Tightrope for Toyota

Most of the paintings I design via We Talk Chalk turn into hand painted 3D street paintings which are amazing and beautiful and super fun, and sometimes exhausting, to create!  But over the last few years, I’ve created several digital 3D paintings that I paint in photoshop and then have printed on vinyl via our own vinyl printer or the client’s local vendor. Though they are much less ‘hands on’, they still provide the same impact and effect to viewers.

2017 has brought forth several opportunities for digital projects and I’m having a blast!!  The first of the year was the expansion of the Shark painting at the Monte Carlo which I talked about in my last blog post.  The second…An incredible display for Toyota and Bass Pro Shops (via MC2exhibits) and the Daytona International Speedway in Florida.  This project was a dream come true.  To design and paint something for such an incredible client at such an amazing venue was exhilarating to see brought to life!  A 16 x 60 foot billboard and 35 x 40 foot floor painting coming together to create the backdrop for two Toyota Vehicles.  Awesome!!

I started out by building a layout of the space and where the cars would be parked, and once canyon sketch was approved, I started painting via Wacom Cintiq and Photoshop.  I think it took me about 7 days total to complete the image once I started painting.  That includes test prints and adjustments. I created the files full size at 100dpi.

I sent the files off to the client for printing and was on pins and needles.  The anticipation was unbelievable.  When you create something in such a small space (your computer screen) you just hope and pray that all your calculations and tests were accurate when it is finally full size and ENORMOUS!!!!  I was so nervous traveling to Daytona…what if I measured wrong?  What if the viewpoint is blocked by something I didn’t know about (which is almost was…There was a pole about 4 feet away that could have been a huge problem, but thank goodness it wasn’t.  phew), what if my math is off? (by the way…I’m terrible at math.  Anything with numbers scares the crap out of me, but hey…you get passed the fear, check everything triple, quadruple times, and then say a lot of prayers that you nailed it.  :).  In the end, everything turned out perfectly!  HALLELUJAH!!!  I was sooooo happy.  So, you can see the results below.  The hot air balloon was a digital I added a few days before the Daytona 500.  Toyota wanted more branding in the shot so I created that in a few hours and sent it over.  They printed and stuck it up on the billbaord just in time.

Painting should be up for several months fairing good weather.

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30 inch test print of painting.
Addition of Toyota Branded Balloon!
The morning after install it rained. The vinyl was steadfast…it held on tight!
Panarama shot of the painting with the vehicles parked.


Water, water, everywhere!

Since my last post, I had the opportunity to expand the Shark painting at the Monte Carlo by creating a digital addition around the existing painting.  We wanted to make sure that people were drawn into the space to view and pose with the shark – really transform the space as a whole.  Monte Carlo’s Marketing team had the idea of using printed vinyl to cover the entire cement space around it.  – Brilliant!

I digitally created an expanse of water with a dock that runs from the Shark painting to the sidewalk, life preserver, and floating planks for people to pose on. The trick was creating something large enough to cover such a huge space but not detract from the painting itself. Here are some fun pics of how it all turned out. The marketing team, who you can see posing on the first pic, create a fun ‘SHARK – NO SWIMMING’ sign!  Love it.

If you’re in the Vegas area, the ‘Shark’, along with ‘Desert or Dessert’ will be on display through 2017.

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Trick-Eye Experience

New projects are always exciting and in all the time that I worked as a free lance artist my favorite projects were always the ones that required international travel.  Painting in a Country you’ve never visited before or one that you really love and experiencing the culture and peoples reaction to your work is an unforgettable experience.  But in the 5 years since our company We Talk Chalk has been in business, I’ve accumulated quite a few favorites because of the projects themselves…either because of the imagery, the scope, or the client themselves.

Our current collaboration with the Monte Carlo Resort and Casino in Las Vegas has been a dream project for me for several reasons.  I have the opportunity to design several anamorphic / 3D paintings for the property as semi permanent installations during their 2 year revitalization and rebranding…and, I essentially had an open theme for all the designs…AWESOME.

So, we (Myself, WTC Studio Artist Lyndsey Anne Morel, and my assistant Jarred Mendoza) just completed 3 paintings, live on site, to kick off the Monte Carlo’s  ‘Trick-Eye Experience’.  (Actually, Trick Eye was kicked off in December with two Holiday paintings of Polar Bears I created digitally.  It was a last minute decision since we were already scheduled to create the live paintings in January.  So the Polar Bears were a quick turn around and lots of fun to create.)  The first two were titled “Desert or Dessert’ and sit prominently framing the Plaza Blvd Entrance of the Monte Carlo Casino on the Las Vegas Strip.  The whole Idea is for people to pose as if they are inside the bell jars…The Desert Jar has succulents inside like a giant terrarium and scorpions scaling the outer glass walls.  The second is our favorite… ‘Dessert’ features a tower of Macaroons that you have to keep from falling over.  It’s bright and colorful and fun.

The third live painting we did was a hungry ‘Shark’.  Because who doesn’t love sharks these days? – from a distance, of course.  Now that the live paintings are complete I will be creating a few large scale digitals to be sprinkled throughout the interior of the Casino for a total of 6 Trick-Eye Paintings at the Monte Carlo – for now 🙂

Here’s how things got started…


Concept sketch and mock-up for Desert or Dessert painting.  Simple pencil sketches within a photo of the location.  Once Ideas were given the green light by the Monte Carlo team I moved forward with full color renderings.

Tools – Strathmore drawing paper, Strathmore Grid paper, tracing paper, mechanical pencils, Mac, Wacom Cintiq, Photoshop, Illustrator.

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Paper to Canvas

Since starting We Talk Chalk in 2012, I’ve designed almost every painting that we’ve produced.  On average we’ve been creating about 100 paintings per year with our incredible team.  So, I usually design 2-3 paintings a week. And considering I sketch 2-3 designs for the client to choose from, that’s over 300 sketches a year. lol…I didn’t actually realize that until now.  Most sketches start out with a simple pencil or digital sketch and turn into full color renderings.  This is nice because it lets the client know exactly what they will get.  No surprises.  It also allows our studio artists and assistants to see what I’m thinking for each and every inch of the painting.  I can’t always spend a full day painting so I rely on my amazing artists and assistants to get things going while I’m creating sketches for the next painting.

My favorite designs are usually the ones where the clients allow us free reign (or close to it) on concepts. Of course, it’s always important to make sure our clients are happy and we convey their message in an intriguing way but it doesn’t mean we always ‘love’ the designs 🙂   And more often then not, the client won’t choose our favorite sketch…which means I have a ton of sketches that are just waiting to be used for another cool project.  Here are a few sketches from 2016 that weren’t chosen!

All my sketches end up in Photoshop, even if started in pencil, for finishing touches and sending off to client.  I’m using a Mac Pro, Wacom Cintiq 27 HD (which I LOVE), and an Epson 1400 Printer.  When I’m traveling I use the Wacom Cintiq Companion.  They make my work so much easier. Can’t live without them 🙂

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New Mural and Memories made

Since my last post in April, I held our first Montross Mural Studio workshop and created 7 new murals in the neighboring town of Colonial Beach! It’s been a long summer of street painting and murals but the workshop was a highlight 🙂

So, the July Mural Workshop went really well and I had a great group of students. As mentioned in a previous post, I had an artist from Guatemala, 2 from Arizona, 3 local artists and our scholarship winner from Washington and Lee High School.  3 students were able to stay in our dorm style rooms which was really fun.  It was great to have a house full of talented artists!  And the fact that Remco, Luc, and Lyndsey were there made it even more fun!

We all had a great time together exploring the murals, the area, and our design skills.  What started out as a wildlife theme ended up as a bucolic farmland scene featuring Wild Turkey, stag, and farm-house. Bridget of Bridget’s Bouquet where we painted the mural, lives on Nomini Farm and really wanted us to represent the wild turkey in the painting.  And, of course, we gave it some 3D flare with the big turkey flying out of the top of the image.  What really made this workshop special was the great teamwork the students displayed throughout the class.  Though each student designed some part of the mural separately, we were able to pull together each element to create on cohesive design.  Then when it came to painting, everyone helped everyone. It was Wonderful!

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Fredericksburg Star

Robert Hedelt of the Fredericksburg Star has written several wonderful articles on the Murals we’ve created in Montross and now he’s promoted Montross Mural Studio!  I’ve pasted the article below but you can also follow the above link!  Thank you Robert!

As one of the world’s premiere muralists and street painters, Melanie Stimmell Van Latum has visited the great cities of the world for clients ranging from Calvin Klein to various festivals.

But the artist fell so in love with the Westmoreland County town of Montross that she’s opening a mural studio there. She’ll teach up to five seminars a year.

Van Latum, who operates We Talk Chalk out of Los Angeles with husband Remco, announced recently that they have bought a property they’ll operate as the Montross Mural Studio.

Their plan for the house with a large outbuilding in the middle of Montross is to offer seminars of varying lengths where students can learn everything from mural-making to faux finishing to plein air painting.

The first is a seven-day, retreat-style session that will start July 6. It will include walking tours of murals, mural design, concept and composition—and the couple’s specialty—3-D concepts.

Several clients have already signed on for the class, which is limited to a dozen students. One of those will be a student from the county’s Washington and Lee High School under a scholarship from the studio.

As I noted in an earlier column, the well-traveled artist first came to the state when she was hired by the town of Montross to paint murals as part of a revitalization project.

She returned last year to paint a series of seven more murals to close out that project.

Van Latum said she fell in love with the small town because of the warmth of the folks she met there.

“People were always coming out to watch and talk to us as we did the murals,” she said. “Anything we needed, they were willing to help. There is just a wonderful family feeling to the town.”

The artist—the only female to hold the title of master street painter in both Italy and Germany—said that warmth made a lasting impression.

“I’ve been all over the world doing this, over 17 years now, and this was the first time I actually said to myself that I would move here in a second,” she said. “The people here are just so welcoming, so nice.”

Returning to her L.A. home, she and other artists who’d worked on the Montross murals found themselves trying to find reasons to come back.

“We were having dinner one day and suddenly it came to us,” she said. “What if we did classes, retreats? We could return every few months to hold courses on muraling and other topics. The idea turned into us buying a property in Montross.”

She said the house, a bit of a fixer-upper, included a garage large enough for classes, storage and more.

The Van Latums have found a contractor and work should start on the home and workshop space soon. She noted that there’s already a project for the July workshop: a new wildlife-themed mural for the business Bridget’s Bouquets in town.

Van Latum started muraling after falling in love with the art form at her first street-painting festival. She said she likes bringing others to the art.

“I’ve always taught and done workshops for murals and street painting,” she said. “It lets artists get their hands in it and see if they like it.”

Van Latum makes no bones about the fact that the new Montross studio is both a business venture and a way to pay for a second home.

“I love the idea of our son spending time in a place like this,” she said, ticking off draws that range from green, lush forests to waterways for exploring to weather that includes rain and snow—two things that are in short supply in L.A. lately.

The artist noted that she will also soon be doing murals in another Virginia town, Colonial Beach.

She said five murals will be done there through a grant, on buildings ranging from the town office to a condominium to a new bathhouse.

“They will be vintage inspired, postcard style, like the original Montross murals,” said the artist. “These will have a more seaside feeling, one a postcard of an old casino on the shore, another of girls splashing in the water in old-style bathing suits.”

Van Latum said there are times of year when mural work lags due to weather.

“November through February are slow, and sometimes middle of the summer is slow as well,” she said. “It will be nice to plan for that, heading to Virginia then to do some workshops and relax. It will be a nice change of pace.”

For information about the new studio’s seminars, costs, registration or more, go online to montrossmuralstudio.com or call 804/668-7223.


Montross Mural Studio is my ‘YES’

When the idea of Montross Mural Studio popped into my head Remco and I had a vision of it growing into a place that would host students and artists from around the globe.  ‘Dream big’ right?  I certainly did not expect to have that be the case for our first workshop or even within the first few years.  What I did expect was a few artists from the Northern Neck area to sign up for the inaugural 7 day workshop (this July) and see what it was all about.  Word would spread, and, hopefully, we would become a creative hub in what I consider a most magical and historic area.

We are exactly 3 months from the Grand Opening of Montross Mural Studio on July 6th and we have a ‘Few’ local artists signed up as well as an artist from across the country. Arizona to be exact. And pinch me, because we do, indeed, have our first international student.  She will travel all the way from Guatemala to Montross to learn, from me!  I am so honored to have anyone sign up at all this first round to be honest.  Remco says it’s the insecure artist in me but really…you never know what you willl succeed or fail at until you  try.  There are no guarantees…but in the words from my last post…Every ‘no’, gets you closer to the ‘yes’ that will change your life.  I think I just found my ‘YES’.

Montross Mural Studio Scholarship

On April 1st we announced the Montross Mural Studio Scholarship winner!  The incredible recipient, Kayla Payne from Washington & Lee H.S. in Montross, VA, will join my week long Mural Workshop this July.  I’m so happy to have her…She is bright, talented, ambitious, and has some wonderful goals for her future as a creator.

In choosing Kayla, I did have the unfortunate responsibility of rejecting the other aspiring young artists who applied for that same scholarship.  To them I say, It was an incredibly difficult decision for me to make.  You are all wonderfully talented.  One of my great professors at Art Center once told me…’It doesn’t matter how many ‘NO’ responses you receive – each one brings you closer to the one ‘YES’!!!  that will change your life.  I believe this 100%  

Alvin Ailey Day

Today was a really fun and creative day at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.  I am on their education roster for the Arts Teach program but also create several street paintings a year during their special events.  Today was one of them.  Alvin Ailey ‘Revelations Celebration’  in the Centers Plaza welcomed the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater with free activities.  One being a dance along with dancers from the show and another being the Alvin Ailey street painting I created with the little attendees.  Kids just love the opportunity to express themselves and ‘get a little dirty’ 🙂  Here are some fun pics of my mini helpers.  They did a great job!!

The Alvin Ailey engagement runs April 6th – 10th       https://www.scfta.org

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