, many years later when I was working in the Law and Administration department of Fife Council (our local government) I was stunned to see Batman (then retired) appear one day to attend a meeting with one of our Councillors. Corr blimey, my eyes nearly popped out their sockets even though he wasn’t wearing his crusader’s cape. Just the mere sight of him made me sit instantly to attention in my chair. I nearly passed out when he greeted me by name all these years later. Not sure if it’s a good or bad thing to be remembered by your former High School Headmaster!
Unfortunately, I don’t recall if any photos were taken of the murals, or mine in particular. My mum didn’t take any. Such a pity but it wasn’t really the done thing in those days which were long before the Instagram/Facebook photo obsessed culture we have now. The ‘Auchmuty High School’ that I attended was demolished and rebuilt in 2013. I did contact the school years ago to see if there were any photos in their archives but never heard back. I should probably follow up on that again just in case. It would be lovely to see it again if possible.
I do remember clearly, however, that not long after my mural was complete, some of the ‘big boys’ added graffiti in the form of oversized male anatomy the likes of which one really wouldn’t expect to find on forest fauna …
BACK TO BANDRA
And so it was, I found myself on the last week at my job in 2021 and, as I said before, I initially declined the idea of doing another mural. At that point, I really wanted to take a break, reset, reflect and pursue some of my hobbies for a while such as art and writing.
I had a fine summer off. It was a hot one with record temperatures and then, two months into my break, my former teammate sent me a message with a photo saying “this is what we’d like you to paint on the wall …”
I darned near fell off my chair when I read the message. I felt equal parts of terror and excitement! I knew I had the time to do it and that this would be a fantastic opportunity for me to get involved in something completely different. And wasn’t ‘different’ exactly what I had been looking for?
Of course, I needed more details. How big was the wall for one, and if there was a deadline for completion …?
My first call with Raun, one of the owners gave me the basics. He estimated the size of the feature wall being around 24 feet. Yes, 24 feet! We arranged to meet at the space to check it out. He asked me, “Is this something you can do?”
Well, of course the technical answer is yes but I needed to see the space and think about it before I committed. The last thing I wanted to do was to let them down. We met the next day, and I brought my husband with me for moral support and technical measuring.
It turned out the wall was a little larger than first anticipated … at 27 feet wide! The finished art space was measured at 27’ x 5’6” and was off the ground by about 4 feet.
The design remit was quite specific. The owners wanted a cartoon style with a bit of humour depicting café guests. The design had to include some famous landmarks from the suburb of Bandra in Mumbai, a snake charmer and a Pekingese dog. The style of the cartoon was quite specific too.
The photo I received (not shown) showed a portion of a well-known mural painted in Café Mondegar, a popular landmark and tourist attraction in Mumbai. The mural was done by a prominent Portuguese Indian artist, a pen and ink cartoonist named Mario Miranda, born in 1926 who lived in Goa (who passed away in 2011). I’d never heard of him before but following some swift research on Google (don’t you just love Google), I discovered he’s famous for drawing caricatures in a very distinct and recognizable form featuring curvaceous women with big eyes. Miranda liked to observe people everywhere he went, documenting social interaction in eateries, taverns, weddings, bus stops, you name it. His style was described as subtly witty. He was a prolific cartoonist, with over 13,000 published pieces of work!
Of course, I could not copy the actual photo design but used it as inspiration instead, lifting a couple elements such as the 2-D white backdrop and the iconic waiters. Overall, I think you get the broad Miranda flavour in my design (pardon my wee restaurant pun) mixed with my own style and maybe just a smidge of Tim Burton for interest. I also added a lot more colour and, I think, glamour. Well, certainly a lot of glitter!
Cartooning is not my usual style although I do remember drawing Disney characters as a very young kid but not a cartoon strip like this. So, this fabulous opportunity presented me with a very unique challenge. I love glamour and was quite happy to incorporate curvaceous women wearing bright colours with big eyes, long eye lashes, big hair and painted lips into my design. Between you and me, and I appreciate I may possibly be a tad biased … but I think my ‘Bandra Babes’ are way better looking than the original inspiration piece! 😉
I had many sleepless nights as I went through the design process. Not because I was stressed, that came later, I was just so darned excited about the project and kept thinking up fun ideas and characters that I could draw. If anything, I had to reign in my ideas.
I discovered the name of Bandra Café comes from the neighbourhood that the owners are from, an upscale coastal suburb located in Mumbai, India. Bandra is often referred to as the “Queen of the Suburbs”. It is one of the most popular and coolest neighborhoods of Mumbai, a western suburb with a unique blend of heritage and modern and is home to some of the most popular restaurants, pubs, and shopping districts in the city.
Bandra Bandstand is one of the most popular promenades in Mumbai and includes some of the best-known restaurants and hangout spots in the city which was why I decided to set the fictitious Bandra Café mural scene on Bandstand Promenade.
Bandstand is also frequented by several Bollywood celebrities who live in the area. I wanted to include a “Simpsons” moment and incorporate some celebrities, one of Bandra’s most famous residents and biggest Bollywood star … Shah Rukh Khan (also known as SRK) and his beautiful wife Gauri. I captured them both in cartoon form stepping out of their sea-facing mansion known as Mannat House on a date night. Their iconic house is actually situated on Bandstand Promenade in real life and regarded as a heritage building and famous tourist landmark. Definitely a landmark to be included in my mural!
This is the photo I used to draw Mannat House which I also used for inspiration to draw Gauri. In the photo Gauri is wearing a beautiful purple satin cocktail dress but I decided to update her look and change it to a more fashion forward jumpsuit. I kept the vibrant colour of her outfit and added several layers of sparkling purple glitter to catch the light in the Café and to enhance the Bollywood feel of the mural.
For Shah Rhuk Khan, I searched for a photo that would work well as a cartoon and found this one of him in his superstar shades and deep red shirt. As I mentioned already, cartoons are not my usual style and so I wanted something that would still be iconic and hopefully those ‘in the know’ would recognize him or at least stab a guess based on the surrounding elements of the mural. I didn’t want him to be mistaken for one of the waiters who are wearing red waistcoats. I wanted something bright and glitzy to coordinate with his wife’s outfit, so I mixed up a teal colour and smothered his entire shirt in shimmering emerald green glitter. When you see the mural in the flesh, he dazzles like a peacock!
CHOOSING THE LANDMARKS
Choosing recognizable landmarks to turn into cartoon was quite the task. Naturally, I asked the owners if there were any specific landmarks they wanted included and I received a list of ideas. I did my own Googling to see what other iconic buildings or landmarks I could include. It’s one thing that the landmarks are famous but quite another whether they will work in cartoon form. Some of the temples in Bandra are stunning but so intricate and huge that I didn’t think they would translate well. I spent a lot of time researching Bandra, so much so that I felt I almost knew the place, I’d love to visit one day.
So as not to overcrowd the design, I decided to pick five landmarks and place the Café right in the middle of Bandstand Promenade. The idea being that Café guests could feel like they are sitting on the patio outside Bandra Café on the Promenade. I placed my chosen landmarks from left to right fairly accurately in terms of the order you would expect to find them geographically on the map if you were to visit Bandra in Mumbai in person.
From left to right the cartoon strip travels from Carter Road, through Bandstand Promenade and ends at the Bandra-Worli Sea Link bridge on the far right. Along the way Café diners will see the three headed Ganesh Temple in the sea at Carter Road (Ganpati Temple), St Andrews Church and then of course Bandra Café is slap bang in the middle of the mural. Next is the famous mansion I mentioned already, Mannat House and its celebrity owners, the “King of Bollywood”, actor Shah Rukh Khan (SRK) and his beautiful film producer wife Gauri. Travelling onwards, diners will then see Mount Mary Church and finally the bridge to Worli (the Rajiv Gandhi Sealink).
I chose St Andrews Church since one of the owners (Lionel) mentioned that he used to be a choir boy at that church which he clearly had fond memories of but also because St Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland where I’m from.
I wanted to choose images that were simple and easily recognizable in cartoon form which I think they are. During the weeks I was painting the mural, there were many visits from contractors and new vendors, and friends and family of the owners, many of whom came from Bandra originally. Each would come over to me and admire the work in progress and asked questions which I loved. I would then take each of them to the start of the mural and put them to the test to see if they recognized the landmarks that I was painting and to my delight they did which is always a good sign. 😊
As part of the design of the mural, naturally I wanted to incorporate as much positivity and good luck as possible for the new restaurant and so of course you just know I had to add a few symbolic elements …
Lord Ganesha – Quite subconsciously over the years, I’ve collected many deities from different cultures and have a few Ganesha’s dotted around my home. For those of you who might not know, Lord Ganesha is the elephant headed Hindi god who is widely revered as the remover of obstacles, bringer of good luck and paves the way for moving forward in life. He is also considered the deity of wisdom and intellect, as well as the god of beginnings and new journeys. I thought he would make a perfect house guest for this new restaurant beginning its own new journey. A huge Ganesha festival takes place in Bandra each year with prayers, dance and music. At the end of the festival, dissolvable clay Ganesha idols are immersed in the sea to signify the ending of a cycle of life and therefore the start of another. I was delighted to discover that there is a three headed Ganesha temple in Bandra at Carter Road which is already positioned as such to be surrounded by the sea. I just knew I had to include him! He also received the gold glitter treatment and looks rather dazzling surrounded by the bright turquoise sea in my mural.
Ganesha is often depicted with one head, however, at the temple by Bandra, Ganesha has three heads. This three-headed form represents the three states of being called the Gunas (qualities and attributes). They are Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. Sattva is the mode of goodness and equilibrium, Rajas denotes passion, effort and action or activity and Tamas depicts ignorance, lack of action or inertia.
Originally, I drew two versions of Ganesha, the first version is the one I was most familiar with which has one head but of course it would not have been geographically correct and so I had a go at drawing the three headed version from a photo of the tiny statue at Ganpati Temple on Carter Road. In the photo you can see how much of a transformation there is going from the original sketch to finished simplified cartoon.
The Green Saree – Originally, I had drawn a different character walking the dog on the far left of the mural right below Ganesha but the owners asked if I could include a saree in my design and so I redrew the character as a beautiful woman in a glamorous green saree. I thought long and hard about what colour the saree should be. I didn’t know if there was any significance attributed to their colour other than fashion or preference. After some research, I found that green is thought to be comforting, relaxing, stress-relieving, and invigorating. I found a suggestion that to wear a green sareee would revitalize one’s energy. As green also denotes stability, prosperity, abundance and fresh beginnings, I thought it would make an auspicious colour choice for a saree when starting a new venture, perfect for the sentiments I wanted to bring to the mural. I further read that a green saree with gold decor is ideal for parties and outdoor social occasions, as it encourages fellowship and solidarity in gatherings. So, with that, I picked up my brush and drenched the entire outfit in green and gold glitter which I felt was appropriate for socializing at a cool place like Bandra Café!
The Green Turban – This is another character that received a makeover from my original design. Previously, I drew him with a large curly quaff hairstyle and a huge protruding clean-shaven chin. He’s throwing his head back laughing at his love-struck friend who is completely besotted with the pretty girl sitting at the table beside them. The owners asked if I could include another turban in the design (in addition to the snake charmer) and so I changed the chap’s hair into a turban instead. And then I was in a quandary once again as to what colour to paint it. Living in the city of Surrey in British Columbia, there is a large Indian community and I have therefore seen many colours of turbans worn here and have often wondered what their significance was. As it turns out, the colour green often signifies farmers and Surrey certainly is a strong farming, fruit growing and wine making area. I read too, quite similar to the saree above that green can also represent good luck and prosperity. It’s the colour of money after all.
A little later, after the chap in the green turban had been painted, the owners made another request and asked if he could have a beard which would be more in keeping with the local café goers. This was no problem at all although it did limit me in how I could paint it. As I mentioned, the chap’s head is thrown back as he laughs which committed me to painting the beard pointing outwards rather than downwards like you might expect. Later still, I received a visit from the father of one of the owners. As he surveyed the mural, he commented that there was something significant missing from the chap in the green turban. A Kara.
The Kara is a ‘silver’ coloured metal bangle which is worn on the right wrist at all times by Sikhs which serves as a reminder not to commit sins as they follow their faith. The father was very specific that it was not made of silver and should not be painted as ‘silver’. He showed me his own bangle which was made of steel. As luck would have it, I had an acrylic metallic paint at home which did the trick. It is a dull silvery colour which is not so obvious when you are close to the mural but you can see the metal effect from further away. I was glad I could make the changes to the mural as it developed, it’s really important to me that the owners love it.
1111 – This is a subtle addition to the portfolio of good luck for the mural that not everyone will see and understand. Seeing the number 1111 as a regular occurrence is considered a sign that the observer is on the right path and to keep their thoughts positive. You attract what you focus on after all. This number is part of many known as Angel Numbers and is said to inspire fresh beginnings, motivation, activity, inspiration, achievement, independence and leadership. This is especially potent when you see repeating 1111. Have you worked out where this magical number is in the mural yet?
If you happen to be dining in the booth beside the guy in the yellow shirt eating shark fin soup, perhaps you should pay attention to the time on his watch …. 😊
The Evil Eye – I first came across the evil eye when holidaying in Greece and Turkey and fell in love with them. They are so bright and iconic. I have a lot of jewelry featuring this icon (necklaces, bracelets, bangles, earrings, rings) and even a couple of handbags too … which is what gave me the idea for Gauri’s stylish glittering purse.
The evil eye is a “look” or “stare” that is believed to bring bad luck for the person at whom it is directed for reasons such as envy or dislike, often when the recipient is unaware. Many cultures believe that receiving the evil eye will cause misfortune or injury. Talismans and amulets created to protect against the evil eye are also known as “evil eyes”. In Turkey they are called “Nazar Boncugu”, in Greece they are “Mati” as well as Kudrishti or Karikannu in the Hindu religion of India.
The concept and significance of the evil eye is especially prominent in the Mediterranean and West Asia. When a person wears or carries an evil eye talisman or amulet, it is thought to guard them against misfortune. I knew early on that I wanted to include one somewhere in the design and thought that incorporating it as a purse would be perfect. It’s a stunning piece surrounded by glittering gold which, I have to say, I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on myself!
Snakes – I was delighted when one of the owners asked for a snake charmer to be included in the design, what fun! Bandra was once known for its enchanting snake charmers, although there are probably less of them now in more modern times. I never used to like snakes. I’ve met a few, usually when I was least expecting it … and that didn’t go down well! However, I do have a bit of a thing about snake jewelry. A very big thing it seems, almost to the point of obsession. I don’t know what it is, but their shape is just perfect for winding type designs and I simply cannot resist snake jewelry which has jewels for eyes. Quite literally I am hypnotized to buy. Perhaps I was Cleopatra in a previous life, who knows? Obviously, I had to have at least one snake in the mural, a cobra in a basket but I wanted to add a sense of mischief and humour and so more were added.
Snakes mean many things to many people. They can be pretty scary although, it is said that having a snake in your house guards it but I won’t be trying that any time soon. Seeing a snake is considered good luck by some and in ancient cultures such as Greece, Egypt and indigenous North America, snakes symbolize a number of things including immortality. So, for the purpose of this mural, my snakes are bringing good luck, protection and longevity to the table (pardon my restaurant pun).
Lucky Black Cats – Originally my design had only one black cat, the mischievous scamp making off with the fish. When I transferred my mural onto the wall, a space that seemed insignificant on my original drawing was scaled up at a ratio of 1:12 and therefore became a visible gap. This happy accident meant I had room to add another cat! I love cats, and was very happy to immortalize both my own kitties into the finished mural. Lady Lola is the one stealing the fish, true to character she is a stealthy ninja. The other cat antagonizing the snake coiled around the chair is Rascal Roxi who loves playing with (and chewing) stringy dangly things and I can just imagine her trying to play with a snake if she ever found one. Growing up in Scotland, I’ve always regarded black cats as a symbol of good luck, especially if one happens to cross your path. In Scotland and Japan (and other countries), black cats have also been known to represent prosperity.
Fruit Bats – Another happy accident was the enlargement of the space above the guy with the green turban. I already felt I had enough snakes in the picture and pondered over what else I could add to the design for fun and interest. Immediately I thought of fruit bats and made a quick online search to ensure that bats are indigenous to Mumbai, I would have been so disappointed if they weren’t! Turns out I was on the right track, there are apparently twelve different species of bat in Mumbai. But what do bats represent I wondered? Apparently, bats extend the life force of fruit trees and other plants through pollination. In addition, bat guano (which is bat poop to you and me, let’s hope he doesn’t do that on the table) is a popular natural fertilizer. I found out that, for these reasons, and the fact that bats live in large colonies, the bat is also a symbol of good fortune, prosperity and abundance.
So, there we have it, eight symbols in the design representing good luck, protection, prosperity and abundance all round. And, just for the record … the number 8 is believed to be the luckiest number in China because ‘8’ is associated with wealth. Just saying!
THE COMIC STRIP STORY
All this chatter about the design of my mural … are you now left wondering what the story shown in the comic strip is all about?
The premise behind the entire design is “the moment before the mayhem broke out!”
It all starts innocently enough with the beautiful lady in the green saree walking her cute Pekinese dog. The dog hasn’t noticed the chicken yet which is running for its life away from the Chef’s sharp cleaver. That’s Chef Raun, one of the owners by the way, he seems to be having a tough time in the kitchen.
The first waiter on the left has just recognized the Bollywood celebrities on their date night walking onto the patio, looking for a table for two. He can’t believe who’s just walked in! He’s distracted by the beautiful Gauri especially, his idol, and he’s not paying attention to the tray of cocktails he’s carrying for the three pretty ladies at the first table. They are enjoying a carafe of fine red wine between them. All dressed up for a fabulous night on the town. Any second now, the lady in the purple dress is going to know all about it as the cold sticky cocktails from the waiter’s tray pour down her neck and back! No doubt she will jump and scream in fright.
At the other side of her table, her friend in the beautiful orange dress is going to get a fright of her own when Rascal “Mongoose” Roxi, the snake fighting cat, sinks her claws into the snake on her chair. The pretty lady has no idea what is behind her. Neither does the waiter at the centre of the picture, that’s Lionel by the way, who knows if he will be able to keep his cool and hold onto those drinks without spilling a drop when the screaming starts …
The snake charmer is doing an excellent job in hypnotizing the cobra in the basket with his glittering gold trumpet. Such a good job in fact that all the snakes on the patio are also being attracted. I wonder what the lady eating the sausage will do when she touches the snake’s tail above her head with her empty glass as she tries to get attention from a waiter for another drink? Her husband is having a moment as well. This character was inspired by one of our friends called Trevor who makes a fabulous Goan Sausage Curry which I had to include. That’s his wife Andrea eating the sausage. Poor Trevor has just realized that something peculiar is trying to climb up inside his trouser leg!
Meanwhile, love is in the air! Bandra Café is a hip and happening place for a romantic dinner after all. There is a special moment taking place as a young man proposes to his date on bended knee. She’s a lucky lady, if you look closely, you will see that not only is the diamond a whopper, it’s also in a blue Tiffany box! Do you think she’ll say yes …? I sure hope so, the ring looks expensive!
Meanwhile, another waiter is bringing food in from the kitchen. He loves his job and is smiling happily to himself as he carries the fresh-from-the-sea food on trays. So ‘fresh’ in fact that the octopus soup can see where he’s going, I don’t suppose he’s too happy about that. The waiter is blissfully unaware of the perils that await him directly underfoot. Will he trip over the extended foot of the guy proposing or will the slippery fish on the floor get him? Either way, the poor waiter is going down … and maybe the octopus will escape to fight another day unlike his friend in the bowl on the table of the Lara Croft lookalike. That octopus is bracing himself to do battle against her raised spoon. He’s got a hold of her wine glass, maybe he’s planning on throwing it in her face so he too can make his escape? But Lara is hungry. She is calm, cool and collected. Check out that knife she has at the ready … Her date, on the other hand, does not seem terribly impressed with his choice of shark fin soup. It’s certainly very fresh … not sure how spicy the soup is but I’ll bet it has a bit of a bite!
Yes, love is definitely in the air in the Café tonight as the guy sitting at the table behind Lara is giving her the eye. He adores a strong independent woman, although I rather suspect that Lara would be too much for him to handle. He’d better not let her date catch him swooning else there will be big trouble. His friend in the green turban is laughing so hard at his love smitten friend. He’s just noticed the ‘fresh’ fish jumping off the waiter’s tray behind his friend and knows exactly what’s going to happen next. A surprise cold wet slap on the back of the head will soon cool his friend’s amore! I don’t know that the guys will finish their dinner, their kissing fish are really too sweet to eat and besides, the fruit bats have taken up residency on an overhanging tree branch above their table. Once the screaming and jumping starts, these startled guys will take off like bats out of hell … Spoiler alert!! There may be some guano …
And finally, we see Shah Rukh Khan (SRK) and his beautiful wife Gauri out on their date night just casually strolling into the scene looking for a table for two, completely oblivious to the mayhem that’s about to ensue. The tables in the mural are all full but perhaps they will be shown to a private booth further out on the patio right beside you …?
The handsome young waiter ushering the celebrities in is maintaining his cool for now unlike his colleague serving the girls on the other side of the patio. The waiter is bringing the Bollywood couple a bottle of their favourite BC wine. Now, would that be “BC” for Bandra Café or BC for the fabulous wines made here in British Columbia … I’ll let you decide for yourself.
THE DEVIL IS ALWAYS IN THE DETAIL!
One of the things I really enjoyed about the cartoon process was the transformation from detailed pencil sketch to simplified black pen characters. I achieved this by transferring my designs onto tracing paper. Not because I was able to use the tracings in the final design, but it proved to be extremely useful for planning the layout.
I sketched all my characters, groupings and landmarks separately and much larger in size than would be included in my final design. I then used tracing paper and a black felt pen to simplify the sketches and thereby transforming them into cartoons. Once this was done, I was able to move each ‘segment’ around as I developed the design, literally like an old school cut and paste. Even better was the fact that the tracing paper was semi-transparent, it meant that I could flip the characters in reverse if that suited me better which it did on two occasions (the lady walking the dog and the waiter tipping the drinks beside her). Once I laid out the order I liked on my dining room table like a huge collage, I set about re-drawing them in a smaller and tighter configuration that became the comic strip of the mural, ensuring that as much of the space was filled as possible. The finished design was drawn on a 1:12 scale, it was 5.5” high and 27” wide with one square inch representing one square foot on the wall.
Once I was satisfied with my finished sketch, I used the tracing paper technique again to trace the entire design in black felt pen so I could show the owners and get their approval. I could’ve shown them the original sketch but I thought that showing them the cartoon version would give them a much better idea of what it would look like on the wall. I also wanted to preserve the original pencil drawing intact which I will frame for my house. Tracing the full design was very time consuming, it took two hours solid to complete as there is a lot of detail. I did this twice as I had to make a few changes to a couple of the characters.
However, nothing goes to waste. I scanned the first black and white cartoon tracing and gave it to the owners so they could use the image on their menu and sandwich wrapping paper for takeout orders which I think looks rather fabulous!
Once the final design was approved, I coloured the second version using felt pens and kept it as my master plan for keeping me right on the paint colours. For the paint I used BEHR Marquee colours from Home Depot. I wanted a solid opaque paint which didn’t require an undercoat or repeated coats for the stronger colours. Red is especially renowned for being difficult but this paint is fantastic although I did choose to give each area a second coat to make sure the colour was solid and vibrant.
I had a lot of fun selecting the colours but in the end, it’s easy to get carried away. I scaled back on the number of paints I used to keep the costs down. I purchased 12 colours (including black) and mixed some to achieve 20 different colours across the mural.
In case anyone is interested, the colours I used were:
I used modern technology to get the images onto the wall, more than anything because I wanted to leave the freshly filled and painted white wall intact as part of my design. I used a projector which was not without its challenges.
First off, I had to wait until sundown so that the room was suitably dark for projection. As I mentioned, the mural size is 27 feet wide and I realized that I would not be able to project the entire image and so I scanned my design in three sections, each to be 9 feet wide. I reasoned that I would simply match up the lines for each section and continue the flow with minor adjustments. Had the mural been much smaller, I’m sure that would have worked just fine, however, this did not turn out to be the case at all.
I soon discovered that projectors distort images. Not so bad when you are watching a presentation at a meeting and you are viewing a relatively plain screen with words to read but images are entirely different. Also, the mural position is approximately 4 feet off the ground. For safety purposes, the restaurant owners got their contractor to build a solid platform for me to work on, including a lovely bunk bed type ladder that I could climb. This was my catwalk!
The projected image perspective was larger and wider at the top than at the bottom. I realized that I would have to raise the projector to as close to level with the painting space as possible (ie in the centre height wise). Fortunately for me, the restaurant was under major construction and so there was plenty of ‘material’ at my disposal.
I used a dining table, then set up the projector tri-pod on top of that. It was still not high enough and so I resorted to piling pieces of wood directly underneath the projector one by one to achieve the best height. It wasn’t perfect, the distortion was still there but it was enough to get the gist of what I wanted to do. I scrambled up onto the catwalk and, captured the main points with my graphite stick. I realized I would not get the full detail this way but at least if I captured the basics, I could freehand draw the rest in the daylight. Simple? Nope, not quite …
I started on the right-hand panel first as there is more detail at the edge of the design. I realized that if I needed any wiggle room, I would have a little on the far left of the design beside Ganesha. So I worked right to left.
I thought all I had to do, now that I had worked out the best height for projection, would be to slide the table and assembly over to the centre of the room for the second panel and so on. I even marked it with tape on the floor to make easier. Once I got it into position and started the projection … the distortion created more issues than I anticipated. I ended up having to reposition the table several more times (and the wooden plank adjustments) to get the best fit before scampering back up on the catwalk to work my magic. Then I had to repeat it all again for the final right hand panel. Actually, that one was even worse because I had to accommodate the fixed booths and could not get into the right position and so had to project slightly at an angle … and remove a huge light fitting which was casting a massive shadow right in the centre of the design. Needless to say, it was a long night! I started around 6:00pm and left at 1:30am!
Working alone in the dark can be quite eerie as I’m sure you can imagine. There is a vegetarian bistro next door and a takeout pizza joint on the other side. I could hear the creaking of the building, the bumps in the night so to speak, and the muffled noises of the catering neighbours as they cooked and served their customers. And then of course there were the nighttime visitors outside. Over the course of the four weeks it took to paint the mural, I became aware of the regular meetups in the parking lot, the guys and their cars. The first night I was nervous. By the time I was finished after 1:00am, I didn’t want to come face to face with anyone on my own. I timed it well, the car park was empty, I called my husband on my cell and placed in my pocket while I locked up and packed my items in the back of my car. After that first night, I painted mostly during regular work hours so there was never any issues. The owners were also awesome too, I told them my schedule if I was working on the weekend and they always checked in with me to make sure I was OK. I really appreciated that.
As I worked through the evening on that first night, I really got the sense that someone was watching me. You know that way you get when you feel someone behind you? Three times I turned round expecting to be face to face with someone really close, looking directly over my right shoulder, but of course there was nobody there. Besides, I was up on the catwalk, 4 feet off the ground and no-one is going to be standing that high directly behind me …
Weirdly, I did not feel frightened or anxious about it at all. It was quite comforting actually. I know it sounds weird, but I got the distinct impression that it was my dad coming in for a visit so see what I was doing and to keep an eye on me. He was always very protective. My dad passed away in the summer of 2009.
CALLING ALL FOODIES!
I am delighted to report that Bandra Café is open and doing extremely well! If you are lucky enough to live on the lower mainland in British Columbia, it is well worth a visit. In fact, I highly recommend it, the food is amazing … and the art is not bad either! 😉
Bandra Café is located in the Strawberry Hill Shopping Centre in Newton in Surrey:
I visit the restaurant often with my husband to enjoy Chef Raun’s amazing food. Now that the mural is complete, I can enjoy it like everyone else, it certainly adds to the atmosphere of this fabulous café. I love it! I am very proud of my mural and feel very privileged to have been given this amazing opportunity. Who knew that a girl from Fife on the east coast of Scotland would be leaving a legacy all the way across the world on the west coast of Canada! I certainly never dreamed this could happen.
Thank you for reading my ‘behind the scenes’. I hope you enjoyed it and hope to see you sometime at the Café!
Until next time!