After three years of intermittent painting, junior Livia Anderson in August applied the last strokes on a vibrant mural dominating one wall of eighth-grade American Studies teacher Bill Tatomer’s classroom.
Livia—who received help from assistant artist and twin sister Leonie—started the mural the summer before eighth grade at the request of Mr. Tatomer. Now, her “client” couldn’t be happier with the final product: “I’m so fortunate to have this student-centric, curriculum-specific masterpiece in my classroom,” Mr. Tatomer said. “I’ll treasure it, and my students will get to appreciate it for years and years to come.”
Livia's mural features a famous World War II scene, plus imagery inspired by the westward expansion of the US.
In the following Q&A—lightly edited for length and context—Livia discusses how she made the mural, her productive struggle during the the three-year undertaking, how she persevered, and what she learned.
Why did you volunteer to paint this mural?
Most of the time I use small canvases, so completing an artwork of such magnitude was foreign to me. It was a great opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and experiment with new methods and mediums.
Is this your first mural-painting experience? What was that like? Will you do it again?
This was my first time painting a mural. It was exciting because I experimented with different tools, such as airbrushes, sponges, paint rollers, etc. If I’m ever given the opportunity to paint another mural, I’ll wholeheartedly accept. I’ll say, however, that I was unprepared when it came to time management, so that made it difficult to complete quickly.
It took me far longer than I expected, but I’m glad I completed it...If I’m ever given the opportunity to paint another mural, I’ll wholeheartedly accept. —Junior Livia Andersen, mural artist
How long did it take? Explain the process and timeline.
I began painting the mural in summer 2015, before I started eighth grade, and completed it this summer—so it took about three years. I finished most of the sketching and background painting during the first summer, but the details took me longer. I mostly worked on it when school was out for summer, which allowed for hours of uninterrupted work at a time.
How do you feel about the final product?
I’m quite proud of the mural, to say the least. It took me far longer than I expected, but I’m glad I completed it.
Explain the imagery you used. What inspired you?
I knew Mr. Tatomer wanted me to depict the American flag, but I challenged myself when it came to the other elements. I decided to pay tribute to Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, the famous 1945 photo by Joe Rosenthal. I also included elements of the westward expansion, such as bison and a steam engine, and “We the People” as a nod to the foundation of America.
You've taken several art electives with teacher Rob Mellor. How did your knowledge and skills influence this mural, if at all?
I used quite a bit of the skills I’ve learned. The two main principles I had to take into consideration were perspective and proportion, and I used my knowledge from art classes to do so.
What did you get out of the experience?
Throughout the creation of this mural, I learned so much and improved my artistic skills. I used new tools and mediums and depicted things I don’t work with often, such as the human form and geometric objects.