Mighty Oak Tree Mural Process

The Meeting

It all started at a large dining room table and large dining area, “I want a tree painted on my wall,” was almost the first thing spoken. Great, we already disagree, because trees don’t normally grow inside, and I like to be accurate. As the interview progressed, she confessed, that she loves the outdoors, and spends as much time as possible outside. So then I said, “Well then let’s tear the roof off. I’ll Paint some fake wooden beams, giving something for your lighting to hang from. Let’s add huge windows, leave the tree outside, and let it grow through these huge new openings, bringing the outdoors indoors.” She loved the idea, we finished up, and I got started. 

Research and Renderings

As I said earlier, I like to be accurate. And since my new client lives in Thousand Oaks, the tree must be an oak tree. Normally I find all of my reference material online, but had difficulty finding the right tree, with the right lighting and detail. So I took matters into my own hands, and went on a photo hunt. I drove all over Thousand Oaks looking for the perfect tree, and I finally found it. I measured the distance prior to shooting, so that the scale in perspective would lineup in the final mural. I shot many photos at many angles, and even shot a bunch of close-ups of leaves that I had taken with me.

For the rendering, I used a combination of different photos of the tree, photoshopped some parts out, printed it, and hand drew in others. I did it and redid it until I was happy, put the tree into a digital scale version of the room, and sent it off to my client. We made slight changes until she loved it. And once the final rendering was approved, we moved on to my favorite part, execution.


Because this mural was going to be very detailed and time-consuming, I decided to do the bulk of it on canvas, in studio, and then install it like wallpaper. I do this to avoid travel time, so that I’m not in my client’s way for too long, and so that I can work the crazy hours that I choose, this is their home after all.

I painted all of the scene that is beyond the windows on canvas. I also hand painted all of the leaves and most of the branches that come through the window on the canvas as well. There were no short cuts on this one. As always, I paint from background to foreground, so I started with the sky, the daylight and black light night version. That was all airbrushed and sprayed on with a spray gun.

We then hand painted all of the far away leaves and branches with a tiny brush, overlapping until we get to the more detailed branches. I wanted to show the texture on the closer branches, so after they were blocked in with a brush, we taped over everything else, leaving only the foreground branches exposed.

I do this first of all, to spray on the invisible lighting effects, but also so that I can use a glaze, then scrape and drag textures into the branches, and avoid ruining the background. When it comes to the bark, we blocked out every shape by hand, and added detail to all that would receive light.

The ones that would remain in shadow, also got an airbrushed shadow to lessen the detail. After completing all of the branches, we blocked in more foreground leaves, then detailed them out.

Once the last leaf was completed, it was time to cut this down, roll it up, and take it over to the client’s house.

On Location

Before we just slap this canvas up on the client’s walls, we needed to paint their walls, ceiling, doors, moldings, and everything in between. As before, I work from background to foreground, so I started with the sky. I used an airbrush and a spray gun for the clouds, and I hand painted all of the invisible blacklight stars and the moon. We used a wood grain tool for the beams and doors.

I faux painted the walls with a sponge roller for texture, and dripped some colors over that to give the walls and doors an aged look, since they get so much sun. I also couldn’t resist using a crackle technique to make some paint look like it was cracking, chipping, and falling away from the sun.

Now back to those canvases. After mapping out all of the faux windows, and where they are recessed, I placed the canvas onto the walls, traced the shape of the curves onto the canvas, brought it back down, and cut all of the excess canvas away, very carefully, with an Exacto knife. I hand painted a lot of smaller branches and stems onto the wall, complete with their drop shadows and the drop shadows of the leaves. I then applied the precut mural and leaves to the wall, like wallpaper, touched it up, and it was finally done.

All in all this mural was the longest and most detailed project to date. I used more techniques, styles, and processes than I’ve used in any other piece. I’m also pretty sure that this client has been the happiest client thus far. I’m proud of it, what do you think?

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