Monday, February 27, 2017

The Making of Bike Shop Mural



Every good LBS deserves a mural. Here's the story behind the mural at Joyride Bikes in Logan, Utah.
Some twenty-two years ago when I first fell in love with mountain biking, I used to ride out my backdoor with a couple buddies up into the mountains of the small Northern Utah town where we grew up. We’d ride up canyons, across hills, and down dusty dirt-bike trails until we arrived back home. Who knew that two decades later all three of us would still be riding bikes, albeit in three different states, and that one of those friends would own his own bike shop?

Joyride Bikes mural.

I head back to Utah a few times a year, and i always try to stop by Joyride and catch up with Wayne. Since I first started riding I've loved bike shops. The smell, the sound, the eye candy, all of it. I paid for college by wrenching in an LBS and still try to visit the shops whenever I travel. I stopped by Joyride last winter. Wayne was getting ready to move the shop to a new location on Main Street with a fifty-foot brick wall flanking the exterior of the shop. As we talked, Wayne said, “How would you like to paint a mural on that wall?” I’m not a professional artist, although I had planned to be for many years. It was my lifelong dream. then after my first year as an art major I somehow decided to earn two English degrees and become a high school religion teacher instead. The urge to create still tugs at me though, and I try to get my creative hands dirty from time to time whether it’s drawing a portrait for a birthday gift or making stop-motion videos of bikes putting themselves together. 

I’ve never done a mural before, but Wayne must’ve guessed I had the vision, patience, and tenacity to pull it off. Of course when he first asked me it sounded like a pipe dream, but I loved the possibility of combining my love of art, bikes and bike shops. “Sure, that would be awesome,” I responded casually. But over the next few months we kept in touch, sharing our vision and ideas. 

Initial Sketches and brainstorming:
Joyride Bikes mural.

Joyride Bikes mural.

Joyride Bikes mural.

Joyride Bikes mural.
I kept polishing the drawing and started sending colored drafts to Wayne. The overall image continued to evolve.

Joyride Bikes mural.
Once we settled on the overall concept, we dialed in the overall look and layout.

Joyride Bikes mural.
More refining and various color ideas. The last image went to the City Council for permit approval.

You don’t just paint any old thing on a job like this. A mural on a bike shop falls somewhere between public art and advertisement, so there are some constraints. Obviously, we wanted it to be bike themed. We wanted it have the “cool” factor but also be a tasteful addition to the city as a whole; eye catching but not too far out of place. Fun and creative, but not too weird. Above all, it's got to be good. Nothing worse than a bad mural! Of course we also had to get the whole thing approved by the City Council. 

During the design process, I kept thinking, “What would make everyone who drives past this wall say, ‘Check out that mural!’ What would make people stop and take pictures to post on Instagram? What would become an iconic part of the town's image?” I was ultimately driven by a few main concepts: Simplicity, bold colors, geometric shapes combined with the organic look of hand drawn lines, and the feel of the local mountains. 

I spent a lot of time looking at pictures of murals and mountain biking for inspiration. I did a few sketches and ran them past Wayne. Once I got an idea of what he liked, I started refining. The refining of the drawing and the colors continued for months all the way up to the day we started actually putting the image on the wall. My wife, who actually is an artist, gave constant feedback about the design, layout, and color. Her fingerprints are all over this thing. 

Joyride Bikes mural.
This final line drawing we projected onto the wall in three pieces. I used a handful of photographs to finalize the rider.

Joyride Bikes mural.
Final digital draft with final colors. 

Waiting for approval and permits kept us from painting in the summer, but we had one more chance during my fall break. We had five days to do the mural before I had to get back to work in Arizona. On the first night, we projected the line drawing onto the wall in three separate parts and traced it with Sharpie markers. A small rain storm threatened to soak our computer and our outlines, but Wayne saved the day with an easy-up. Luckily, the Sharpie stayed on the wall. 

Joyride Bikes mural.
Tracing the drawing with Sharpie markers in the dark.

We got the paint the next day. We used the highest quality outdoor paint we could find. The specialty paint store employees were a bit confused but enthusiastic about our project, although they really struggled to match the colors we wanted. After a couple failed attempts (we had to return some puke green and baby-poop yellow) we ended up with twelve colors that we were happy with.  

Joyride Bikes mural.

We spent four complete days painting, an estimated 100 man hours. I didn’t ask for it, but everyone in my family stepped up to help paint. It was a good thing, because we never would’ve finished in time otherwise. The brick turned out to be really rough and it sucked up a lot of paint and took a long time to get a clean coat. The black lines turned out to be especially challenging, and by the end of the second twelve hour day, I couldn’t see anything but a brush and paint when I closed my eyes at night.

Joyride Bikes mural.

It was cold. My arms were tired of holding a brush and my feet were tired of standing on a ladder all day. But every few hours I’d step back to look at the progress and get so stoked as I saw it coming together. It’s one thing when you draw something on a piece of paper, and it’s another thing to transfer that image onto a 50 foot wall, so I was so happy to see that it was translating well. We had a lot of people stop and watch as they passed by. Drivers honked. Everybody had good things to say. We were stoked. 

Joyride Bikes mural.

We did so much work so quickly that looking back, it’s almost hard to believe we actually did it. Now that I'm back in Arizona, I haven't seen the mural since the day we left town, although I've had multiple dreams about it getting destroyed by rainstorms or vandals. As far as I know, it's alive and well. 

Joyride Bikes mural.

For me, this was an incredible opportunity to be creative, contribute to the bike community, and leave a mark on my hometown. Every good town needs a good bike shop, and I think every good bike shop needs a mural. The bike community so often gets caught up in technical product details while there's so much room to embrace the creative side of biking. Art and creativity help us express and remember why we fell in love with the sport in the first place. When you're passing through Logan, Utah, you won’t find any better service or dedication to the community than from Joyride Bikes. Say hello to Wayne and get a picture next to the mural! We hope it reminds everyone of the fun and freedom that can only be found on two wheels.

Joyride Bikes mural.

Joyride Bikes mural.

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