For the past month, YOHO artist Emily Stedman has been standing outdoors on scaffolding and a 20 foot ladder. On three large metal storefront gates, she has been scraping, priming, drawing, painting and varnishing at 4-8 Warburton Avenue in Yonkers, NY. The intention: create a public art mural from a small watercolor painting. Not to be deflected from her mission, Stedman studied how to apply oil primer to rusty metal, what kinds of paint to use outdoors, how to get the image onto the large area and how to preserve the art from the outdoor elements.
Ordinary latex paint is unstable and fades, so Stedman decided to research outdoor paints and happened upon Golden Flow Acrylic paints. These paints have extraordinary color and with proper varnishing will last for many years in an outdoor environment. However, through further research, she learned that certain colors do not work well outdoors—they can change color under bright sunlight. A basic palette of ultraviolet shielding blue, yellow and red paints was used to create the colors in the mural.
A “grid” method was employed to transfer the small watercolor painting onto the large metal grates. In a nutshell, the grid method involved drawing a grid over Stedman’s reference watercolor image, and then drawing a grid of equal ratio onto the metal gate panels. Then she drew the image on to the metal grates, focusing on one square at a time, until the entire image was transferred. Once finished, Stedman simply painted over the grid lines and started working on the mural painting, which was now in proportion! Yay.
The theme of the mural is new beginnings, the circle of life, and finding a home. Blooming again, spring pear trees blossom just as they always do. Two robins look at each other, as if to realize “yes, we can build a nest here.” A future, a home—even in the midst of this abandoned and forgotten site.
The mural came about from Yonkers’ Open Call for Urban Art. This was a call to artists to submit their work for exhibition in storefronts and outdoor murals in Yonkers’ Downtown Waterfront District. In collaboration with Mayor Mike Spano, the City’s Department of Planning & Development, Community Engagement Through the Arts, Blue Door Gallery, and the Yonkers Downtown Waterfront Business Improvement District, Yonkers’ Open Call for Urban Art connects residents and visitors with original artwork, showcasing creativity and continuing the revitalization of Yonkers’ growing Downtown Waterfront.
Emily Stedman is represented at M55 Gallery in New York City and has a working studio in the YOHO artists’ building on Nepperhan Ave in Yonkers. She has shown her work in group and solo shows which have included The Brooklyn Museum; The Rotunda Gallery, Brooklyn, New York; and The Seattle Erotic Art Festival, Seattle, Washington. Her work is in many private and public collections including corporate collections such as Schering Plough Pharmaceuticals.
The mural “We Can Build A Nest Here” is located at 4-8 Warburton Avenue, Yonkers, NY.