Audra Lynch Nanay recently returned home to Indiana from down under after completing an almost 2000-square-foot concrete mural. Australia’s Elite Crete distributor sought out Audra to aid in the arduous challenge of transforming the footpath—sidewalk as we know it—into a first of its kind outdoor underwater theme in the city of Melbourne. Scott Morden, owner of Elite Crete Australia, had seen the concrete designer’s work when she presented at World of Concrete, Artistry in Decorative Concrete 2012 in Las Vegas. His client, Conway’s Fish Trading Inc., supplies numerous restaurants and commercial accounts with fresh fish daily. With expansion of an outdoor café in mind, Conway’s wanted its new space to interact with the public and to provide a focal point of artistry of what was once a plain sidewalk.

Audra and her clients collaborated for months with sketches, photo references, and samples all through emails, iPhones, and Skype. “It’s amazing how we can accomplish projects now. Back in design classes, we had to manually draw out everything even where simple type would be, and now I can use my phone as an aid in creating amazing works half way across the world” says Audra. Her design background led to doing decorative finishes (plaster, murals, faux) about 15 years ago which in turn led to an interest in floors and concrete about 8 years ago. “It made sense to add flooring options to my services at Audra Lynch et Cie. It took a while to be confident in what I was doing with concrete. It’s one thing to make it look pretty, but to make sure it last is another thing. I trained and used many different types of products both interior and exterior until I found the ones I liked. Now, concrete resurfacing consists of approximately 75 to 80 percent of my business.”

Working on the piece

Upon arrival, she and Julienne Nanay (her daughter/assistant), and Scott, immediately began the task of prepping the area with power washing, grinding, and light etching. They then applied an overlay system supplied by Elite Crete Australia. There were a few obstacles such as heavy winds, rain, and vandals. Keep in mind August is winter in Australia, and this winter was one of the rainiest in a number of years. Of course coming from the Chicago area, temperatures of 45° F during winter isn’t too bad. They piled on layers of clothing and with determination they prevailed. Much of the work had to be completed after operating hours so they worked sometimes until the early hours of the morning. One night, after the base coat had been applied, the wet overlays were vandalized despite barricades around the work. The problem needed to be fixed and Audra had to lightly ground the area then apply some more overlay material and feather it out to match the existing surface. The best part of that incident was the fact that the vandal didn’t realize he was caught on surveillance cameras. Busted! With that behind and the technical parts complete, Scott left the rest up to the girls to do their creative application.

The fun began

The coloring process was all done by freehand and custom mixed colors. First the background was put in place by using a mix of both chemical- and water-based stains from Elite Crete. Sometimes the rain didn’t cooperate. “We had to redo the exposed area a few times because my colors didn’t have enough time to dry and cure so they washed away. It was a little frustrating,” says Audra. After that was complete , they were able to put in the details in place. The use of many pictures were pasted to a board and dragged along with their cart of water-based concrete stains mixed with various concentrations of a polymer blend binder. Audra chalked out what she wanted and where she wanted them. Then both she and Julienne “painted” the images. They used sprayers and brushes to apply the coloring. “Working on concrete is not that much different than working on canvas to me. It’s just knowing the products and making them do what you want to produce a certain effect,” says Audra. “Working back to front, with the most detail last, is how a typical art project is completed regardless of the surface you are working on.” After she was satisfied, two coats of a high solid acrylic sealer was applied.

Even with some unintended obstacles, the project took a total of 10 days to complete which was pretty much right on track with the original estimated time to finish. This gave the girls a few days to travel north and enjoy the real thing--the Great Barrier Reef--before they had to come home. They will always remember their down under experience and are looking forward to future projects regardless of where it may take them.