Interview with a Space Artist

JPCatholic senior Caitlin Nolan has spent most her evenings these past two and a half weeks creating a vast mural along the back wall of the first floor hallway in the 155 campus building. The design is deceptively simple; the seamless sky in all of its glory, spanning from midnight to midday.

Caiti explained that she was motivated to prove herself with this project. “I don’t like trying new things, and I think this is a really good way to push my art. Whether it’s going to be as successful as I think it will be, I don’t know. I’ll feel better when the entire wall is painted. I want to go down the hallway where the whole thing is just space.”

Caiti explained her vision for the mural, saying, “I wanted something neutral to be in the hallway that’s not complicated trees or anything that would just stand out, and well, space is gorgeous. The sun and clouds and stars are all wonderfully neutral and pleasing things that aren’t terribly time-consuming for detailed painting.” What Cati’s been most excited for has been painting the stars. Aside from the gorgeous aesthetic, this is where she was most fully in her element, working with the acrylic paints. “I’ve got all these colors; I have a white to pin every individual star up there and then a little bronze acrylic paint for some of the constellations. It’s… gorgeous.”

A digital artist by trade, Caiti’s accidental introduction to mural work began only a few months prior. “My manager got an offer from from her neighbor to have someone paint a mural… When she asked for traditional work, I just painted her owl in acrylic, and she hired me on spot. And I went and said, “I can do this in so many hours,” estimated the supplies I need and my hourly rate, and I went to her house one beautiful Saturday afternoon and painted it, and she loves it.”

Caiti is definitely open to doing larger projects like this in the future, casually suggesting she might consider a part in other ‘beautification’ projects around campus. She also speculated how her art might influence mural painting to be more “lusciously detailed and beautiful”. She pointed out the trend of many modern city murals that tend to be very simple or abstract, with stenciled paint or ombré mountains. “I appreciate the minimalist design. Hang it in a house and it’s perfect. But for me, I’d want to make a mural as nicely detailed as possible. Which I know will be hard. It’d definitely be hard. But it’ll be worth it.”

When asked about her future as an artist after graduation, Caiti seemed a bit hesitant. While the first thing that came to mind was ‘concept artist’, she wasn’t all that jazzed about working in the industry. “I want to do my own thing, you know? Whether I make money or not is beside the point. I’ll make money other ways. I don’t mind doing other jobs.”

This has been Caiti’s largest project to date, and while it’s definitely been daunting, it has made her more determined than ever. “Starting a traditional art project, often it’s like when people procrastinate on something they don’t want to do. But with something like this, I just can’t stop thinking about it. I just have to be working on it. It makes me feel better. I want to get the wall and get started as soon as possible so I feel like I can do it. Now I’m coming here every day so I can work on it, because I want it to be done. I want to see it coming together. Instead of seeing the two parts of the wall I’ve done and needing to put the other parts on, I see it and I see how incomplete is, and I want to complete it.”

As an artist, Caiti’s learned to ignore the small mistakes, and embrace the greater successes. “I always freak out when I first start something. I sit there painting and make a mistake, blending colors or something, and I’ll just freak out. I tell myself, ‘paint over it. Literally, just paint over it. One layer of paint and the problem is gone.’ And my brain is like, ‘or you can just panic about it.’ You just have to stop listening to the part that’s just telling you it’s bad, and push through it. And sure, there’s some days where you just can’t… but it’s really not as bad as you think it is. You don’t have to learn how to ombré it and paint it all in one day, you know? You have time. I’m working with the idea that I’m ‘setting aside the time to make mistakes’. I’ve already made my mistakes, but now I know not to make them again.”

“I decided to paint the wall because deep down inside I believe I can. So, I will paint the wall. I want my parents to come and see this really cool thing that I made in the hallways and everyone’s going to walk by and see it forever.”