How $150,000 Hyperrealistic Murals Come To Life

How $150,000 Hyperrealistic Murals Come To Life

This isn’t a photograph. And neither is this one. These are hand-painted billboards on the walls of New York City. Nicole Greco-Lucchina: It looks
like you can drink the beer off the wall, eat the
sandwich off the wall. Narrator: Brooklyn-based Colossal Media creates these
photo-realistic murals as ads for major brands like
Google, Nike, and Coca-Cola. And they can cost up to $150,000. We got a look inside
Colossal’s colorful workshop to see how painters bring these once bygone masterpieces to life. Large-scale billboards first
popped up in the 1830s. The tough painters that
hung from buildings through all kinds of weather were affectionately nicknamed wall dogs. Their heyday came in the
1920s, when hand-painted ads for everything from
Coca-Cola to cold medicines dotted the walls of New York City. By the mid-1900s, the
industry started drying up. First, electric signs
took over in popularity. Then, the Highway
Beautification Act of 1965 heavily regulated hand-painted billboards. Despite the artistry
of the wall dogs’ work, their walls weren’t considered art; they were advertisements. And as such, the walls were subject to these new regulations. Around the same time, faster
vinyl-printed billboards began replacing time-consuming
hand-painted ones. Wall dogs and their walls were obsolete. But a handful of niche artists
quietly kept the craft alive. Until 2004, when best friends
and street-sign artists Paul Lindahl and Adrian
Moeller started Colossal Media. With a team of 31 artists,
Colossal ushered in a mainstream comeback
for hand-painted murals. And big brands took notice. It all starts here, at
this Brooklyn workshop, which is basically a work of art itself. First, Colossal’s in-house creative studio works with a brand to
come up with the artwork. Graphic designers will
drop that finalized artwork into Photoshop and break
it down into layers based on color, form, and value changes. Greco-Lucchina: When we’re
done breaking that down, we drop it into a template, which scales it to the size of the wall. It’s gridded into 4-by-8-foot boxes for however big the wall is. Narrator: A laminated
version of the gridded image becomes the road map
for the whole project. First, the road map heads downstairs. The color mixers blend a
rainbow of paint shades to try and match the
colors on the road map. Sometimes they get a match pretty quickly. Other times, it takes a lot of patience and a lot of paint. Nicole estimates the artists go through about 50,000 gallons of paint a year. Greco-Lucchina: This is the mixing room. It has a green-roof ceiling, and that is so they’re mixing as true to daylight as possible. Narrator: But even if they
have the perfect paint, how do these artists transfer an image from a computer to a wall? The secret lies here, in the dark room. Artists unfurl a massive roll of paper and project a wall-sized
version of the road map on it. In a process known as burning, artists transfer the
projection onto the paper using an electro-pounce machine. Greco-Lucchina: You’re
essentially tracing, and as you’re tracing, it’s burning a bunch of
tiny holes into the paper, which we call the patterns. Narrator: They’re left with
a giant outline of the image in tiny burned-in holes. This is the key to producing those photo-realistic murals. Greco-Lucchina: When the
guys get out to the wall, they unroll that paper in sequence, and in a process called pouncing, which essentially is like
charcoal powder in a rag, they hit it in those places
that we burned on the pattern, and the charcoal transfers through those tiny holes on the wall, and that’s how the image gets transferred to scale on the wall with the
details that we broke down. Narrator: The artists will
draw over that powered tracing with a marker or pencil. They now have a detailed outline
of the image on the wall. Greco-Lucchina: From there,
between the road map, what they have pounced on the
wall, they’re ready to go. Narrator: Where they start
painting is up to the artists. Usually, newer artists take larger areas, while expert painters take on
details, like hands and eyes. Painting usually takes four to five days, but bigger walls sometimes
mean up to 12-hour days on 10-day assignments. And the painters work
through any kind of weather: rain, heat waves, and even polar vortexes. It’s a tough spirit that finds its roots with wall dogs of the ’20s. Ian Potter: To be a true wall dog, you need to be able to do all of that. So, the rigging, the
construction side of it, the painting side, the breakdown, all of that physical
labor, plus you gotta be a pretty d— good artist to
paint all of that, as well. Narrator: With how much
planning and detail goes into each wall, it’s no surprise these ads can cost a lot. Colossal’s walls tend to range from $35,000 to $150,000, depending on the size. Even with a steep price tag
and lengthy turnarounds, big brands don’t seem to mind waiting. Today, Colossal paints
over 500 murals a year in Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, LA, and, of course, New York City, Rina Kim: It’s definitely
becoming more of an experience rather than you just
passing by a flat billboard. Our painters who are working on-site are catching the eyes of any passersby, people who drive by, and then they share it on social media and create a new level of
interaction within advertising. Narrator: But ever since
the heavy regulation of wall dogs and their
walls first came down, one question has circled the industry: Are these advertisements art? Potter: The fact that it’s advertisements, I mean, yes, we’re trying to replicate what somebody else gave us, but we’re doing it in our own way. I, quite frankly, think
you have to be a tradesman and a craftsman to do this correctly, but you also have to
be an artist to do it. Narrator: And a highly
skilled one at that, considering just how realistic they look.

77 thoughts on “How $150,000 Hyperrealistic Murals Come To Life

  1. For a minute a thought they were actual artist. It's more like next level tracing ,Color bo ok " to me " so if you take offense to bad to sad.

  2. some 60-80yr back these were nt even considered art they were the norm atleast in India whenever they potray old era there is a hand painted wall mural somewhere

  3. Meanwhile In Indian walls
    गुप्त रोगो के लिये। Dr.खान
    बचपन की गल्तिया,तेदापंन,पत्लपन,ढीलापाँ
    यहा मतना मना हे
    And paan piks

  4. I was always impressed by paintings on walls or advertising painted on walls, its one of my favorite things to look at with i was younger.

  5. During the black and white portion at the beginning of the video, they're painting the auditorium at Lane Tech high school in Chicago, Il.

  6. i do hyper realistic art on giant planks of wood (my profile picture is one of them) and its really not easy….i can't even imagine doing it in bad weather conditions… id love to do stuff like this one day but idk if i could handle heat lmao

  7. Wow they paint fast! My dad is a muralist and he’d never finish that fast. 😜 But his stuff is much more detailed. There’s also a guy who’s painting a mural in my city and he said it would take 4 months. Do they have more than one painter on each mural?

  8. No matter how you put it, no matter how big you do it, it's advertising. For americans it's just the bigger the better.

  9. This reminds me of the movie posters in Manila City, which are usually painted in the same manner, but the only difference is that those painters aren't paid as much as $150,000.00 for each painting.

  10. This is a very tough and wonderful job.
    Then there's some artworks that being sold for millions that literally a kid can actually do.

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