Our big art project: 3-story
Eames chair in Cambridge!

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A painted silhouette of an Eames Molded Plywood Lounge Chair on the side of our Studio in Cambridge, Mass.

We went really, really big this week at our Studio in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Crews were busy painting two giant outdoor murals depicting two different perspectives of an Eames® Molded Plywood Lounge Chair in silhouette. The images are three-stories tall and are configured, logically enough, to show a side view of the chair from the side of the building and a back view of the chair from the back of the building.

As photos of the work were coming into the office the other day, we were raving about the work of Colossal Media of Brooklyn and wondering: How do they do that? As it turns out, the basics of Colossal’s technique go back to at least the Renaissance.

“The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was painted using this same methodology,” says Will Carlisle of Colossal, which claims to be the largest “hand paint” mural and outdoor advertising company in the world and is credited with reviving the almost extinct art of hand-painted signs on the sides of buildings.

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A worker from Colossal Media “pouncing” the outline of the Eames chair on the wall to prepare for painting.

Colossal has done projects all over the United States and as far away as South Africa. The subject matter includes just about any imaginable commercial product, from beer to blue jeans (and now modern chairs!), representing a wide range of companies. Museums and other cultural institutions are also regular customers. Many of the murals are photo-realistic.

Whatever the project, Colossal starts by projecting an image onto large sections of butcher paper and tracing an outline of significant details with an electric “pounce” pen, which burns tiny holes in the paper along the traced lines. Later, the butcher paper is aligned on the wall and rubbed, or “pounced,” with chalk dust, which penetrates the holes and transfers an outline of the image to the wall’s surface, providing guidelines for painters.

Michelangelo and his contemporaries would have been very familiar with the technique of pouncing and no doubt would be delighted to see it still in use.

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Once the outline for an image has been transferred to the surface, painting can begin.

Looking at the spectacular result of some of the murals, you might think Colossal employs latter-day Michelangelos. But Carlisle says the muralists come from diverse backgrounds, not necessarily art related.

“Some have traditional fine arts educations,” he says. “And some have spent most of their working lives doing manual labor: painting houses, general construction. We even have a few with military backgrounds.”

In choosing the Eames Molded Plywood Lounge Chair, or LCW, we focused on a widely recognizable icon of modern design conceived by the husband and wife team of Charles and Ray Eames, icons in their own right. In 1999, Time magazine named the LCW the best design of the 20th century.

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The finished silhouette from the back of the Cambridge Studio is a view from the back of an Eames chair.
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A painter from Colossal Media fills in the tracing on an intricately detailed mural in New York City.
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A mural for the Metropolitan Museum of Art just being completed in 2013 along the Highline in NYC.