A muralist is an artist who uses a solid structure, such as a wall or ceiling, as a canvas to create large-scale paintings or pictures. Murals are frequently placed on public buildings or structures, making them public art. Some cities have a long history of commissioning muralists to paint public murals.
Murals, which derive their name from the French word for “wall,” are a type of art in which scale is important. Murals are often many times larger than life, and can artistically depict entire scenes in vivid detail, unlike detailed miniature paintings or even life-size art. To create a giant work of art with any sense of coherence, a muralist needs a good sense of scale and a strong vision.
Despite the fact that murals are almost always large, they are created in a variety of styles. Murals have a long history, spanning everything from the highly decorated walls and ceilings of the Sistine chapel to Diego Rivera’s vibrant paintings of multitudes. Modern muralists frequently use digitally created images that are applied to the wall, floor, or ceiling in the same way that wallpaper is applied to a wall, floor, or ceiling. Although the associated illegality and relationship to gang tagging can undercut a graffiti artist’s status as a muralist, some art critics consider the covert work of graffiti artists to be murals of a sort.
Interior designers hire muralists to create custom murals for the inside walls of homes. Murals are popular in children’s rooms, dining rooms, and rooms without windows or natural light to create trompe-l’oeil vistas of the outdoors. A muralist can often design a unique image and import it into a computer, which can multiply the dimensions according to the size of the walls or desired surface, using computer software. After that, the finished product can be printed on wallpaper and applied to the canvas. A muralist can create a database of murals saving the designs on a computer, which clients can order as needed.
Muralists are frequently hired government officials to create art in vacant public spaces, bringing life to a drab city. A muralist may have complete artistic freedom to create whatever they want, or they may be constrained the hiring party’s desires. Many public murals depict a feature of the city or town, while others may convey a social message, such as the importance of recycling. Cities with a long history of public murals may be able to provide tours and maps of all mural locations in the area.
Some contemporary artists have a long history of creating murals, which has made them famous or recognizable. Robert Wyland, a painter, sculptor, and muralist, is best known for his “whaling walls,” large-scale depictions of whales and other sea life. Wyland had completed 100 whaling walls in more than ten countries 2008, with the largest measuring 1224 feet (373 meters) in diameter and adorning a circular arena in Long Beach, California. The Bogside Artists, a group of muralists from Northern Ireland, have gained a lot of attention for their politically charged murals depicting the country’s violence and civil rights struggles.