• KP

Mural in Downtown Livingston, Montana: Brutus the Bear Mural

When I moved to Livingston in 2014, I got to know the folks out at Grizzly Encounter. Brutus passed away unexpectedly in 2021, and our mutual friend, Beth, jumped into action fundraising to create a memorial mural. She asked me if I'd be interested in painting it, and of COURSE I was.


After the fundraising efforts, Beth and I worked to find a building to put the mural on. We reached out to a few different building owners, and it took about a month/building to receive the 'no's' that eventually led us to literally the perfect spot on Callendar. Everything happens for a reason, right?

We then had to go through submitting the proper paperwork and getting approval from the Historic Committee, which all went pretty smoothly and wasn't as hard as someone like me, who sees paperwork and runs the other way, expected.


I was doing some other projects, and had a trip scheduled for early October, so timing was starting to feel tight. What I have learned with projects like this mural is that if I prepare as much as possible before I even get on site, the whole thing goes a lot better. Prepping for this mural meant researching the different materials I would need for brick, and collaborating with Ami of Grizzly Encounter on achieving a great design that spoke to Brutus and all that he was.


Our first design did not actually sit well with Ami, as the picture I was using and the painting I had made from it missed Brutus's likeness (very important indeed!) Fortunately, Ami was able to tell me the truth, and it inspired me to work it over a bit more, eventually finding the final design that was perfect.


By the time I was pulling up and parking to start the mural, I already had about 25 hours of work into this project, researching, sketching, painting and reworking the design. But like I said- if there is one thing I know for certain, it is to show up with all the problems solved (that you can.) My husband Jim helped me outline the mural's hexagon shape (we used some pretty wild geometry skills that haven't been accessed since high school lol). Then I gently worked away at the old, chipping paint, and then put three layers (2 was probably enough, but I wanted as much certainty as possible) of primer down. We (Jim and I) then attempted to use a chalk line to create a grid pattern. It didn't work well, so I ended up resorting to old school practices with a T-square and triangle to get the grid down.

Grid patterns are, in my opinion, the only way to go. When I was a young artist, I thought "real artists" didn't use grids but could just pick out spatial relationships and shapes skillfully. Now that I pretty much use grids religiously, I can't believe I took so long to realize it was just a tool to give my clients the best possible product. But I digress.


Then came the days of painting and chatting and listening to podcasts. It is so fun to paint in public, as people get really excited about it and will even honk and yell from their moving vehicles. It's a project that makes everyone feel involved and like they are a part of it. I do try to engage and talk to everyone, but admittedly, there are some days that I have to just rock out with my headphones blocking out all sounds and get work done. My friend Eric told me months later that he had actually come by to say "hi," and I didn't notice him so he decided not to break the flow and left. Sorry Eric!! (Next time, I am going to buy headphones that are obvious... so it's a bit less awkward lol).


I finished with just enough days to let the paint cure and then to spray two layers of protective varnish over the mural. And gosh you guys, I felt just so *proud*.


When I posted the final picture on social media, I honestly assumed that people would already be a bit bored with it since I'd been posting for about a week at that point. Boy, was I wrong. It went somewhat viral (Um... note: news stations just grab what you write in your posts and use it soooo.... be ready for that....) reaching 45,000 people on Facebook alone and garnering 100 comments completely organically. Pretty amazing, honestly. People were STOKED.


For me, it was a truly wonderful experience and, like I said, I'm very proud of my work. I feel pretty confident in moving forward with any murals that come my way with this experience under my belt. Like most art, many people get really excited by the idea of murals but then get quiet when they find out the cost, and I'll admit that bums me out a bit. It would be amazing to have more beautiful, murals around our town, brightening up forgotten or dingy corners! I've had many people say, "you should do _____ at _____" and I believe they are right! We should have those arts! In our capitalist society, if people want art, someone has to pay the artist. :)


Well, Don't know that I have much more to say about all this, other than what I've already said a lot, which is: "Thank you." It was truly an honor to be the artist for this project, and there was more than once when I was kind of like, "Holy shit... I'm literally painting a permanent piece on the walls of Livingston's Downtown." followed by a quiet "don't mess this up," which I simply didn't listen to because boldness can't listen to that voice lol.


It's pretty amazing that my IPad and the Procreate App can be used to create a really effective mock up of my design in place. You'll notice this design has butterflies and flowers going outside of the hexagon- I had to change that plan when it came time to scrape and prime, as it would have been too difficult for the amount of time I had. In the end, I don't think it was necessary.

Mural downtown Livingston Kay Potter

The start. Got people curious!!! (Look at the shape of that wall. A bit rough, but definitely not the worst. Hence the 3 layers of primer)


Mural downtown Livingston Kay Potter

Mural downtown Livingston Kay Potter

Once I was working, the progress went pretty quick. I don't remember exactly how many hours of painting it took. I mean, it was still a good bit- but I lost track. Folks were surprised by how it went up in one week!

Here you can see me painting on a ladder, and having a visitor stop by to look and chat.


Mural downtown Livingston Kay Potter

The final mural, and the picture that went *semi viral*. (Boy, I was definitely a bit tired, but it's okay i guess).





Last details:

I used Golden Acrylics for the project, mainly their Golden Fluid Acrylics. I also used their Gloss spray varnish with UVLS protection. I think I'm saying that right.


Primer was a standard exterior primer approved for masonry.


You can see this mural downtown Livingston, Montana, on Callendar and Main St.


You can bring the mural into your home by purchasing a beautiful print HERE.


I made and packaged the prints for ya'll with the utmost care. Proceeds go to Montana Grizzly Encounter so they can continue to do their very important work.


Sidenote: https://justpaint.org/ is an incredibly useful blog for information about all sorts of different painting projects, and I relied on them heavily for info gathering.


















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