First thing’s first: I know you’re probably thinking, “Yeah, yeah, another Calvin & Hobbes nursery painting,” but I really wanted to try my hand at it. It took four days of blood, sweat, and paint, but my contribution to the nursery is done. Being my favorite comic of all time, it was an easy decision to put Calvin & Hobbes all over the wall. But concessions had to be made, seeing as the gender was yet to be determined.

The compromise? Hobbes, but no Calvin.

Now, first thing’s first: I am no painter. Or at least, I didn’t expect to be. I’ve never painted anything like this before (i.e., anything on a wall that wasn’t a solid color), so I was a little intimidated. I was limited to about a third of the wall, which turned out to be a good thing (it probably would’ve taken me three times as long to do a whole wall). I chose the panel with Hobbes sleeping on a tree branch, as it afforded us the most flexibility with out furniture placement.

Step 1: The Sketch

As much as I didn’t want to have to draw this out by hand (and painting it by hand was simply out of the question), my attempts to build a homemade projector using DIY resources on, etc. were for naught. Fortunately, it didn’t turn out to be that difficult since it’s mostly a line drawing. By the end of the day, I had a pretty decent pencil sketch and some test color on the leaves going.

Calvin & Hobbes mural Day 1 progress
Day 1 progress

Step 2: Jumping in

It really is amazing how colors can appear to shift when placed next to stronger colors. The job I did the first day on the leaves was actually growing on my quite a bit. I really dug the pastel angle, which was something I hadn’t seen on anyone else doing online. The problem? Once I added the dark browns of the tree, the pastel colors seemed to change from light pastels to various shades of drab. It’s the strangest thing, but I knew it wasn’t going to work.

Calvin & Hobbes mural Day 2 progress
Day 2 progress

Step 3: Stronger colors

With my pastel idea out the window, I knew I needed to add some stronger colors to the leafy areas, so I set to work mixing a deeper red for the shadowed portions. And yeah, I went a bit overboard. I was extremely unhappy with the way the leaves were coming along, so I pretty much gave up on it for the rest of the day and devoted my time to Hobbes. I made a lot of headway on him, at the very least.

Calvin & Hobbes mural Day 3 progress
Day 3 progress

Step 4: Fixing my mistakes

Though I was feeling pretty discouraged at the end of Day 3, I came back to the project feeling refreshed and I knew I could turn it around. I set to work mixing up a color that would match the lighter leaves (it helped that I kept an extensive collection of paper plates with ample notes regarding which paints I had mixed) and started blending in the deeper reds. Soon enough, I started to see the light. Once that was fixed, I started in on the foreground leaves, adding some greens, yellows, and pinks to the mix. I wasn’t sure how they’d all go at first, but they tied together quite nicely once they dried.

While the leaves were drying, I took up my spongy wedge brush and started in on the black tree border and shading, both of which are hallmarks of Bill Watterson’s style. I added a few stray branches and spots of color here and there for falling leaves to give it more texture and depth.

Calvin & Hobbes mural Day 4 progress
Day 4 progress

Step 5: Did I say four days? I meant five.

But hey, I was mostly done in four days. All that remained was outlining Hobbes and the scariest part: his eyes and mouth. Why was I so worried about that, you ask? Well, his eyes (or eyelids, to be more specific) and mouth were the only sketched elements that I had to paint over (adding to the fact that I never got them sketched quite right, either). I knew I’d only have one shot (without having to overlay a few coats of white paint, which meant more waiting). Using the smallest paintbrush I could find, I took a breath and did it. So much anxiety over such a small element? Maybe, but the eyes and mouth are what really give Hobbes his personality, in my opinion. I still don’t think I nailed it, but I’m happy enough with it.

Then there was only one more little touch that I wanted to add before calling it quits…

Calvin & Hobbes mural - the final touch
The final touch

For the “carved” look, I just created shadows with a fine-point Sharpie marker. Not a bad effect close up.

And without further ado, here it is–the final painting!

Finished (Calvin &) Hobbes mural for the nursery!

Thanks for hanging in til the end, folks! And hey, drop me a line if you ever need anything painted! I only charge $400 an hour! ; )