It started back in April 2018 when Chef Adam Greenberg contacted me via Instagram. He was in the process of designing a new restaurant and he wanted a local artist to paint a mural inside. His wife (a social media manager) showed him my work on Instagram and he reached out to see if I was interested in the project.
Of course I leaped at the chance. I went to look at the space, a huge blank box at the time. The wall the mural was to go on was 46’x16′ (shown above) — much bigger than any mural project I had tackled.
Adam and I chatted about the vibe of his new restaurant — a Hawaiian-inspired spot for small plates and cocktails. Our personalities clicked immediately and I was on board with the project and sketched up some Hawaiian-inspired concepts for him.
Above are three of the concepts I presented to Adam. I presented more versions of each of these three with different colorways meaning, some had more colors, less colors, colors in different places, etc.
We landed on the perfect concept pretty quickly (the top one) and then it was a waiting game for the right time to paint the mural during the construction of the restaurant.
The right time ended up being in early November 2018, but there were a few other things we needed to do before I started painting.
I don’t think people realize how involved the process of picking colors can be, and I am very particular about getting the colors just right.
I also wanted to see how all of the colors worked together, and I wanted Adam’s approval on all of the colors.
The agency that did the branding for Coconut Club picked out the paint colors to match their Pantone colors, so that is where I started.
I went to the paint store and got samples of the brand colors and all the different shades that were in the sketch. Multiple samples for each color — this is key. A tiny sample in the paint store is not going to look how you think it will on a wall in a different space. You always need to try multiple colors and see all the colors together in the space.
I brought the samples to the location, painted swatches on the wall which made it very clear which colors we wanted to use.
The background of the mural was the brand pink and I had the contractor’s paint crew paint the entire wall pink so I could just come in and paint the mural on top of it.
It took a few hours to trace the mural design out on the wall. Thankfully my husband came and helped with that as it’s much easier when there are two people to get the projector in the right spot, especially for a mural this size.
Then I got started painting! It took me about 3 weeks to finish the mural. With DC traffic and other obligations I would usually paint for 5-6 hours a day. Some days longer, some days shorter.
Construction sites can be interesting places to work. One day there might be electricians installing lights, the next there might be people cutting metal very loudly (and interestingly that really smells).
The experience was totally fine, but I definitely preferred the quiet, non-smelly days where I could just pop my AirPods in and listen to a book or podcast, which was most of the time. I actually painted a lot on the weekends when no one was there. I can’t remember exactly but I think I got through 3-5 books while painting this guy.
I love when I get a mural to a place where I can just zone out and paint. Some murals are really complicated and I prefer to just work in silence so I can concentrate on certain parts. Other times I’ll listen to music or books.
This project required a scissor lift, which I must say, was a godsend. It made zipping around the wall so much easier and no doubt saved me a lot of time had I used regular scaffolding which I’m NOT a fan of.
I used brushes to paint almost the entire mural. The larger sections of color just weren’t that big so getting out a roller and pan for it would take just as long and would create more waste, so I ended up painting 99% of it with a brush.
People ask me if my arms hurt after painting, and surprisingly, not really. It’s more my hands from gripping the brush and the paint pail. My arms hurt more in my workout class than they do after days of painting.
All of the detail work takes so much longer than you think it will. The edging, the touchups, and some colors require several layers of paint to make them fully opaque.
The Finished Mural
I took these photos on my phone and I have more of the final mural to share at another time, but once I was finished I was very proud. I couldn’t wait to see the mural once the rest of the restaurant was put together.
Now that the restaurant is open I went on a weekend evening and the mural really feels magical. You walk into Coconut Club and feel transported to a happy place.
Photos by Luke Wright and Meg Biram