As creatives, we are often moved by an inner pull to create art. I honestly can’t count the times when I’ve had an impulsive desire to paint or draw, yet when I sat down in front of the blank canvas or paper, not a single idea would flow from my head or hands. During times like those, I actively seek a source of creative inspiration. A spark that will ignite the flame. We all have our own ways of “priming the pump,” of the creative well. The important thing is that we find something that will quickly get us into that artistic zone.
Beg, Borrow or Steal
Sometimes you just aren’t feeling it. You have the urge to make something awesome but the ideas aren’t flowing. During those times, I have a few “go to” actions I use that almost always help me start producing art. My favorite one is visiting a local art museum or gallery. More often than not, just being around other artists’ work starts my creative juices flowing and it isn’t long before I’m ready to head home and start working on masterpieces of my own. It doesn’t even matter if the art I view is similar to my own style. Simply being in the presence of art will often be all I need for inspiration.
If I’m not able to leave my house for a gallery, there are so many alternatives, thanks to the Internet. I follow several other artists on my Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest accounts, so just logging on to those social media apps is like visiting several galleries in just a few minutes. My favorite thing about the Internet option is having the opportunity to see a wide variety of art styles by artists at different levels of talent and accomplishment. Not everything is highly polished or commercial and that in itself can be very motivating for me.
Personally, I don’t endorse copying other artwork. However, sometimes I can create an entire new piece of art based solely on another artist’s color palette. I may even see one line drawn or painted by another artist that opens up a new world of ideas in my own creative mind. Artists have been using other artist’s work for inspiration since the beginning of time and it’s a great way to get started.
Another method I use to get inspired is to do something completely random. I’ll use tools I’ve never used before. I’ll use an unfamiliar medium or one I’m usually not very good with. I’ll play around with a style that is very different from my own. It may be best to try these in a sketch book or art journal but it also can be fun just to force yourself to work on a canvas or expensive paper. Shut off the inner critic that says you aren’t going to make anything good and actually make something good! Once you finish, you may have to put it away for awhile and look at it later with fresh eyes to see its value but you’ll almost always surprise yourself with what you allowed to flow through you.
Getting creativity to flow is not always easy but finding the methods that get yours flowing is the important thing and what works for you can possibly help other artist as well. What are your own favorite sources that get your creativity flowing?
Have you wondered why we require the base coats for our mural painting to be flat? Also, why we paint our murals using a flat sheen? The reason for both is ultimately the same.
When you pay to have a mural painted, the last thing you want is for viewers to not be able to see the mural. Yet that is often what happens if a mural is painted with a glossy paint sheen or covered with a shiny top coat. Light reflects off of glossy surfaces and murals with a satin or gloss sheen will often reflect so much light, the mural’s viewers will see more reflected light than they see mural. In fact, depending upon the source of the light, some walls could end up looking more like a mirror than a mural. A mural painted in a flat sheen guarantees that your mural will have excellent viewing no matter what angle it is viewed from or how much light is hitting it.
There is another reason, however, we require a flat sheen for base coats. Most of our murals are applied largely with airbrush and a flat base coat allows a much smoother application of airbrush paint than a base coat with a glossy sheen. Paints with a sheen were designed partly for cleaning purposes. Dirt and oils don’t stick as easily to a higher gloss paint but, then, neither does paint from an airbrush. A lesser glossy paint allows maximum adhesion of our airbrush paint and that is the ideal product for murals.
Many clients are concerned that a flat paint won’t clean up as well in children’s areas and that is certainly a point worth considering. It is easier to wipe down a satin or gloss paint than it is a flat paint. The good news is, flat paint today is much easier to clean up than it used to be. Often you’ll see labels such as “Washable Flat” or sometimes “Flat Enamel” that let you know the paint will be perfect to use around areas that see lots of little hands.
For those who feel they just have to use a glossy paint in their kids area, we recommend a top coat after the mural is painted. Ideally, a flat top coat will provide satisfactory protection but an eggshell or satin finish could be used if desired. Realize that the higher the sheen, the more you will be introducing more light reflection on the mural, but if you are willing to sacrifice that, a top coat may be applied.
We always endorse keeping your murals flat. You’ll see more vivid colors, more of your overall mural and everyone will have a much better mural viewing experience.
We’ve created many puppet stages but the puppet stage we recently built and installed for Villa Rica First Baptist is our largest yet! One of the great things about this stage is it was created for an Old Mine theme which was installed exactly five years previously.
The stage was created in three parts and also built to accommodate human actors as well as puppets. The left side structures featured a Sheriff’s Office and Jail. The Jail is a puppet and human area while the Sheriff’s office features a doorway with working swinging cafe doors for the entrance and exits of actors.
The right side structure has four separate openings for both puppets and actors. The General Store features sliding wood shutters to keep windows covered or open. A rain barrel serves as an actor seat and, well, who knows how much wealth is contained in the bank vault? This structure can easily accommodate several puppets and actors at once for extended scenes.
The third piece of the puppet stage can accommodate even more puppets that the previous two pieces combined! It features a long area of cartoon planking where many puppets at once can congregate. the structures on the side can house four more puppets with two of the openings having doors that can open and close as needed. The challenge of this puppet stage is it needed to fit under the projection screen, yet not block the screen when it needed to be used. With the help of two folding panels, this can be easily accomplished, making this a very functional and useful area for the church’s puppet ministry.
We love building customized puppet stages whether they are large or small, and it’s always fun to make them fit inside the previous themed environments. This stage enhanced the church’s existing theme while giving new personality, and form to it, making a puppet stage area this children’s ministry can use for many years.
Church themes incorporating themed environments and wall murals continue to be popular for kid’s church rooms. They’re great ways to hold a child’s attention, perfect tools for teaching stories and concepts and they almost always guarantee a child will come back to the church for multiple, long term attendance. It’s no wonder children’s ministries continue to use theming companies like Imagination Atmospheres to transform their kids’ church rooms.
Over the years, we’ve seen certain church themes rise and fall in popularity. Some themes hang around for awhile and some fade away fast. If you’re searching for a theme for your kids’ church, here is our list of what we believe will be the most popular themes for kids’ church rooms in 2019.
#1: Main Street
The Main Street theme continues to be the most popular themed environment for the church rooms and hallways we’ve designed and for very good reasons. From a practical standpoint, It’s a very flexible theme that is also highly customizable to each venue it is designed for. This theme allows each church building to undergo a complete redesign, while still retaining its own distinct personality, just like Main Streets in the real world. The Main Street theme is solidly married to an iconic Americana ideal, which also adds to its popularity. It reminds us all of places where we grew up, whether small town or large city and so we connect with this environment, no matter what our age. It reminds us of our history but still grounds us in our present. At the Disney theme parks, the Main Street area is the central location where people gather to connect. It’s where the parades happen, just like those in our own Main Street experience.
As a church theme, the Main Street theme gives children the opportunity to visit an exciting location while still being at home. Like Sesame Street or Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, kids can imagine all of the shops and shop owners and shop visitors and get the feeling that, in spite of our differences, we are all one community.
#2: Bible Village/Stories
I consider the Bible Village theme to be another type of Main Street theme (see our article “A Different Kind of Main Street Theme”) but it’s one that can be utilized more as a teaching environment for children’s ministries that decide to use it. While it is possible to make the Bible Village theme exactly like a Main Street theme, with biblical storefronts replacing contemporary ones, it’s also popular to use this theme simply as a way to showcase well-known stories from the Bible. The themed environment, which may incorporate an entire kids church hallway, would be a gradual unfolding of story after story from the Bible. The beginning of the theme may show stories from Genesis, leading to other Old Testament stories and then ending with stories of Jesus’ life, including the crucifixion and resurrection. This type of environment can allow the children’s ministry’s curriculum to come alive right before the eyes of the kids.
We’ve created themes and murals for kids from both approaches of this theme. Whether you envision an atmosphere with cartoon Jerusalem storefronts that tell Bible stories in a more indirect way or one that tells specific stories through props and murals, a themed environment of Bible Stories or a Bible Village may be the perfect theme for your kids’ church.
One of the best ways to get a child to relate to his or her environment is to incorporate animals into it and there are fewer themes that do it better than the Jungle themed environment. What kid wouldn’t want to go to church around swinging monkeys, tall giraffes and hungry hippos? It’s like going to school at the zoo! Over the years, the Jungle theme has held up as one of the most popular church themes we create and it shows no sign of slowing down. Not only do you get to experience the wonderful animals, but the surrounding elements of the jungle canopy are also exciting to see come alive. 3-D trees, stone ruins, plants, rope bridges, bamboo huts, and caves full of adventure are also elements that keep kids coming back to visit this exciting themed environment. It’s why movies like The Jungle Book or themed restaurants like the Rainforest Cafe continue to be popular attractions for kids.
If you want to provide an environment for your kids which also inspires adventure, you can’t do much better than a Jungle theme. For churches, the focus on the wonders of the Creator is obvious but incorporating a sense of discovery, adventure and even treasure hunting can add a spiritual dimension that will make your Jungle theme unique and alive.
If you like the outdoorsy feel of the Jungle theme but feel tigers and lions may be a bit too intimidating for your kids, a Woodland Theme may be perfect for you. Like the Jungle Theme, the Woodland Theme is focused heavily on animals, but of course these are animals of the forest: deer, raccoons, beavers, skunks and maybe even a bear or two. There are plenty of opportunities for greenery as well with 3-D trees and plants, flowers, tree stumps and mossy stones. The Woodland theme brings with it its own multitude of structures as well whether it be beaver dams, bear caves or the human-built log cabin, (which, by the way, makes a great stage setting for a worship area). It’s the perfect way to give kids the experience of nature while still being in a safe, indoor environment.
Children’s ministries can use the Woodland theme to teach children about the wonders of nature and creation. There is no better way to learn than to find yourself sitting in the middle of your lesson!
A theme new on our list for 2019 is the Beach Theme. Beach themes, of course, are hardly new but we’re seeing a rise in the popularity of this theme as a kids’ environment in churches. It makes perfect sense. Who doesn’t like to go to the beach and why wouldn’t anyone want to go hang out on the beach every week? While a lucky few get to live and visit a real beach on a regular basis, most of us can’t so you can create the excitement of a beach vacation by building a Beach Theme right in your own kids’ church! One of the best things about a Beach Theme is you can have specific areas that focus above water and underwater, significantly enhancing your kids’ experience with nature and aquatic wildlife. 3-D elements for a beach theme could include palm trees, tiki huts, coral reefs ships (either intact or as underwater wreckage) and buried treasure chests.
A Beach theme is a perfect theme for kids’ areas that need a more calm environment with less distractions. While it can be subdued and pastoral, it can also be full of activity and personality. It may be surprising to you how much customization can go into a Beach theme to make it a very unique themed environment.
While we see these themes as being the top five themes for churches in 2019, who can predict what other unique themed environments will start a popular surge for 2020? Themes such as Space, Medieval, Technology, Industrial and Sports continue to be popular options. Whatever theme you choose for your kids’ church rooms, always look for ways it can be customized for your own space and young audience. Even standard, popular themes can look fresh and unique with the help of a good themed environment company’s design team. Whatever your chosen theme, keep creativity as your main focus in your church environment and your kids will keep returning time and time again.
I asked our Theming Specialist and Master Carpenter, Brent Hooper to pose next to his most recent build. These structures will be a part of an Old Mine themed environment and will be used as stage sets. The set pieces have been created to accommodate puppets as well as live actors. These structures will now go to painting where they will become the mining town’s Sheriff’s Office and Jail, Bank and General Store.
Great work, Mr. Hooper!
As a muralist who specializes in painting religious murals, I have a confession to make. I’m not a big fan of painting Jesus murals. I know, I know, you wonder how someone can paint church murals for a living and not want to paint Jesus. Let me explain…
When I was a kid, my mom would read stories to me from a book called “The Children’s Book of Bible Stories.” It was a collection of Bible stories condensed into kid-sized chunks and accompanied by some pretty cool illustrations. I loved those illustrations so much, I used to spend a lot of time tracing, drawing and coloring them. Some of the illustrations were bold and inspiring but some were plain terrifying (Absalom’s head caught in a tree and John the Baptist’s head on a plate are two that come to mind). Even though it’s been years since I’ve looked at that book, it’s that group of illustrations that pop into my own mind when I remember a Bible story. Those were some of the very first images I saw of any Bible character so it seems those are the ones that have lived with me to this day.
Whenever I am asked to paint a mural of Jesus on a church hallway or classroom wall, I think about that book. Do I want the Jesus mural I paint to be the image of Jesus that lives in a person’s head for their entire life? Even if I’m just illustrating one Bible story in mural form, is this the image of Jesus a person will think of way into their grown-up years? That’s a lot of pressure, isn’t it??
Personally, I’ve always felt the most powerful image of Jesus is the personal one created in the mind of the individual. I believe it’s more important for a child to decide what Jesus would look like to them, rather than me creating the image for them. Maybe that’s a ridiculous point of view for an artist to have, but I think it’s important to consider it. We all have a picture in our head of what Jesus looks like to us and it may have come from a childhood book, an image from a dream or a movie that impacted our lives. My favorite Jesus image is the one created by Robert Powell in the television movie Jesus of Nazareth. His portrayal as Jesus always worked for me and I even painted it as a public mural once.
Obviously, as a children’s church mural painter, it becomes necessary at some point to paint a mural of Jesus. I still don’t take that task lightly, though. I know whatever I paint and how I paint it, will have an everlasting emotional impact on a child’s life, all the way into their adult years. For that reason, I try to carefully plan all of our kids’ murals so they have the ultimate and proper impact on the mural’s tiny viewers.
Painting Children’s Wall Murals the Imagination Atmospheres Way!
Most kid’s spaces can be improved with the addition of murals but painting large-scale murals can be a little intimidating. In this post, we’ll share some of the secrets to our children’s wall murals and give you some tips that will insure your own murals have the “pop” you’re looking for to provide the most excitement in your kid’s space! Just remember: These are secrets. Please don’t tell anyone else. Shhhh…
Beginning Your Mural
Plan, plan and… oh yeah, plan!
Looking at a large, empty wall can be intimidating but you can stare down fear with the confidence you’ll gain from having a detailed sketch of your kids mural idea (see above drawing). Drawing your sketch on a smaller piece of paper first will ensure you will cover all areas of your large wall and it will guarantee you have a nicely balanced and colorful design. If you are skilled in computer painting programs, you also have the additional benefit of being able to come up with several color options before you actually put paint to wall.
After your design is finalized, you can transfer it to your wall. Describing the methods of transferring your drawing would take more space than we have here (details can be found at other locations on the internet) but two of our favorite methods are by projection or by using a grid. [Photo 1] After transferring your sketch, you’ll want to begin painting. One of the most popular questions we are asked is, “What kind of paint should we use on our murals?” and there isn’t an easy answer. On large-scale murals we use latex paint and we frequently experiment and try out several brands. For the most part, my own personal preference is BEHR® brand latex paint. I like BEHR®’s paint consistency and I’ve found that it can be reduced to spray through my airbrush better than many other latex paint brands I’ve used.
The next concern you’ll have regarding paint is which finish to use. Many children’s rooms are painted with a satin finish which makes it easy to clean up the smudgy fingerprints. Unfortunately, a satin finish is not the best choice for a mural since it reflects too much light and makes it difficult to see your mural in it’s true awesomeness. Why spend all your time and energy painting a mural that’s going to be lost in a glare? We prefer to paint murals using a flat finish but a flat finish is sometimes a “fussy” finish and doesn’t always brush-on easily. In addition, its clean-up properties are limited. Therefore, we suggest the best choice for a paint finish on your kid’s mural is eggshell. An eggshell finish has very low light reflection and has acceptable clean-up characteristics.
When the lines of your mural are drawn in, painting it is almost like coloring in a coloring book. Stick to your color choices and paint in the large areas, rolling the open areas and using a brush for more detailed areas [Photos 2 & 3]. Don’t try to put too much paint on at once. Be patient and expect to apply two or three coats. Make sure your paint is streak free with no drips. A quick word of advice about color: think like a kid. We see too many murals painted with adult colors that are “toned down” which makes a very boring mural. Your murals will “pop” with bright kid’s colors. Don’t be afraid to be bold. Look at picture books of children’s cartoon movies and notice the vivid colors. This is your goal.
Making Your Mural “Pop!”
Send in the Wows!
When your mural lines are all filled in, you should have a wall full of color on your very nice design [Photo 4]. You could call it finished at this point but then your wall mural would look flat and incomplete. This is where the artists at Imagination Atmospheres kick in and boost the mural to a totally different level thanks to the magic of the airbrush. The airbrush adds shadows and highlights to your mural in a way that makes it look like it jumps off the wall in full 3-D glory! [Photo 5] We’ve been airbrushing murals for many years so don’t be discouraged if you can’t do it well. It’s a skill that takes some time to master. You have other options available to help finish your mural. First of all, even if you can’t airbrush, chances are you know someone who can, or know someone who knows someone who can. If you can recruit an airbrush artist to help you finish your mural you’re doing well. Another option is to make the decision to learn to airbrush on your own. Low cost airbrush kits are available at many shopping centers, auto supply stores and tool shops. Airbrushing is a fun hobby to learn so why not jump in and try it out? Finally, most airbrush blending effects can be simulated with a paintbrush by an experienced artist. It may take a little more time, but the effects are still amazing and can still deliver your desired “Pop.”
You will find that the best airbrush jobs are the ones that don’t overdo it. It’s easy to “muddy up” your mural by relying too much on airbrush. Let the pure, “flat” colors in your mural do most of the talking and let the airbrushing support that color. While some artists will airbrush the entire mural, I find that gives the mural a streaky or splotchy look without enough flat, solid color to support it. Occasionally you may have a call for a mural with a very airbrushed look, otherwise give your mural the support of a very strong undercoat of brushed-on latex paint.
Latex paint does not flow through an airbrush easily so you may choose to use acrylic paint for your airbrushing. Choose shadow and highlight colors that support your main colors and the different paints will work well together. As a general rule, avoid airbrushing with black paint. Black paint will quickly harshen your mural’s look. Shadow with darker tones of your main color and save the black for small, specific areas you want to make stand out from the rest of the mural. [Photo 6]
Finishing Your Mural
Wait’ll They Get A Load of This!
At this point your mural work is in the home stretch. It’s time to make the details in your mural start standing out. This is where I will add details to flowers and other accents. You will notice in this mural I have decided to add some forest animals at this point [Photo 7]. The animals were created exactly as I did the rest of the mural, with brushed-on latex paint and then finished up with airbrushing [Photo 8]. These final details are the things that make your mural interesting and will make your kids excited about being in the room. Plan your details carefully and realize that they will be the main focus of all your work. Make it fun!
When your mural is all finished you’ll feel like you’re in a different room! You’ll be amazed at how a little bit of paint can completely change the flow and energy of a room. Suddenly your plain, ordinary room is getting gasps and raves from kids and they don’t want to leave! Good murals open up the environment to even more theming so feel free to add more items to your room that coordinate with your walls. Chairs, couches, beds or other furniture pieces can be painted in the same style and subject as your mural. Now you’ve themed an entire room!
Painting children’s wall murals can be fun and exciting. It’s artistically rewarding and the reactions from the kids are priceless. We hope you’ve learned something new from the Imagination Atmospheres way of painting murals and hope you’ll share your own techniques with others as well. Feel free to drop us a line and tell us about your project.