Muralist Job Description
Muralists create large-scale public artwork on indoor and outdoor surfaces. This role requires training in art techniques as well as the ability to estimate costs and set schedules. Because many muralists work on large walls, they must be comfortable working on scaffolding and ladders for extended periods of time.
Muralists can work either on their own or with teams of other artists for both businesses and public organizations like schools or municipalities. In either case, muralists need to successfully collaborate with building owners and managers on designing and painting murals while maintaining building access and considering surrounding businesses and public spaces.
Muralist Duties and Responsibilities
Muralists can work in many settings, but these core responsibilities tend to remain the same from project to project:
Develop Mural Concepts
Muralists work with building owners, businesses, and public works departments to develop mural concepts that tell a story or highlight a specific element of an organization, neighborhood, or idea. The development process usually requires a series of meetings to discuss the client’s needs, and the muralist usually provides several concepts and sketches prior to beginning work on the mural itself.
Plan Mural Placement
Muralists plan mural placement, taking building elements like lighting and surfaces into account while deciding on a location. They determine, in collaboration with building owners and organization representatives, where the mural will be most visible and produce the intended effect. They may also make changes to the mural’s scale based on these discussions and revise elements of the mural plan to accommodate various architectural elements.
Muralists determine their material needs prior to painting. These materials can include paint, rollers, and brushes, as well as any equipment that the muralist needs to access harder-to-reach areas. They may rent or buy scaffolding and safety equipment, ladders, and drop cloths to prepare the area for painting. Muralists need to consider many factors during this process, including whether the mural will be painted inside or outside.
Once they have determined specifications and gathered materials, muralists apply paint directly to internal and external surfaces. While different muralists may have different processes or techniques, the painting process usually involves putting down a base coat of primer, blocking in the major elements of the mural, and then moving on to complete detail work section by section until the mural is complete.
Many muralists work with teams of artists who complete elements of the project, and part of their role is directing the activities of all of these artists. The muralist may set schedules and deadlines for elements of the mural and ensure that team members have completed their work before moving to the next phase of mural painting. While coordinating teams, muralists may need to provide more supplies or adjust schedules to prevent delays and ensure the mural is completed on time.
Revise and Update Murals
After completing the bulk of their work, muralists also make changes to murals and may periodically revisit sites to touch up or alter their work. Typically, a mural project requires final approval from the property owner or organization providing funding for the mural, so either one may request changes after the bulk of the work is done. The muralist then makes the requested changes, either alone or with the assistance of other artists.
Muralist Skills and Qualifications
Muralists are fine artists who work on a large scale, painting a variety of images on indoor and outdoor surfaces. Muralists typically have an extensive portfolio of artwork and demonstrate the following skills:
- Composition skills – muralists should be able to work with large surfaces to determine where mural elements will look best. They need excellent composition skills and the ability to approach paintings while considering scale
- Painting skills – this role requires excellent painting skills, and muralists should have experience painting on many different kinds of surfaces using many different paints
- Lifting and climbing – because they work on scaffolding and other elevated platforms, muralists must be comfortable with lifting heavy materials (like paint cans) and working several feet above the ground
- Schedule management – muralists also need excellent time management and scheduling skills to ensure that murals are completed on time and that work does not impede access to the building
- Team coordination – since many muralists work with other artists, they should also have some experience with leading and coordinating teams
- Interpersonal skills – muralists work closely with building owners, businesses, and organizations to develop mural concepts and plans, so they need to effectively work and negotiate with clients
Muralist Education and Training
There are no formal education requirements for muralists, but many complete degrees in fine arts (either bachelor’s or master’s degrees) to gain experience and skill with their chosen medium. In college courses, muralists gain familiarity with important concepts like composition and proportion, as well as practical, hands-on work with paints and other materials they use in this role. Muralists may also begin their careers working for another muralist, completing specific parts of a large project and gaining mastery of mural-painting techniques and practices.
Muralist Salary and Outlook
Average annual salaries for muralists can be difficult to estimate because they are generally paid on a per-project basis. Muralists who work independently may determine an amount to charge clients based on materials and square footage of the final project. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that craft and fine artists earn a median annual wage of $48,780 per year, but because of the varied nature of their work, a muralist’s actual earnings can diverge significantly from this estimate.
We searched the web and found many resources if you’re interested in working as a muralist:
National Society of Mural Painters – this professional organization provides opportunities to connect with other muralists as well as a listserv to find out about calls for artists and requests for proposals
Mural Painting Secrets for Success: Expert Advice for Hobbyists and Pros – Gary Lord explores the business side of working as a muralist, including how to manage project budgets and finances
“The Power of Public Art: How Murals Beautify Cities and Build Communities” – read this blog post to find out about the positive impact that muralists can have on their communities
Painting Murals Step by Step – Charles Grund, an experienced muralist, explores the process of mural painting, tracing the steps from concept to completion
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