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Demonstrating How To Scale Up for Large Outdoor Murals

Christian Stanley explains how he went from Graphic Designer to full-time Muralist with dozens of large-scale projects completed around the U.S.

Morning artrepreneurs! Welcome to another edition of the Stay Sketchy newsletter.

It’s Memorial Day! That means you should must read this while sitting on a beach with a drink in your hand. It’s the rules 🤷

This week we’ve got:

  • ⭐️ Christian Stanley as our featured artist

  • ✉️ Why email beats social media

  • 💡 Special Memorial Day sales

  • ✏️ Helpful magic eraser tools

Christian Stanley - Muralist & Creative Artist

Courtesy of C. Stanley Creative

📸 Instagram: cstanleycreative

🌐 Website: cstanleycreative.com

It’s not too often that graphic designers trade in their mouse and keyboard for a paintbrush and a can of paint.

It’s even less common that part of that trade includes using lifts, industrial paint sprayers, and coating entire walls of buildings with designs they created.

But that’s exactly what Christian Stanley and his wife Jessica have done with their small business, C. Stanley Creative.

Let’s rewind a bit.

Christian knew he was going to be an artist for as long as he could remember.

One of his earliest memories was when he was asked to create a paper-stuffed goldfish in kindergarten. All of the kids in his class happily complied, but not Christian. With the help of his teacher, Christian went on to make a giant marlin that dwarfed the other humble creations of his classmates.

In 1st grade, Christian’s drawing of an iguana won an award for an art contest hosted by a local veterinary clinic. The recognition gave him a huge boost in confidence and made the allure of becoming an artist all the more enticing.

In high school, Christian took every art class he could, but when it came time to enroll in college, he chose to study graphic design in what he thought was a more prudent, less risky decision (career-wise) than had he enrolled in a fine arts program.

After graduating, Christian went on to work at a vinyl wrap shop for large vehicles as a graphic designer.

It was here that he actually learned many of the skills that would lead to his success as a muralist and large scale artist.

Christian learned to scale his designs to fit the large, contoured panels of cars, trucks, RVs, and even boats. He learned how to apply vinyl to various surfaces, and how to ensure those surfaces were clean and ready to accept the new material. He also learned a lot about working with different customers as well as the logistics of running and working within a small business focused on design and application of specialty materials.

During his time at the graphics shop, Christian never stopped creating his own artwork. He spent his free time painting and drawing, and eventually started picking up some painting jobs as a way to pusue his other passions and earn some additional income on then side.

His first public art job involved painting a small electrical box as part of a community art initiative. It may have been small, but it was a start, and it ended up helping him book his next project.

His then-girlfriend, Jessica, and him had created C. Stanley Creative, and continued creating murals around their home in Florida and the United States as a whole.

Three years after that first electrical box, Christian quit his graphic design job and went full-time as an artist. A year after that, Jessica followed him. While Christian handles the artistic duties of C. Stanley Creative, Jessica handles everything else pertaining to the business. This allows Christian to stay focused on creating and doing what he does best.

Courtesy of C. Stanley Creative

In the beginning of 2021, right after he and Jessica were married, Christian completed a 3-week project that paid the equivalent of his entire year’s salary as a graphic designer.

When Christian and Jessica learned there were projects out there like this, they knew it had the potential to be life changing.

Now, Christian has taken his talents across the United States and overseas to international street art festivals. He has worked with dozens of community arts organizations and large national brands like NBC and Publix as well.

Christian & Jessica had a lot of insights to share regarding creating large outdoor murals and growing a small art business from scratch. Check out what they had to say below!

Courtesy of C. Stanley Creative

Demonstrate Your Ability to Scale Up

Do what you need to in order to get those first few jobs and demonstrate you have the ability to scale up.

Painting on a 12x16 inch canvas is a lot different than painting on a 24x16 foot wall. Successfully painting images on surfaces bigger than you are indicates you have a skill that not all artists share.

You can do this by starting small. There’s no need to go after the biggest jobs that’ll give you the most exposure. Simple designs are your friend in the beginning.

Consider doing a mural on a wall in your own home or on the side of your parents’ garage. Offering to do an early job or two for free is another way to prove yourself to prospective clients and build up a body of work.

Be Open to a Broad Market

When confined to a single town or even a larger city, intense competition for large public works projects can easily stifle the dreams of artists and muralists that are just getting started.

Consider expanding your horizons to new cities and towns, other counties, and ultmately, different states. Doing so will greatly increase your chances of finding jobs that can help build up your portfolio and prove to people back home that you should be taken seriously.

It’s much harder for city officials and arts organizations to ignore you when you have a portfolio of work that spans several different states.

Whether you do a few small jobs or one big job each month, either approach could earn you a full-time income.

Find Work by Applying to Public Art Calls

Although in some rare circumstances you may be able to book a mural job just by finding a nice wall and asking its owner if you could paint it, this isn’t the norm.

Instead, you’re better off applying to public art calls.

These calls for artists are put out by local governements and arts organizations who list the details of specific projects they’d like completed. Funding for these projects comes from grants, private endowments, donations, and countless other sources.

One thing you should note is that winning these jobs can sometimes be like winning the lottery. It depends on the project, how big it is, and where it’s located, but in some cases public art calls can receive thousands of applicants.

Don’t be disheartened. Just apply and move on. Project commissioners can select an artist for any number of reasons, and one of those reasons may lead them to you.

Eventually, when you build up enough of a portfolio and presence on social media, you’re likely to get the majority of your jobs through inbound client requests.

Until then, applying to public art calls, mural festivals, and cold outreach may be your best means of booking large outdoor murals.

Deeply Familiarize Yourself with Your Materials

Muralists don’t have the luxury of selecting their favorite canvas for each painting they create. Every wall is different and some require special treatment.

Walls should be cleaned and prepped before painting. This may involve pressure washing and applying a sealer. Putting brush to brick without any kind of prep work will often result in a poorly done mural that can peel or fade well before it naturally would.

There are also many different paints to work with.

  • Use exterior paints outdoors even though they may cost more than interior paints.

  • Some jobs may require mildew-resistant paints which could require specialized equipment to apply.

  • Adding a UV-protective coating can help prolong the life of a mural, ensuring it stays bright and lasts through many years of sun exposure.

The person that commissioned the mural is counting on you to know what you’re doing. If the mural begins to fade or peel in just a few months, it won’t look very good for you as the artist, but it’ll also leave a bad impression on the people in the community. They may think that this will happen to every new mural and they’ll be less likely to commission similar projects in the future.

Christian & Jessica share lots of content on Instagram explaining their process and why it is they’re doing what they’re doing. This is a great way to build trust and show any potential clients that they know what they’re experienced professionals.

Courtesy of C. Stanley Creative

  • In order to book mural jobs you need to demonstrate your ability to scale up traditionally sized artwork. Find creative ways to develop your portfolio and show the world you can paint big.

  • Be open to a broad market - especially when just starting out. No mural should be too small. Consider looking across state lines. The perfect opportunity won’t likely be in your backyard.

  • Research public art calls and mural festivals when looking for new projects.

  • Familiarize yourself with the surfaces you’re working on and the materials you’re working with. Each wall is different - especially outdoors. Ensure you take the proper steps to create a mural that stands the test of time.

Additional Tidbits
  • Christian & Jessica book a fair amount of their projects through inbound inquiries these days. They provide each prospective client with a brochure containing work samples, who they are, minimum pricing for any future products, and any general terms and conditions. This a professional and efficient means of determining client-artist fit and saves both parties time in the long run.

  • Christian tends to book large outdoor projects just once per month as opposed to doing several smaller murals in the same amount of time. Large murals are more difficult to execute and tend to have more expenses (special equipment, more materials, travel) but they can pay significantly more and tend to have a bigger impact on the community.

  • It’s important to establish usage rights in order to receive fair compensation for your work as an artist. Mural clients will sometimes want to sell merchandise containing the image of the mural Christian painted. This is only permitted if it’s in the original contract Christian asks each client to sign. Typically, usage of the image is for the mural only, as well as to sometimes advertise or market the business. If the client wishes to create merchandise to generate additional income using the image of the mural, Christian & Jessica may include a markup in their quote for the project to cover licensing fees.

Christian’s Tech Stack
Why Email Beats Social Media ✉️

Imagine a scenario where the social media account you spent years growing gets hacked.

Maybe it gets suspended on accident, or Instagram changes their algorithm and begins suppressing your content.

In these scenarios, you’re back to square one and have to start all over. If you lose your account, you’ll have no record of who your followers were, and even if you did, there’s no easy way to contact them all and ask them to follow you somewhere new.

In many cases, completely losing a social following could be devastating to an early artist or creator.

Letting the success of your art business be determined exclusively by the whims of social media companies implies huge risk.

The best way to counter this risk, is to create a mailing list of your followers’ email addresses, and to reach out to them occasionally in an email newsletter.

Email newsletters are a professional means of mass communication to your most loyal customers and fans.

Better yet, there is no way for someone to take your mailing list away from you. No algorithm changes will prevent you from communicating directly with these followers of yours.

In this sense you truly own your audience’s attention, whereas on social media, you’re only borrowing their attention (which can be lost at any time).

Email marketing can also drive sales far more effectively than social media can. It’s way easier to sell new art by letting your mailing list know about a new product drop than it is to announce it somewhere on Instagram and hope people rush to your link in bio to buy.

Fortunately, you can start your own mailing list & make your own newsletter on Beehiiv for free - and not for a limited amount of time, but free forever.

If you DO, however, want to take advantage of one of their payed tiers that offer more features, the button below will give you 20% off your first 3 months with Beehiiv after a complimentary 30-day free trial.

Whether you want to send your newsletter weekly, monthly, quarterly, or even just a couple times per year, adding this one feature to your business might be the lowest-effort, highest-return change you ever make!

Canvas Lamp’s Memorial Day Weekend Sale

Filming your creative process sucks.

Shakey tripods, bad lighting, camera mounts getting in the way - it’s just not fun and takes away from the time you spend creating.

Canvas solves all of those problems with their signature Canvas Lamp💡!

The Canvas Lamp has 6-axis positioning, a universal spring loaded phone clamp, and a fully dimmable ring light with 3 different color temperatures.

It’s designed to replace over $5,000 of professional gear at a significantly lower cost while still maintaining a high degree of quailty and funcitonality.

This Memorial Day Weekend you can get Canvas products for up to 25% off plus an additional 10% off if you use promo code “SKETCHY10” at checkout!

Magic Eraser Tools for Photo/Content Editing

via Adobe

Ever take a photo of your artwork after spending 30 minutes getting the lighting juuust right, only to notice there’s a smudge on the canvas you meant to erase?

Maybe there’s a bug that landed on it at the last second, or you didn’t notice the handle of a paintbrush was in the way.

Whatever the reason, sometimes you may just wish you could tap and make these things go away.

Fortunately, there are plenty of tools that can do this for you!

Adobe Lightroom just got a brand new feature called Generative Remove. This new tool allows you to remove unwanted elements from your photos and seamlessly fill in the spaces left behind. Read more about it here.

Canva also has a Magic Eraser tool in its photo editor.

Unfortunately, both of these tools are behind paywalls.

If you’d prefer a free option, try Snapseed’s “healing” tool for iOS or Android. This tool is more limited than a true “magic eraser” with AI-powered generative fill, but it’s still extrememly useful for getting rid of unwanted marks and for photo editing in general.

And don’t forget - all Google Pixel devices from the last few years have a built-in magic eraser that’s native to the photo editor.

If that’s still not enough for you, AI editing tools are coming to all Google Photos users on iOS and Android in the coming weeks. These tools include Magic Eraser, Photo Unblur, and Portrait light.

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