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Big Blue Trunk Zahra: Her magic revealed!

Updated: Nov 4, 2020


Chalk Paint Wall Mural Art
Mishell Leong unveils Big Blue Trunk Wall Mural

On the 10th September, Deepti Chadda - owner of Big Blue Trunk and I sat down to discuss our concept of the 4m x 3m wall mural that will be part of her front store display. We both had no idea of the scale and challenge ahead of us, paired with a very tight timeline of her new store opening. All we knew and got very excited about was the prospect of FUN and creativity that it will involve.

Here is a detailed account of the behind-the-scenes of our beautiful journey from my perspective.


"Strong, Bold and Feminine" was the brief for her brand new store unit at Cluny Court, due to open in early November 2020. I had about under a week to start and complete the artwork - which felt ambitious but possibly doable at that time. Little did I know what a challenge was ahead of me.

Have I ever done a mural before? Hell no! Have I always wanted to do one? Hell YES! I have been asked a few times in the past but the timing was never right as I was either pregnant or breastfeeding.

“If you don’t challenges yourself, you will never realise what you can become. - Anonymous” 

I do not normally do many sketches for my artworks as I am more of a fluid painter (plus I have never been really good at drawing) but this time round, I knew I had to get the sketch and the proportions right. I also used the grid approach to scale up the work to the wall (which I later found out is probably the most common method).


The sketching process is probably the most daunting of the entire process for me, personally. This is due to my old fear and self-conditioning of believing that I am not able to do portraits (despite having painted and sold a few). Some may know this is as the famous "Imposter Syndrome".

To finally over come this fear, I pushed myself to do as many sketches as it took for me to feel more at ease with drawing faces - drawing late into the night at 3 or 4am on a few nights. I looked at many faces on Pinterest and measured out many different faces to understand the proportions, especially the nose and lips area.


We finalised our final concept and sketch on the 18th October 2020, and did a colour palette board on 24th October 2020. Again, this is something I do not normally do but so glad we did as it came in very useful during the painting process. I was going to use Annie Sloan Chalk Paint© and products for the mural. We were ready to start work on the 27th October 2020 - Sunday NIGHT.

27th Oct: DAY ONE - 9pm Start (Sketching out Grid & Mural)

The shop before Big Blue Trunk was a clothing boutique - so major renovations was required to the entire unit to transform it into a modern, contemporary Chalk Paint and family friendly store. As soon as the flooring was laid out and walls painted, we started work on the mural - and that meant at 9pm on a Sunday evening. Deepti and I are both mums of young children so we are extremely grateful to our incredibly supportive husbands who helped make this entire project happen.

I brought my crystals and Tingsha and sage with me to clear and bless the space before I started work - as I usually do with all my artworks. I always set an intention before starting on my paintings - I find that this intention helps carry me through the tough stage that happens in the middle when we need to find the strength to push through

DAY TWO: Completed - Great Progress Made

29th Sept DAY THREE: Face and Neck - Building the layers

One of my greatest concerns about the final result was with the lighting conditions that we were working in until now. Lighting plays a big part in the colours that we see on any surface - daytime vs night time lighting, yellow vs white light...all have an impact on the perceived colour that we see. Hence, I was keen to work under the final lighting conditions once we are past the initial base layer stage.

Going with the Flow

Coincidentally, after day three, we had to stop work on the mural in order for the store to fully complete its renovation plans - in time for the opening.

“Surrender to the flow.” Mike Gordon

The old me would have insisted on sticking to the plan and kicking up an internal fuss and potentially getting caught up in the emotions of how my other plans are now ruined. The new me is slowly learning to recognise the signs and going with the flow. I followed my gut instinct that told me that we are better off to bite the bullet and focus on the store opening, and leave the mural to be a "work in progress" after the store is opened, which meant I will be painting LIVE in front of any potential walk-in customers.

This was hugely intimidating as I have not painted live in front of anyone before. Little did I realise how much I enjoyed the interactions and respites during the day.


I decided to work on the neck and neckline first whilst Deepti painted parts of her Turban. Here, the challenge was about getting the shadows and highlights for her neckline correct (now that I have the final store lighting set up). The good thing about Chalk Paint© is that it dries very quickly - so it was easy to build the layers relatively quickly.


The renovation break gave us time to tend to the admin and PR side of things. We sent out a few Press Releases to media parties that we thought would be interested in some content and amazingly, a few days later, I got the call from a lovely lady called Chantal from the Straits Times newspapers in Singapore.

She was interested in including me in a feature that she was writing about murals in Singapore. She asked me if I would mind being included (hell No!). She also asked me if I could send her a couple of pictures of myself and the mural - I sent her ten.


We are also incredibly honoured and grateful that Annie Sloan herself, founder of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint© was very interested in our process and wall mural. We were incredibly lucky to be slotted in for an Instagram live interview by Annie Sloan herself - amongst her 1700 worldwide stockists.

You can watch the recording of this very lively and energetic interview on my Instagram IGTV channel or Big Blue Trunk's IGTV.


By day eight, I have been clocking up over one hundred hours of work on this wall art installation. That is not counting in Deepti's hours. I generally start at around midday, after prepping the dinner meals for the family and tending to my plants and kissing the little one goodbye.. and I will be working until 3 or 4am (store closes at 7pm).

My husband would kindly deliver dinner, which I would sit and eat on the floor, absorbing in the progress for the day and planning the next steps in my mind. I considered this a privilege as most mural artists would have to be working outdoors, in the hot sun and definitely not in an air-conditioned environment.

Hubby and I even managed to fit in a romantic picnic dinner with a gourmet meal lovingly packed by The Lokal restaurant. Friends popped to say hello and cheer me on and close girlfriends came by to hang out and help me paint some elements and provide moral support. I feel so immensely blessed to be surrounded by such love and light.

So, if you ever see an artist at work on a mural, please go up to the artist and give him/her some encouraging words and if possible, offer to buy them a drink or snack or company because they would most likely appreciate it. :)


During the entire journey, we have been asking followers for suggestions of her name - and we received many - it was so difficult to decide! Just like naming a child, I normally do not know their name until the child or painting is born...and we decided on Zahra!

Zahra (pronounced "Za-ra") means beautiful, bright, shining and brilliant - and that she is!

Mural Art by Mishell Leong
Big Blue Trunk Wall Mural Art

Right, it looks like I have a lot more to share about this epic journey and I think I need to do that in my next blog instead of this one! I hope you have enjoyed following this intensely beautiful journey of my most recent art project.

If you are in Singapore, please drop by Big Blue Trunk's store at #02-14, Cluny Court (just opposite the bathrooms or Suprmarkt ) and send me a picture!

In the meantime, STAY IN YOUR MAGIC!

Mishell Leong Wall Mural at big Blue Trunk
Stay in Your magic

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