We visited muralist Greg Pennisten at the site of his most recent project, “Plat 28,” to learn about the process of creating large scale paintings. Greg talked about the value of public art, passing down technique, and how we can all find that inspiration to get started.
Like many artists, Greg’s creative practice started in one medium and expanded over time. Today, Greg isn’t just a painter. He’s an illustrator, signmaker and, he jokes — “just an overall ideas-person.”
At Scribl, we know that the hardest part is often willing yourself to start. We wanted to know how he approaches the process physically and mentally. How does someone paint something so big!?
We spent a week visiting Greg, watching as he covered the building with postcardlike borders of airplanes, seafood, and sailboats. Over the course of that week, it became clear that the magic of murals isn’t magic at all. The process is not glamorous; it’s monotonous. Learning this didn’t ruin the experience; it enhanced it. Making something beautiful and permanent takes time and effort. But that effort is rewarding.
“Murals for me started in Providence and New Bedford. There were two murals by an artist named Wyland; they were like these building facades of whales. I liked them, but I never really thought they were something I could do. As I got older, I found myself involved in graffiti, which is like a scaled up illustration. Learning that it was possible to paint something that was 20 feet long or 30 feet long put me in the mindset that it’s possible to do really large work.”
Local artist Johan Bjurman taught Greg and his peers the ins and outs of large scale painting. He passed down techniques and tips that come with years of working in the field. Bjurman was one of the first large-scale muralists in Providence, Rhode Island. Today, Providence’s public art scene is more than just an exercise in what’s possible. It’s about making art that’s accessible— art that asks questions and forces gentle conversation.
“Working outside in any manner blows the doors off the idea of making it exclusive in any way. It comes from when I was younger and I’d ride around, and the things I’d see on the drive would fascinate me.”
Explore the full collection of talks from our annual Storytellers event over the past 7 years. Be moved. Be inspired. Be transformed.Read More