A Mural You Can Read: Painting the Soho House Cornerstones

When most folks think of January in Chicago, they think of snowfall, snow days, waiting for the CTA crowded round the heat lamp, claiming precious parking spots with folding chairs, maybe some skiing, maybe some football and definitely... painting a mural outside.

Such was the genius motivation that drove Melissa Sue Stanley and I to agree to paint the cornerstones of Soho House Chicago in January.

This would be our first collabo mural between the two of us and also our first in the dead of winter. So we did a little practicing the weekend before, which so happened to be 17º out. We quickly discovered exactly what happens to house paint in below freezing temperatures.

Cup o' frostbite.

Round 1 @ 17º. Round 2 @ 35º. Xmas @ January.

So we looked at the forecast, gambled for warmer temperatures and, as a failsafe, dropped our original concept for a new, less painterly approach. "What if we painted a comic on the wall?" was Melissa's proposal. "OMG. Hell yes!" was my response. In the spirit of our comic collabo's ThisMapIsBullshit and DrawUntilYouPuke, we grabbed our sketchbooks, grabbed some Lone Stars at Green Street Meats and came up with an idea. 


After some brainstorming we landed on a few themes we wanted to address with our story. The premise of a narrative mural is something that's excited me for some time. There are elements that needed to be considered with a public work that would be quite different from reading a comic with your ass on the couch. For one, viewing the work would be a public experience and not enjoyed privately. So no matter how weird this thing was going to be, it had to at least be enjoyed by a broad enough audience. We figured most people love pizza and parties. 


We were painting the north and south corners of the building. Painting a comic on the wall meant treating these corners like pages of a book. However one key consideration was the amount of time it would take for a viewer to walk from one corner of the building to the other. And that a viewer will be coming from either direction. So our story could start from page 1 or start from page 2. That had to make sense too.

This drove a few must-have themes for us. For one, we wanted a portal on either corner to link both stories. We also wanted the end of story 1 to, in a sense, kick off story 2 and vice versa to create a circular narrative. 

Playing telephone: North Corner to South Corner... telephones are still a thing, right?

Playing telephone: North Corner to South Corner... telephones are still a thing, right?

If you're in Chicago, check it out soon as you can, as it won't be up long. It could be painted over as I type this! The cornerstone murals are curated by Lance Curran of Threadless, Secret Walls and Arcade Brewery. Every month a new artist leaves their mark on the corners to create this ever-changing landscape hidden in the West Loop.

All in all it was a fun experience in process, story-telling and collaboration. Our predictions paid off as the weather blessed us with the same amazing summer temperatures gracing the marchers in Women's March happening that weekend. (we had a few signs of our own #keepworkinghard).

Much much thanks to Lance Curran and Soho House for the opportunity! And shout out to Ear2Ground who filmed our butts painting, coming soon hopefully without too much butt.

Melissa will be posting the whole comic panel for panel on her blog. Check it out!