Monthly Archives: April 2011

Getting Your Friends To Do Your Work

While I was recounting the saga of making the nursery at the farm bird proof, one of my blog friends pointed out that the nursery “needs a paint job.”  I couldn’t have agreed more, but there were two impediments to correcting that deficiency.

First, I would probably be intimately involved in any painting project and second, it seemed really boring to just paint it a plain old solid color.

So my wife and I came up with another idea.  Because our whole project is about restoring the old grazing pastures to native forest and creating a habitat for native birds, we decided to decorate the nursery with a nature mural featuring native New Zealand birds and vegetation.  Plus, not to sound obsessive, but it seemed to me that painting giant birds on the side of the building might further discourage real birds from taking up residence.

There was only one significant flaw in the plan.  Painting the nursery a single color would be a big enough challenge.  Doing something artistic was pretty much out of my comfort (and skill) zones.

After a surprisingly long search, which I won’t bore you with, we found a mural artist by the name of Doug Ford.  He is a truly gifted artist and fascinating person and he has made a name for himself by decorating telephone exchange boxes, electrical panels and several unused walls throughout the Auckland area as a result of commissions from city councils and a number of arts groups.

We really liked his work and asked him to come up to the farm to have a look at what we were doing and see if a nursery mural would be doable.

Doug, my wife and I immediately clicked and he was very enthusiastic about our project and the mural idea and he laid out a design that we liked.  While discussing the execution phase of the job, he made an interesting suggestion.  One important aspect of our project is community involvement.  We’ve gotten schools and businesses (and friends) involved in planting and maintenance work and Doug suggested that it might be fun to make the mural painting a community project.

That seemed to defeat the purpose of having a professional artist but he assured us it would work.  He would draw the design on the building and then supervise the volunteers as they did the actual painting.  And before signing his name to the final product, he would go over it to make sure it was up to his standard.  Here he is doing the drawing:

It was then our turn to convince friends and associates to come out and unleash their inner artist.  We were pleasantly surprised (amazed) when over 120 people came over a recent weekend.  The groups were a little imbalanced—40 on Saturday and 83 on Sunday.  The result was mildly hectic, but fantastically fun and extremely productive.

The actual painting process was fairly informal.  We had a lot of food and almost everyone who came also brought a picnic lunch.  Training consisted of picking up a paintbrush and asking Doug what color to put where.

The mural took shape amazingly quickly.  Some people tackled the sky, others the trees and bush and some adopted a bird or two.  Doug passed around a dog eared and paint encrusted Guide to New Zealand Birds so the that volunteers could see the actual colors of the birds they were working on.   Speaking of colors, the paint for the project was generously donated by Resene, a major manufacturer of paints in Australia and New Zealand.

And for once, I didn’t get stuck with ladder duty:

We had a group of about 20 children on the second day and they worked on the forest floor, filling in flaxes and undergrowth and making a path of different shaped (and colored) rocks.

In addition to doing a fantastic job on the painting, everyone had a fun time:

Once the volunteers had finished their work, Doug went over it with his artist’s eye and filled in any areas that were missed or where perspective or color needed to be enhanced.

The next job is doing some low level landscaping (and watching out for real birds!)