prehistoric art
How I Make a Picture
by Karen Carr

5. Spreading the Paint

With the approval of the color roughs, I was able to sit down and start painting in earnest. and these murals took a lot of time to paint.

Since they are created digitally at full size, it was somewhat easier (and safer) than using the traditional methods of scaffolding and paint on walls. But, however you do a giant mural, at some point you're faced with the need to sit down and turn a rough design into a finished image.

painting_in_progress.jpg (25516 bytes)

Placerias painting in progress.

All five images for the Oklahoma halls represent something over 1500 hours of painting.

Work in progress. Copyright by Karen Carr.

Here's another "work in progress" view. You'll notice that there has to be a cooperation between the artist and the museum designers: In the initial layout, I wanted the crocodile-like phytosaur to be at the extreme right of the water's edge. To accommodate the needs of the hall's design and the mural's eventual presentation, though, I moved him more toward the center of the water.

Adding colors over the original color sketch allows me to "build up" the final image in glazes. This style of work is a preference I have, and it is another hold-over from my oil painting. I think it gives my paintings a sense of atmosphere, so clouds and light can become "living" parts of the scene.

6. Completing the Image

While I was painting, I would send small portions of the murals to the museum for their review, and to their designers and production house to get their ideas and input.


Placerias in color. Copyright by Karen Carr.

Once the mural was complete, I sent the final file to the museum for their production. The "back end" of the creative process, during which these enormous digital paintings get turned into the giant color murals shown on display, is really equal parts technology and art. My paintings were transferred onto hundreds of huge vinyl panels, which are applied to the museum walls like big sheets of wallpaper.

The first mural being installed.

Here is the first of the murals being installed in Oklahoma. This photo shows just three of the mural panels in place: This image has more than 60 such panels in all, and is more than 60 feet long.

It was great to work with the museum's partners on a project we could all participate in and enjoy.

Next: The finished image.


Reprinted with permission from All images 2000 Karen Carr. All rights reserved.

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