“When you walk into Clark Stanley’s creative space, the first thing you notice is an intricately-designed giant mural. It’s nothing short of impressive - hand-drawn Victorian-style lettering and a rattlesnake that spans from one end of the wall to the other - as it becomes an immediate topic of discussion when guests come in.
The talent behind it? Clark Stanley’s Art Director Julia Prajza. An OCAD alumna, Julia has always been open to exploring new art forms. As an Art Director, she takes these newfound skills and applies them at work - be it internal or external. Now we dive into Julia’s creative world and look at what it takes to design a 16’ by 7’ mural.” - Denisse Corloncito, Communications Coordinator at Rolling Pictures
What gave you the idea to create the mural?
It all started in the summer of 2017, when we were told that Clark Stanley was relocating to a more central location in downtown Toronto. Because the new office had large white walls and open spaces, my coworker, Abhishek, and I agreed it was perfect for a custom-made mural. Our bosses were also excited about this opportunity so all we had to do was decide on the creative.
What inspired you?
I worked around our tagline “The most amazing creative ever brought before the eyes of civilized man” and our visual brand aesthetic that comes from the real world that Clark Stanley lived in during the Victorian era. I drew inspiration from its beautiful ornamentation, the western/cowboy times, odd curiosities, vintage circus shows, bold and playful lettered advertisements, intricate and textured woodblock illustrations, and last but not least: the snake imagery (Clark Stanley was known as “The Rattlesnake King” because of his snake oil empire). I wanted the mural to tell the Clark Stanley story in a visually interesting and appealing way that captured this fascinating and unique world.
Have you always had an interest with lettering? Is this something that you've done in the past or is this something you recently picked up?
To be honest, I didn’t even know this world existed, or the extent of it, until 2017, and now I am obsessed! I think that is what makes the creative field so special – you can go in so many different directions and make up your own style on the way. The lettering community on Instagram has been extremely inspiring and helpful for me as a new letterer. I also try to keep busy with weekly lettering challenges and personal passion projects in my spare time to constantly improve my skills.
How was this project different from previous Clark Stanley projects?
Because this was an internal project, it was not a high priority. I could only work on the mural in between client work, so this actually took a lot longer than a regular project (If I added up all the hours spread out over months, it would be approximately 80 hours). Having full creative freedom is also something that was unique to this project. Everything was open to my interpretation and this was both intimidating and liberating, especially when your boss is the most blunt person around. I knew he would tell me if he hated it, which was a potential reality. Glad that didn’t happen.
Walk us through your creative process.
I measured the wall first so I could properly plan out a design to fit. And then I started drawing a bunch of rough sketches, playing with interesting compositions and experimenting with where the letters would live in the allocated space. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to have the snake highlighted and have its body intertwine through the letters and flow through the composition smoothly so that was helpful in guiding the placement of words.
Once I was happy with some layouts, I made larger and more detailed drawings, incorporating Western design elements, decorative flourishes and Victorian-inspired ornamentation to fill in the white spaces. I then started the digital process after my boss gave me the green light. I edited the drawing first in Photoshop and then brought it into Illustrator where I digitally traced every single little detail using the pen tool in order to create a vector file. This means that every single pixel was created from nothing, I plotted every point, adjusted the curves of every shape, and tweaked every point. This was definitely the most time consuming part of the process. The beauty and downfall of vectorizing something is that you can perfect every little thing till you are blue in the face.
Once the design was approved, I worked with a printing house nearby (ARC Solutions) to go over various test prints and verify that the artwork’s many details were an exact match to my master file (funny things can happen with different software and printing machines, etc.). They eventually printed off the mural on vinyl in four separate panels, and patiently applied it to the wall like a big sticker or wallpaper.
What were your biggest challenges?
The most challenging part was not knowing how large everything would be when printed to scale. Normally you would just print out your design on standard size paper, but when you are working on something that is approximately 15.5 feet wide and 6 feet tall, this isn’t an option. That would be about 150 sheets of standard 8.5” x 11” paper, not to mention the time it would take to assemble this and put it in place. I did print off certain sections to see how certain elements were working together and went from there to make adjustments. Unfortunately, I never did see the whole piece at scale before we ordered it, which definitely made me nervous. The printing house did make a 20% print version for us to approve before it was applied to the wall, so that was a bit reassuring.
Can we expect more murals in the future?
Absolutely! I actually just finished painting my first public art piece which was a four-sided utility box. (You know those ugly grey vertical boxes located at every traffic light?) Check it out here. The mural and public art world is really new and exciting for me so the plan is to continue applying for creative opportunities in my spare time and working on my long lost painting skills once again.