The Little USC Mural That Could

Months ago I tackled the most daunting, difficult mural in my career as an artist. My friends asked me to transform their workout room into the USC football stadium. This is the stadium that was used in the LA Olympic games in 1984. No small task. The room had windows, doors, molding, and immovable workout equipment to deal with. That’s right. I had to paint around a treadmill and a full weight set. And keep these items paint free. This project took me much longer than I expected and was more taxing than I could have imagined. Looking back on it, I still can’t believe it is completed. Most importantly, my clients were happy with the outcome. I talked about this project for months on twitter and Facebook and my friends there were beyond helpful and encouraging. I promised photos upon completion, but life gets in the way. (I still haven’t written thank you notes from M2’s birthday in January -don’t judge me!) After way too long, here are the photos of the (phew!) completed USC mural (drum-roll please):

A view of the Olympic flame and the jets flying overhead.

The door with the blinds on the right was the entry into the room. The other door, that is barely visible where the arches are painted, is entry into the bathroom. The actual stadium has seven arches. I modified this for the mural and used five arches on each side to represent the five members in my friends’ family.

The opposite wall: the goalpost surrounds the window, there are flags around the upper deck, and a blimp in the distance. The dots are fans in the stands.

In this photo you can see the custom carpet that inspired my friends to have the walls painted. This carpet was already installed at the time of my painting. The pressure to keep my paint off this carpet was intense!!! I used doubled-up drop cloths whenever I even thought about putting paint anywhere.

A close-up of the blimp. The numbers are my friends' wedding date.

My friend took fantastic photos when he went to a USC game with his son. They allowed him on the field and he took 360 degrees of pictures to give me a full scope of the stadium. His photos helped me piece together the parts of the mural they wanted featured, including the Goodyear blimp. This blimp took four hours to complete. (I’m slow and meticulous.) It is my favorite part of the mural. All the colors were hand mixed.

The press box.

The press box was difficult to fit in the scale of the mural. It couldn’t be too tall in the space, or too wide. I also had to leave enough space at the top to allow for the flags. I ended up re-drawing this section three times to get the proportions right before I started painting.

Detail under the goal post.

My friends have three boys just like us. They wanted the boys represented in the mural. I warned them that painting bodies and faces is not my strength, especially faces. I painted the bodies of the Trojan and the referee and she promised she would decoupage faces on the bodies. My girlfriend is a doer, not a flaker, and I’m sure she has put the faces on her boys by now. I just haven’t been over to take a photo. (Who do you think is the flake in the friendship, hm?)

Their third son on the Trojan horse.

I already admitted to not feeling comfortable about painting people. I’m even more uncomfortable painting horses. Their proportions are difficult, I never really learned how to do it, and their bodies are intricate. My friends wanted their third son to be sitting on a horse. Panic attack!!! They provided a photo to help me out and had faith I could do it. I won’t even tell you how long this this took! Again, my friend is putting on the face, I know my limits and this mural already stretched me way beyond what I thought I could do. I said yes to the horse, but no to the face.

In this photo you can also see a close-up detail of the stands. I drew lines the represent the seats and individually drew in each spectator. I did one section first and it looked terrible. The section took me about ten hours to complete and it killed me to paint it all out and start over, but I just couldn’t make it work. After several attempts, I found a solution. The spectators and the seating got smaller as the stands got up higher to aide in the perspective of the room. This gave me fits and was ridiculously time consuming, but this gave the depth-perception I was seeking. Oh, my. The stands took  FOREVER!!!

The view when you walk in the room. Ta-da!

I was so relieved when this job was completed and my friends were happy with the outcome. They were unbelievably patient. This took me about four times longer than I had originally thought. Yep, four times as long. Hours were spent just looking at the walls and envisioning what was going where. It was like fitting together a giant jigsaw puzzle to get all the pieces to fit together. And I only charged them for the original time-frame, but I learned priceless lessons from this massive project:

Never underestimate what you can do.

My family and friends have more faith in my abilities than I have in myself.

Large tasks can be tackled if you break them down into small parts.

Never, never, never, never give up.

Several times I was close to paying my friends back their deposit, paying them money for me to paint the walls white again, and walking away from the entire thing. The LOML and my friends and family kept encouraging me. People I have never met on twitter and who had no idea of my work  offered small doses of faith during the process. I tweeted some photos to a fellow artist and she told me I was on the right track. All these efforts accumulated into just the right amount of cheer-leading to see me to the finish.

In the end, these little words helped me finish. I’ve said them before and I’ll say them again, “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. I think I can….”

Comments (6)

  1. Julia

    WOW that is amazing! I just love the planes. What talent you have.

  2. Jmac

    OH MY GOD!!! That is amazing! You are so talented! I’d love to see more of your work. I’m happy to be able to just paint a wall in my living room all one color!! So cool to see what people’s lives are like now that we’re “grown ups”. It’s a long way from high school!

  3. Eileen

    Thanks, ladies so much. When I look back on the photos, I still can’t believe I did it. Glad to be on the completed end of the project!

  4. Tracey Hope-Ross

    WOW!! Eileen Calandro – that is one of the coolest murals I’ve ever seen. You are one talented lady! Amazing!!

  5. Kyle

    While not a USC fan, I am a fan of this artwork! It is absolutely stunning. Such a magnificent job. The attention to detail is great and it looks like you would feel right in the middle of the field when standing in the room. I too would love to see more of your work.

  6. Eileen

    Thanks for your kind words, everyone, and your generous compliments! I am so proud of this project. I worked hard on it and was reluctant to share the photos for fear it wouldn’t truly portray the effort I put into it. Your positive feedback is beyond what I had hoped for! I really appreciate your feedback.


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