When you sit in your backyard or spend the hours in your front yard, what do your eyes reach for? Is it flower beds or unwanted weeds, neatly trimmed lawns or large concrete slabs?
p Until recently, many of us took our outdoor spaces for granted and dedicated TLC to our indoor spaces, while allowing the ever-present Irish clouds to cast their shadows over our gardens. Our intentions may be good, but the space that surrounds our homes tends to become an afterthought.
As with most things, this has certainly changed over the course of the pandemic. With the only option to escape to our own gardens, many looked for a way to bring their personality to the surface of their space. In direct contrast to the dreariness and misery that seemed to pervade the world around us, homeowners across Ireland found solace in pops of color and commissioned artists to lend their creative talent to a bare back wall or the side of a garden shed.
“Due to Covid there was a huge number of people who wanted to redesign their gardens because it was the space they lived in most,” says Dublin muralist DECOY. “It was the only place people could go, so there was this weird influx among us. In the last three years I have made many garden paintings.”
Known at a glance for its vivid color stories and signature abstract style, DECOY strives to bring a spirit of wonder to unsuspecting places while offering a respite from the chaos of everyday life. “Part of what my murals embody is a sense of upbeat fun – it’s just all wild,” he says.
Speaking of the appeal of domesticated street art for homeowners, DECOY says, “There’s something in it that you just can’t get with regular plant life, it adds to the tone and mood of a garden. Even in the winter months it can really brighten up a gray garden with no flowers into something that is super bright and fun.”
In contrast to his collaborative work within the street art community, DECOY appeals to the intimacy of spending an afternoon in the seclusion of someone’s backyard. “It’s a nice experience because you can be alone and get to know your patron’s life while getting a little peek into their world,” he says.
That same sense of intimacy in someone else’s space resonates with Sophia Vigne Welsh, a visual artist whose multi-layered abstract murals adorn the walls of streets, beer gardens and back walls in Dublin and Wicklow.
“Working on a garden painting gives you a glimpse into their personal lives and the atmosphere they’re trying to create,” says Sophia. “Some customers want a super busy wall that their kids will enjoy looking at and interacting with. Others want a calmer palate so that it creates a more relaxed environment – this varies greatly from place to place.”
Sophia is regularly commissioned to add her own personal flair to the facade of family homes and relishes this departure from working alone in the studio. “There’s one social aspect that I really enjoy,” she says. “I’ve had some really nice experiences with assignments. On one job, the homeowner’s mother was in the hospital at the time and she had told me the wall was for her.”
The process of domesticating street art varies by artist and the needs of the homeowner, but for Sophia she has enjoyed an unrestricted career. Their brief to create something spectacular in any given space can begin with the creation of a sketch or two that the client can choose between – working within the confines of a color scheme if required – or design completely freely on the day.
“Usually it’s the ones that I haven’t developed a design concept for that I end up being happiest with. I was given a lot of free rein for me. I’m usually approached by people who are familiar with my style, so they let me lead the design.”
There is no greater feeling for an artist than having the complete freedom to do what they do best and simply create. When it comes to turning a bare wall into a work of art, Dublin-based muralist and painter James Kirwan is a freestyle fanatic.
“In general, I tend to improvise based on a color scheme because that’s how I work best. For larger rooms I would start with a design and use that as a bone, but for a smaller wall there is no pre-design.”
A graduate of NCAD Fine Art, James first delved into the world of street art around eight years ago and has made a name for himself over the years.
“I’ve always been a studio painter and only occasionally flirted with painting walls and murals,” says James. “I started the back garden murals a few years ago; just a few here and there, but things really took off during the first lockdown. Everyone was stuck at home and people were looking at their backyards and sheds and all sorts of things, so I just went along with it. It kept me sane and kept me busy for months.”
For James, the main difference between his lonely studio work and painting walls is tempo. “In my studio, work on canvases can take weeks or even months. There were a couple of occasions when I pulled out a canvas that was years old and changed it up a bit. This process can take so long in the cozy spaces of my studio, but when I’m working outdoors it has to be quicker. There’s a real freedom to work on a larger surface, you can cover a lot and get a lot done with spray paints and rollers versus being up close and fiddling on a canvas. Impact on the audience, it’s instant.”
Síne Kelly and her partner Connie Leahy recently commissioned James to paint a mural in their back garden in Dublin. “Ever since we bought and renovated the house we always dreamed of painting a mural on this ugly gray ivy covered wall, especially as we love street art. James’ style was exactly what we wanted on the wall but we left it up to him how it would look aside from a special request for a fox for our daughters who like to hear from whoever visits the garden sometimes.”
Síne says the finished piece is everything they could have hoped for and more. “I was really overwhelmed. It sounds like a total cliché, but it immediately put a smile on my face. It totally changed the garden. We are now in the garden at every opportunity. I find myself staring at it sometimes, it’s a total mood lifter.”
A truly unique way to display the heart of your home while also supporting the art, the growing trend of garden murals emerging across the country is only increasing. Color lifts your heart, and these wall murals ensure that even on the grayest of days, you can look out your window and see this carefully crafted work of art right outside your door.
https://www.independent.ie/life/home-garden/outdoor-wall-murals-meet-the-artists-turning-peoples-gardens-into-their-canvas-41898655.html Outdoor Wall Murals: Meet the artists who turn people’s gardens into their canvas