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Mural painting, as distinguished from other forms of decorative artwork is a painting applied directly to a wall. It is a concept that been used by humanity from the most ancient times up until the present day.
The earliest known history of this type of decoration was the cave drawings and paintings of the neo-lithic period. In this way early man used mural art to bring nature or fantastic-nature into his living space. In later times the Byzantines, Egyptians and almost all ancient civilizations used murals to describe not only the nature around them but also their interpretation of nature through sacred myths and stories.
A characteristic of this later, more sophisticated mural art was the use of decorative features such as frames, borders and geometrical patterns, which might accompany the theme of the painting and help it sit comfortably in the architecture that it decorated.
In modern times we still see murals being painted, but now often as political propaganda or commercial advertising. The availability of wallpaper and other commercial decorative features has made painting an expensive option but fortunately there still exists a market for purely decorative murals. In popular culture spray can graffiti has created its own heritage of mural art.
The late Greek and Roman period discovered the decorative the use of trompe l’oeil – that is making a flat wall surface seem as if it is 3D architecture, simply by painting it on with light and shade. Impossible architectural fantasies became possible in the hands of an artist. In Pompeii and Herculaneum there are many surviving murals using fantastic trompe l’oeil. The technique really came into it’s own in the Renaissance period. Ceilings became decorated as skies full of clouds and cherubs, walls had balustrades and pillars giving onto fantastic landscapes with battles raging and mythological creatures roaming. In the hands of the great Italian masters churches and palaces were decorated with masterpieces in this style at which we still marvel today.
The techniques of the earliest painters were not necessarily best for the survival of their works. The cave painters most probably drew directly onto the rock with blocks of pigment or charcoal, using no medium to adhere the paint to the surface. Where examples survive, such as Lascaux in France, the limestone ground has become calcinated with natural dampness over time and has spontaneously adhered the pigment to the wall.
It is known that the Ancient Egyptians had Gum Arabic (resin from the Acacia tree – which we still use as the binder for watercolours). They also used egg tempera (pigment bound with the white of an egg). Most importantly where murals are concerned, they understood how to paint ‘fresco’. That is, painting raw pigment into fresh lime plaster before it dries. Most surviving murals of antiquity and the renaissance have used this technique. The great advantage of this technique is that the pigment colour combines with the natural calcination of the plaster as it dries, so it never fades. Subsequently, the technique of fresco was passed down from Greek to Roman and Roman to the Renaissance, so it has left us with a rich legacy of ancient art with which to understand the psychology and wisdom of our ancestors.
One of the most common challenges for artists is determining what to charge for a wall mural project. Developing a structure and system will make it so much easier for you.
But how do you develop a price structure for wall murals? Simple – follow the lead of many of the top muralists. Create a price sheet that lists a per-square-foot fee as well as all of the possible additional charges.
How to create your price sheet:
1 – Determine a price per square foot that you will charge for most every mural (most artists charge between $30 – $50 per square foot. You can charge on the higher end if you have experience and are in high demand. Go for the lower end if you are new at mural painting.)
2- Include additional charges to be added to your price per square foot, such as:
- Add a design fee for designing and sketching the artwork (we charge $500 and it’s non-refundable)
- Add a per/hour charge if extraneous work is required to prepare a problem surface (we charge $95/hour)
- Add $3 – $5 per square foot if the design the client is requesting is of great complexity or difficulty.
3 – The price sheet should include a list of what your charges include (travel in the local area, assistant fees, all materials and scaffolding.)
4 – The price sheet should include a list of what your charges DO NOT include (travel outside the local area, insurance fees, sketches beyond the first 3 sets of changes.)
5 – There should be a minimum charge for small murals. We charge a minimum of $5,600.00, even if the mural is very small. This is because the time involved in painting a small mural is not much less than a larger one.
Once you have your pricing figured out, keep in mind that you can change it anytime. If you find that you are charging too little, increase your per square foot fee. If you find that your pricing is too high to sustain business, than drop the fees a little.
When you have a price sheet on hand, it’s so much easier to have a professional conversation with a prospective client. If they ask “What do you charge for a wall mural?” You can confidently say, “The fee is $35.00 per square foot (or whatever your charge is) and I can send you a price sheet with additional details if you’d like.“
For a sample Mural Price Sheet, go to How to Price A Wall Mural. You can copy and paste the price sheet in that post and plug in your own numbers.
Keep in mind, your client will be happy that you have a written price sheet. This tells them that you are professional, and that will give them greater confidence in your work.
One final thought on price quotes for wall murals: Be sure to get a 50% deposit up front before buying the materials needed. This requirement should be printed on your price sheet as well.