Computer Programming Mural

Boring wall before the mural
While we were working on the chalk perspective murals in the courtyard at school, the computer programming teacher approached us with a very intriguing task. She asked if we would be interested in painting a mural in her classroom. A whole mural. On one large wall. Very large. She is a part of Apex High School's AOIT program, Academy of Information Technology, and has been considering for six years getting a mural painted in her classroom that would make computer programming more appealing to girls. She explained how girls do so well once they are in the class, however, do not feel welcomed in such a technical and intimidating environment. Her attempt to change this included tasks such as making her room more inspiring for girls with flowers, lamps, curtains, and finally a mural. So who better to approach for such a task than three female art students? Rachel, Jessica, and myself went to view the wall and it was huge. It was a little daunting considering we were nearing the end of the school year. Despite this, we were beyond excited to get started right away and make our mark on the school.

We started brainstorming ideas for the mural. A survey was conducted in the classrooms to gain a better understanding of what girls felt inspired by. We received many requests for bright colors, and lots of "under the sea." So we thought, why not? We originally thought that we would do more of a landscape type painting, but then we decided that something bright and abstract would be much more eye-catching. Finally, we came up with a color scheme and a sketch and presented it to the teacher! After a super fun paint shopping trip, we got started, just a couple days after all the decisions!

Jessica in our art room office :)

I have already learned so much from this whole experience. I am beyond grateful for the opportunity that this incredibly dedicated and inspiring teacher has given me. It is so cool for me to see that, despite all of the issues in North Carolina education today with teacher cuts and so forth, there are still teachers out there who are dedicated to their students' education and well being. During this time working with Mrs. Smith, I have gained so much insight beyond simply painting about the importance of inspiring others.

Below I will highlight some of the ways that I have grown as an artist throughout this experience.

Sketch, medium, and color scheme:

When we settled our final idea, we set out right away to create a sketch to present to some students. They responded really well to the idea and even gave us some great feedback.

Final sketch and color scheme
For the mural, we used latex house paint. We considered using acrylics but after thinking about it, we decided that house paint would be the best for such a large surface. We went to the paint store and bought many, many sample size cans of the basic colors that we decided we wanted in our color scheme. Instead of wasting money on all of the many colors that we wanted, we bought a large can of white and lots of cobalt blue in order to be able to brighten and darken the values. The color scheme that we used is very bright but relaxing colors, such as toned down yellows and oranges, bright turquoises, deep cobalts, bright magentas, and lime greens. We originally considered a deep purple background to provide for maximum contrast, however when we talked with some of the girls in the computer programming class, they said that they wanted more calming colors to be more relaxed in such a fast paced environment. We settled on a gradient turquoise background that would still provide for contrast when we placed the brighter colors on.

Background Scene


This project was a huge success. Overall, our color scheme worked very well, the composition flowed together, and we have worked so great as a team. We experienced some bumps along the way, however, we were able to work through them together to create something that we are really proud of.

Red paint can be dangerous :)

I believe that this project has really broadened my artistic skills. Working on a much larger scale aided me in crafting my technique better with paint including skills such as shading, effective composition, and color. I am eager to use the skills that I gained using on this surface in future projects.

This experience has also broadened my ability to work with others and collaborate my ideas. Working with Rachel and Jessica, we had to collaborate a lot. We have three very different aesthetics and things that we are best at. It has been really neat working with the both of them as we have learned the importance of compromising and working together in order to accomplish the task at hand.

Overall, we all learned a lot from this experience that ultimately aided us in creating something that we are all really proud of.

Rachel hard at work tracing our sketch

Do Over?:

If I had to do over anything about this project, to be honest it would probably be to try and have started it a little earlier. We were really crunched for time due to a little thing called summer break, and it made us rush and do a little less detail than we would have liked to. Considering the time allotted, I believe that we were able to create something very inspiring that we can truly say was a collaborative effort.

If we had had more time, I would have liked to incorporate more detail into some of the leaves as well as add deeper values and stronger highlights. Because we had the goal of creating depth, we knew right from the start that value was going to be key. Each leaf and fish needed lots of dark shades of the color behind it so that the illusion of depth was created. Also, highlights were going to be necessary to show the influence of the sun at the top of the mural. However, because the wall that we had to work with was so large, from far away, the details were not really going to matter. Overall I am extremely, extremely happy with the final outcome and have learned a lot from the time spent on this project!

Our collaboration board

I learned a lot about working with others through this project. The idea of fitting our own aesthetics with someone else's needs was a bit intimidating at first. However, I learned a lot about channeling all of the creativity in my mind into something that pleases others, yet was still true to myself. I also learned a lot about the importance of using others' encouragement, comments, and feedback to my benefit. We really wanted this to be something that other students and faculty could get involved with and not be left to wonder, "I sure hope they are doing something good with that wall." In order to make this collaborative, we created a poster with sticky notes available so that people passing by could make comments to us about what they liked, disliked, and questioned about. It was a really neat opportunity to be able to work with others' advice and make something that was inspiring to everyone!

In the process

Overall, I really learned a lot from this entire experience. I have always been such a creatively oriented individual so therefore sitting in boring classrooms all my life never settled well with me. Since I have gotten so involved with art, however, I have discovered ways of expressing myself that I never would have imagined. To be able to share that creativity with others on a wall that I know many students will be inspired by in the future is truly an indescribable feeling. I am so incredibly grateful that I was given this opportunity that few high school students have the resources to experience. The skills, the resources, and the connections that I developed throughout this time are truly priceless and I am thankful for every moment. 

Photo Gallery:

Under da sea
Gotta sign your name ;)
Can you find the fish?

It's a good day in art when you make a nice mess like these


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