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Gemma O'Brien - The Writing Is On The Wall!

The absolute mobility of Gemma and her work is an impressive sight to behold. The makeshift hotel studio she has set up is cramped to say the least. It’s quite a journey of extremes Gemma and the artwork go through in being created on a tiny hotel desk, hunched over and cramped to then be painted on a 7 meter wide wall completely stretched out to the point of maybe even growing a few inches taller!


After the art supply search and destroy mission yesterday, (catch up here if you missed it) Gemma spent the night roughly mind mapping her piece. Lots of thumbnails and sketches with a quick Tapas break at around 11pm (yep its Spain!  Home of close to midnight dining..a well welcomed schedule for Gemma who usually prefers to work though the night).


The Volcom Store in Barcelona where the Mural is going up have given Gemma access to start from around 7pm. The store is actually open till 8:30 but should be ok to get a start happening while shoppers are around. So knowing the time is looming and limited Gemma gets up at 8am and basically gets going on the scaled artwork. Its quite a process and the artwork metamorphosis a few times through the day as new ideas pop up, limitations and timing are considered. This is where Gemma makes sure she isn’t biting off more than she can chew as the mural will be in part painted up a ladder live at the event.


Artwork is drawn in layered stages, scanned into photoshop arranged and un arranged, re printed, re drawn – you name it, it happened and re happened. This is the part that takes all of the time, the design needs to be perfect and Gemma likes to push the idea until she is completely happy it suits the space, the brief, the vibe of the event, challenges her and feels new. Sometimes a Design can look simple and Gemma makes everything she does look so easy when finished but its a laborious day in a squishy hotel room at a tiny desk drinking weird coffee. It must be noted, the lady worked hard as hell today.


Arriving at the store the wall looked large and daunting after working on the small scale version! The awesome Volcom store staff moved all of the clothes off the racks and Gemma got to work scaling the artwork with her projector. This bit is fiddly. The wall is an un even space with racking and shelves in the way that need to be manoeuvred. The artwork needs to; even if it isn’t – look centred on the wall. After some mucking around the projection is in place and Gemma goes about marking suggestions on the wall – not a complete trace but enough to make sure she has perimeters to follow when painting. A few parts need to be completely free-styled as there are poles and things in the way that block the projection. All in good fun she says.


The idea is to have Gemma paint part of the Mural live at the event so now is the time to start painting and kind of keep an eye on the time to see how much to leave for the night. The paint is mixed up, a working balance of jet acrylic, glossy flow medium and a touch of water. Consistency is important – you want it smooth and silky to paint but nice an opaque so as not to need to do more than one coat.


Silky smooth onyx is applied to the wall, this is the ultimate moment. You can literally see Gemma is in her element; brush gliding – face smiling. The writing is on the wall.




Check back for the next installment and the finished artwork tomorrow!

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