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Mastering mural painting 2021-01-17

Mastering mural painting

“As artists, we are the writers of history. As we paint, people watch. And it is our responsibility to give them information that will inspire them, motivate them, and prepare them for the future.” Bash, South African street artist at IPAF 2021.

Painting a wall mural is different to any other kind of artwork in its scale, prominence and permanence. The 2021 International Public Arts Festival (IPAF) – taking place from 10-14 February 2021 – pays tribute to renowned creatives who use this medium to tell people’s stories. Hosted by Baz-Art – an organisation that harnesses the power of street art to transform communities – this year’s festival features legends like South African-born Bash, French artist Ador, and previously featured Keya Tama, a local artist now living in Los Angeles.

Baz-Art co-founder, Alexandre Tilmans, says IPAF is the ideal platform to inspire aspiring street artists, with exquisite works from some of the world’s biggest names. Painting a wall mural takes careful thought and planning. He says, “The more prepared you are the better. With experience, you will know how long it will take and what the challenges will be.”

Tama says he draws inspiration for his murals from contrast; from emotions, ideas and aesthetics that work to bring out the best parts of each other. He prefers ‘walls with history’ and chooses environments his work organically relates to. He believes street art has enormous potential to shape youth culture and his advice for emerging South African creatives is to “challenge your taste in order to refine your style to something that resonates and is unique.”

French artist Ador, uses humanoid characters to tell stories and catalyse conversations. “Taking part in the IPAF is a wonderful step for me to paint in a city with a great history, alongside many other artists. We can imagine these works as part of an open sky museum.” His top tip for mural painters is to take time before starting a painting to ensure they capture the story and a concept that facilitates an exchange of ideas.

Advice for emerging mural artists

Plan ahead: Tilmans says the better you plan, the easier the job. Ensure you have an accurate sketch and a list of all the materials you need, including a hat, water, drop sheets, measuring tape, chalk, a ladder and scaffolding. Do a site inspection before you begin so you can anticipate any challenges upfront and estimate how long it will take you.

Get the permissions you need: In a Cape Town context, you need to fill in a ‘public art permit application form’ from the City’s Art and Culture department. This will need to be signed by the building owner and neighbours, and will require an attachment of your proposed sketch. There is rigorous consultation both internally and within the affected community which takes place to ensure buy-in and that no regulation or by-law will be broken.

Consider these four things before you begin:

1. How complicated is your design and who will help you execute it?

2. Where is your location? Is it easily accessible?

3. How big is the mural and will it require any special machinery?

4. How long will it take you to paint and how long do you want it to last for?

Use these four factors to plan your project and its costs upfront.


Street artist Bash also advises drawing ‘truths’ from everyday life to inspire mural ideas. In terms of location, he sees himself as a ‘mobile gallery’. “I go to places where there’s a lot of foot traffic; places where people don’t have exposure to galleries or art, so I bring the art to them.”

His advice for new creatives is, “Don’t be shy. Don’t be scared. Be bold. Get out of your comfort zone and do what you want to do. Make sure your intentions are to inspire, motivate and prepare people for the future.”

Bash and Ador will be exhibiting at the 2021 IPAF. Tilmans says the event will rigorously adhere to strict Covid-19 protocols to prioritise the safety of the public, participating creatives and the Baz-Art team.

“The team will be tested before the event and we will continue with current best-practice protocols such as daily temperature checking.

“At the IPAF, masks will be mandatory, and viewings will be limited to one household per installation. Sanitiser stations will be strategically positioned to maximise availability. Downloadable brochures and maps will also be appropriately distributed so that you can safely walk it, run it or cycle it. All government recommendations will be incorporated to keep South Africans and international guests safe.”

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