Behind the Scenes: The Shire Mural

And here it is, finally completed!

Finished mural

Size: Approximately 18 1/2 square feet

Medium: Acrylic paint, some colored pencil

Time to complete: About 40 hours of actual painting time; much longer than I anticipated, and even more than the library mural!

History behind the piece:

Remember the flower mural from a Throwback Thursday post not too long ago? It was damaged a couple years ago, and my in-laws had mentioned commissioning me to do a new mural in it’s place after the wall was repaired. They had tossed around a few ideas, and the most popular one was doing hot air balloons. I had mentioned that I wanted to do the mural over the summer so it wouldn’t interfere with my babysitting or the kid’s school schedules, and if they definitely wanted hot air balloons, we’d need to talk about design. My father-in-law said he didn’t want balloons, and then I asked for them to think about ideas again and we’d talk soon.

Fast forward a couple weeks, and we’re having dinner over at their house and the mural topic comes up again. Come to find out, my father-in-law was just joking about not wanting balloons (I think he likes keeping me on my toes!), and that they would be fine. We then got talking about Lord of the Rings and Hobbit holes (I think I was talking about how I wanted a Hobbit hole chicken coop?), and my father-in-law mentioned doing the Shire as a mural. My mother-in-law said “Yes!”, and I thought they were joking.

They weren’t, and here’s the end result!

Thought process:

I was sooo excited to work on this that I drew up the design in one, maybe two days. I got to get my geek on, and how cool is it that I could watch the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies for research? Woo hoo!

Bilbo's house
Bilbo’s house

This design is basically bits and pieces from the movies, J.R.R. Tolkien’s drawings, and other fan art, as well as my own interpretation from reading the books. It includes some of my favorite pieces (the No Admittance sign! And Sam’s house!), and soooo much detail was put into this piece.

No admittance except on party business!
No admittance except on party business!

There are some things that were added towards the end of the painting process that we just didn’t know would be needed. When you do a small design sketch on a regular sized piece of paper, and then blow it up to almost 20 square feet, there is definitely going to be some need for adjustment. Some additions were more flowers and trees by Bilbo’s house and the swans and blue heron by the lake. Although it took me longer to complete the mural due to the changes, they make the mural look so much better!

Swans on the lake

Problems with the piece:

It is so hard to paint under a cupboard. You have to bend over, but because of the counter, you have to stand at these odd angles and it feels awkward. What makes it even more awkward is when your husband, brothers-in-law and father-in-law are all out shooting shot guns and every they shoot, you jump and hit your head on the cupboard. I lost count of how many times I hit my head before I got the brilliant idea to go paint another area that didn’t have the cupboard overhead 😉

Hobbit laundry!
Hobbit laundry!

A huge issue was that everything is soooo small. Gandalf and his cart are about one inch high and two inches wide, Pippin and Merry are about an inch high as well. My tiniest brush is too big for that, so I had to incorporate colored pencil in for some of the smaller details. I have since purchased a couple super tiny paintbrushes for the next mural I do, and hopefully small details won’t be as frustrating. Also, having everything be small means so much more time spent on executing each area, which was something I didn’t anticipate.

Gandalf; the streaks are actually wall texture!

THE ROCK WALL. Oh man, some of you know how much trouble that gave me, but oh was I so glad when that was done! It originally was going to be stacked stone, but it just was not looking right. Sam’s chimney had already been completed, and it was easy to do and looked great, so I thought just doing a rock wall similar to that would make life so much easier! I figured it would take 20 minutes, maybe 30, to finish. It took upwards of THREE HOURS to do! Don’t get me wrong, it looks great, it helps break up the green, but oh was it trouble!

Favorite part:

Gosh, I don’t know, it’s hard to pick what would have to be my favorite when I love it all. I love the lights around the party tents, the No Admittance sign, Pippin and Merry, Gandalf….I guess I love all the little bits and pieces that make the story come alive.


Oh, and all the little details in it, too, like the different varieties of flowers, the barrels, the reflection of the swans on the lake…

Blue door house

Oh!!! And the light switch!!!! I thought that was going to end up being an awful and horrible part to do, but after some minor tweaking of where things would be on the wall, it turned out awesome!

Sam house
Sam’s house…can you find the light switch?

Least favorite part:

Proportions are off with the smaller two Hobbit holes and the Hobbits in the corn field. But trying to get everything proportionally correct was a nightmare when working at that small of a scale and still have it be recognizable. Over all I’m really happy with it, and the proportions being off actually doesn’t bother me as much as I thought it would.

Setting up for Bilbo's birthday party
Setting up for Bilbo’s birthday party

Questions I’ve been asked:

Was working for your in-laws difficult?

Not really. I’m blessed with awesome in-laws, and they’re very flexible and accommodating. They were very patient with me taking over their kitchen, and had great input during the whole process. It’s actually going to be difficult with the mural being done as we won’t see them as often anymore! They were joking the other day that they’d have to commission me again to do another mural just so we can see each other on a regular basis 🙂

Did knowing that you’d be seeing the mural a lot make it harder to paint?

Yes, yes, and yes. I always try to do my best, no matter what I’m creating. But knowing that I’m going to be seeing this mural often, and even doing dishes in this sink or looking at it from my spot at the table during meal time put more stress on me as a perfectionist. I wanted to make sure that every little thing that bugged me was taken care of so I wouldn’t stress and pull my hair out when I looked at it.

Which was more difficult to complete: the library mural or the Shire mural?

They were both difficult, but in different ways. The library mural was hard in that it was so big, it was hard to work on certain parts as I’d have to be on the chair and then down again, or I had to include so much detail in areas (like the wrinkles in the dinosaur skin) in order for it to look realistic. There’s a lot of detail in the Shire mural as well, but I could cheat a little bit and leave detail out without compromising how it looks, like I don’t have to put every hair in Gandalf’s beard for you to know that he has a beard. I think executing the Shire mural was harder as it was so much detail, but the library one was more difficult mentally as so many people are going to see it, and I wanted to make it worthy of the subjects depicted as well as being displayed so prominently.

Finished mural 2

What is your favorite detail in the mural? If you’ve read the books or watched the movies, what would you have included?

4 thoughts on “Behind the Scenes: The Shire Mural

  1. It looks so good Shawna! I love it. I didn’t even realize there was a light switch in the design until you mentioned it, haha. Nice camouflaging.

    1. Thank you! I was originally going to just leave the light switch plain/normal, but my father in law told me to paint over it so it wouldn’t stand out. I never would have thought to paint it!

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