Tips for Managing Mural Projects


Murals are dynamic projects that require a lot of planning and preparation.  Here are my tips for producing a mural successfully, be it for a public or private client:

• Communicate your needs, expectations, and deliverables clearly in a contract that is signed by both the artist and the client. View Sample Contract. 

• Begin the physical project after you deposit the retainer fee from the client, a portion of the art fee that is deducted from the final invoice. A retainer provides a solid commitment and money in the bank to buy supplies to start the job.

• Work as a team.  Large mural projects benefit by having two or three people on the job. Having one person prep paint, clean brushes, set up ladders and pass supplies to the painters on the lift or scaffold makes all the difference in increasing productivity.

• Safety first. Always have an assistant on-site when you’re working at night, and, ideally, when you’re working on a ladder or a lift. Use caution tape to alert the public to your potentially dangerous equipment.

• Have your client provide any permits required, such as permission to shut down a street or sidewalk for the duration of the work.

• Negotiate secure storage for your supplies and paint on the job site. A closet, or locked area saves time by not having to fully pack out each day. If outside, walk in trailers are a great temporary storage option to if you have access to one.

• Assess power connectivity, water source and bathroom at the job site.  If no water, bring gallons of water for clean up and for drinking. Bring external chargers if needed.

• Anticipate sun, rain, and everything in-between.  Note which direction the wall faces in order to optimize painting in the shade throughout the day.  North facing walls are ideal, and the direction of the wall may very well define your daily work schedule.

• Be clean: use drop cloths. No one wants to spend time cleaning up a mess when you could be progressing of the mural.

• Keep a log of how many hours each person works. At the end of the project you will have a clear idea of the actual time on the job in relation to your estimated bid.

• Divide your art fee by the total number of hours worked to arrive at your hourly pay.  This is a good barometer for how good a job you did in your estimation, and it should inform how you bid the next job.

• Stay humble, kind and appreciative of your team and the public. You are on display all the time. In addition, someone that isn’t being paid will undoubtedly lend you hand at some point — always thank them!

• Sign your work. Be proud of your efforts, because making public art is a labor of love no matter how much you’re being paid.