Every mural is as unique as the concept and intention behind it. Style is a byproduct of these things as well. What is the message? What is the purpose of the artwork? The answers to these questions will dictate the style that the piece should be painted in. A mural done for a children's nursery should have a completely different style and feel than a mural done for a trendy restaurant.
These are some examples of some general styles that have developed in my artwork throughout the years. These are just suggestions, and every new project is an opportunity to expand in new directions. What is the intention behind your project? What is the concept that's driving the project? Ask yourself these questions first, and then you'll begin to feel what style is right for you.
Realism is a very straightforward style. Most of the time it’s a recreation of an image, made larger for a wall. The intention is generally accuracy. The point is to make whatever or whomever the painting is of, to look as much like them or it as possible. This is a great way to go when it’s an honoring or someone or something, or if it’s a historical representation.
Cartoon Realism is a term I’ve come to call this style involving a cartoon playfulness with a realistic natural vibe. The landscape looks relatively realistic, perhaps simplified a bit. The characters, people or animals are all realistically setup in terms of anatomy and proportion but there’s a cartoon element to them. The animals might be smiling, or have a playfulness to them. The people might be simplistic so that they aren’t a specific person but more of a generic “everyone.” This approach is great for kids murals, schools, or anywhere with light and fun energy.
Surrealism opens the doors of possibility completely. Surrealism is an artistic practice of putting multiple elements together that wouldn’t normally go together. This can happen through distortions in space, time, or rules of reality. These distortions lead to a dreamlike feeling. The normal rules of waking life don’t apply here, so anything is possible. This is a great approach when the intention of the mural is more conceptual or philosophical or is trying to convey a feeling rather than anything concrete.
Icons are classic. When you want to represent a feeling or a style of energy, an icon is a great way to do it. So many people have lived amazing lives and have stood for things with them. By representing an iconic person the artwork can say so much with just an image. Icons are loaded imagery and they speak volumes just by being themselves. With icons you want the painting to look exactly like them and look great. Icons are perfect when the intention is to create a statement piece.
Abstraction is a complete diversion from any semblance of reality. Abstraction is about feeling, it’s about process, it’s about shape, color, light, shadow, and all sorts of other things. It’s really about whatever you want it to be about. It’s about freedom. One really interesting thing about abstraction is that people all see different things within it. One person might see different things every time they look at it. Abstract murals are great when the audience is avant garde, atypical or artistically advanced.
Design murals are concrete. These types of murals are heavily graphic in style, they have hard and clean edges to everything, they feel computer generated. They are great for logos, conveying direct messages, or very cerebral concepts. Design murals can express very detailed imagery, math or science related concepts, or imagery with lots of text. Actual images can be done in a graphic design style as well. These murals are perfect for museums, schools, businesses and offices.
Drawing style murals have a sketched out feeling to them. They originate from a pencil or chalk drawing and then are recreated on a large scale. These have a beautiful feel to them because the hand drawn style is so tangible and elemental and then to see it on a wall gives a really nice human touch to a painting. This style of painting is perfect for a venue that is more intimate in nature like a yoga studio, a school, a doctor’s office, etc.
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