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glow in the dark mural by reskate arts & crafts

Reskate Arts & Crafts create Murals that Glow in the Dark

We have great admiration for street art, yet Maria Lopez and Havier de Riba have taken the game to new heights with their glow-in-the-dark artworks. Their murals use a phosphorescent paint, which glows up to 12 hours creating two different impressions between day and night. It’s hard to imagine how the technique works yet the duo going by the name Reskate Studio hide clever pictures inside the images they design.

The phosphorescent technique became popular quickly and it’s the kind they employed in perhaps one of their famous projects, Harreman Project, which featured 3 masterpieces along with two exhibitions. The name of this project came from the word Basque, meaning relationship. The painting was done in dark places where it’s possible to control lighting with a motion sensor because lights charge the photoluminescent paint so it glows once lights go out.

Take a look at the Rabbit shadow puppet mural in Timisoara Romania, for instance. On a clear day, you’ll see an image a rabbit. Wait till the sun goes down and street lights illuminate the mural then it shows two hands overlapping each other. They called this mural Asombrar which is Spanish word meaning “to amaze”. The word ‘sombra’ means “putting shadows to a clear idea you already had”.

Another piece in Zaragoza, Spain illustrates a loaf of bread in broad daylight then shows a bread knife when illuminated. This work was their contribution to the Action Against Hunger campaign in 2016 which calls us to imagine the power of participation to find actual solutions to hunger.

How about the Saturn-like planet mural still in Timisoara, which at night depicts an underwater helmet? Given the name “Unawareness”, the piece comments that scientific advances relating to deep-sea exploration slowed down because of the beginning of the space race between the USSR and the US.

Reskate Studio also exhibited their photo-luminescent paintings at the 10th anniversary of Festival Asalto held in Zaragoza in 2016. That came after they participated at the Harreman Exhibition in Vienna, 2015 where they showcased work that reflected on the aspects that establish the correlation between objects.

Meet the artists

Maria Lopez (1980) and Javier de Riba (1985), born in San Sebastian and Barcelona respectively, started painting indoor murals five years ago. Since then, they have developed to creating installations, illustrations, designs, and extensive outdoor murals. The duo began working together when they created an artist gallery called Reskateboarding, work that involved recycling old skateboards.

With their skills in graphic design, they picked artists to work with, arranged shows, and organized gallery openings through the Reskateboarding collective. This work was an avenue through which they met artists and illustrators whose work intrigued them. That was the driving force that led to their collaboration to a more illustrative approach in their personal work. It was also a crucial factor in the growth of their artistic careers and later their collaborative venture, Reskate Arts & Crafts.

Working as a team, they are keen on the materials they choose as to them every piece must reflect their expressive capabilities. They strongly believe that the materials and techniques used must never be unjustified and must convey the underlying message effortlessly. Driven by color and strong illustrations, they strive to make each project to be coherent with the surrounding environment.

Their inspiration comes from interacting with people from different cultural backgrounds and other artists from whom they can learn about various styles and media. With every new endeavor, their restlessness brings them to question their artistic style, and reinterpret it to best serve every project. Each piece challenges their aesthetic, pushing them to try new techniques and styles while balancing their existing abilities with the desire for growth and exploration. Their journey is a continuous fight against stagnancy and in favour of versatility and transformation.

Other works

Reskate Arts & Crafts have done several murals across Spain in a project they called “Reaction Project”. It intended to reflect on the use of public space as a social networking tool. To them, public space is a place to share common proverbs that encourage actions that call for reactions, and this is evident in all the murals featured in the Reaction Project. The murals include Gogoa den tokian/Donostia, Forta es la roca, A so de timbals, Qui sembra and A mes mar.

Reskate Arts & Crafts have plans to create more murals in the future even though they need special conditions that work for the photoluminescent murals. Their aim is to light the dark corners in different cities, both installing new lights and encouraging people to interact with the murals. Find out more about the artists on their website.

celebrating wall to wall mural festival in winnipeg

Winnipeg Hosts Month-long Wall-to-Wall Festival

Last September, Winnipeg’s north end was home to a month-long celebration of public art. The event was called the Wall-to-Wall festival and was put on by Winnipeg’s Synonym Art Consultation. It also gave a facelift to one part of the city that could use more colour and artistic celebration.

The Consultation organized two groups of artists to create two gigantic murals that are now part of Winnipeg’s north end. One group, headed by a 17 year-old artist from Nunavut named Parr Josephee, created a mural that you can now see at 611 Main Street. The other group, lead by local artist Kenneth Lavallee, painted a mural dedicated to murdered and missing Indigenous women. “I’m from the North End, too, so this is my hood. It’s a way of having some ownership of your neighbourhood,” Lavallee said in an interview with Metro News. “The idea was to dedicate it to the cause of missing and murdered aboriginal women and have a nice, subtle way to say, ‘hey, we’re still here, we’re still important.’”

mural from wall to wall in winnipeg

Josephee designed her mural with South-American artist pair Bruno Smoky and Shalak Attack. The piece focuses on proposed seismic tests that may occur in Clyde River, which Inuit fear will affect narwhal and other marine mammals. The piece features “features two narwhals with lungs full of water and other life.” Josephee says the piece is in solidarity with that fight.

Josephee is also excited to contribute to Winnipeg’s growing art scene. “It’s amazing,” she said in an interview with the CBC. “When I was younger, I didn’t think I was going to be a part of any murals or anything. I wasn’t expecting this and I’m so happy I’m a part of this.”

aerial view of mural from wall to wall mural festival in winnipeg

Winnipeg artists and volunteers got a little help from outside the city as well. The Toronto-based art collective PA Systems also came out to help organize, prime walls, and paint the murals. A member of the group, Alexa Hatanaka, says public art is an important part of the modern world because it engages people in their everyday lives. “Public art really engages people in a way that’s different,” she told Metro News. “There are so many difficult things we face on this planet that sometimes it’s hard to sit down on the computer and read about it. But art engages you in a different way to start thinking about important issues. I think it’s special in that way.”

The Wall-to-Wall’s willingness to be political and help beautify an area of their city proves that art festivals can be about much more than aesthetics. These pieces reflect real struggles facing communities across the country and in their immediate area, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of the festival volunteers.

street mural being painted on a street in Toronto, ON

Toronto Road Murals Cause Stir

When you walk through Kensington Market in Toronto, the last thing you would consider out of character is drawings on the street. The longtime hub for vintage clothing, quirky bars, and hipster dining establishments, the area has built a reputation on being very different from the rest of Toronto. But this year, artist proposals for a road mural caused more than a disagreement, it turned into a fight at City Hall.

Last year, Toronto’s city councilors considered banning road murals, citing that they “place considerable administrative, regulatory, and maintenance burdens on the city.” The decision was met with considerable opposition by local artists and community members, who say public art installations can beautify and bring people together.

For one local resident in particular, Dave Meslin, the reasons for the potential ban didn’t make any sense. “We’re not asking for money. We’re not asking for staff to come and help us paint,” he told Metro News earlier this year. “We’re just asking for permission.”

With the potential backlash from community leaders and residents in different parts of Toronto, the City decided instead to opt for a pilot program. From August to October of this year, they allowed street mural painting on specific streets in Kensington Market. The designs, materials, and the process would all have to be put through the project for review, but ultimately the program went ahead.

With permission to move forward, the Kensington Market business association found artist Victor Fraser, who stenciled all the paintings for the mural. Community members were then invited to paint in the drawings. A special vinyl paint was used for all of the murals, which is supposed to last for six to nine months and withstand rain, snow, and more.

Artist Victor Fraser decided to highlight Kensington Market’s famous food scene, creating images of fresh foods that draw on computer iconography. “A lot of people work on the computer, and they don’t realize the reality of reality,” he told The Toronto Star in an interview. “I tried to represent their computer styles, which is very choppy, crisp, and hard, and that’s the best way to have vegetables.”

The street murals have now all been completed as of October, 2016 and have each elevated the beauty and artistic wealth of the area, and indeed the city. The collaborative effort at every step, from the fight to have the murals to the design of the items to the interactive elements in their creation, the murals represent how a community can lobby, design, and create something that betters their neighbourhood.

The pilot project may result in four more murals for the Kensington Market area but the idea is spreading to other areas of the city. Community activist Dave Meslin hopes these types of projects will be more common and widespread throughout Toronto.

Artist Feature: Yusuke Asai

Street art is an incredibly important aspect of the art world for a number of reasons, but one of the most important is its openness. The modern idea of graffiti is based on the fact that great artists, often from marginalized groups, couldn’t get their work into galleries and other traditional places where people show off their art. Faced with no place to showcase their skills, these brave artists took to the streets and created a more open and inclusive art community.

Over time, the established art scene and graffiti have melded together: Banksy is shown in galleries around the world while people with classic artistic training, often from expensive schools, have started painting on the streets. The collapse of this binary is almost complete, but there are still people who cannot break into traditional art because of their class, gender, or race.

One such person is Japanese graffiti artist Yusuke Asai. Asai grew up in the Japanese city of Kumamoto and studied ceramics in high school, but his dreams of a higher arts education were dashed based on simple finances. Faced with alternative ways to express himself, Asai started painting murals with literally anything that he could get his hands on, including mud, rice, leaves, and discarded pens. As his skills progressed and his work became more widely-known, Asai switched his entire focus to using earth-like materials, creating murals from soil, straw, and even cow dung.

Asai grew up, like many people in Japan, in a very urban environment, separated from nature by the sheer force of urbanization. His use of discarded objects, specifically dirt, is based both on his approach to class and his upbringing. “I choose to use the earth as a medium because I can find dirt anywhere in the world and do not need special materials,” Asai says on his website. “The collection process and digging in the soil is so much fun, and they strengthen my feeling of connection to a place.”

rice gallery artwork by yusuke asai using texan soil

Since 2008, Asai’s popularity and notoriety has only grown, partially because of his close connection to the Rice Gallery, the world’s only art gallery that focuses on “site-specific” art like Asai’s, but also because of his work around the world. Asais enjoy using the materials from the area, collecting dirt and mud specific to where he’s creating to give it a localized feel. In Houston, for example, he dug up earth that’s unique to the area. In India, his room-sized mural was made up entirely of dirt and mud found in the local area.

Asai’s humble beginnings and insistence on using free, local materials proves that great art shouldn’t depend on class, access, or where you were born. All it should require is a drive and desire to create something with which people can connect. For Asai, that means literally getting your hands dirty and creating beauty from literal dirt. His process is an incredible metaphor and a reminder that art doesn’t require a degree or a gallery.

muralist hard at work on street art mural at the pow wow art festival in honolulu, hawaii

POW! WOW!

Hawaii is a beautiful place, that much goes without saying, but much of Hawaii’s beauty is focused on its natural landscapes, not its thriving art scene. This is a true shame because Hawaii has two important facets that make for an interesting and radical art scene: a native population with its own artistic history and infrastructure put in place to help the art scene thrive.

There are plenty of programs used to promote and advertise Hawaii’s art scene, but one of the biggest and most exciting is the POW! WOW! Art Festival in the Kaka’ako district of Honolulu. This area, traditionally a place of royal significance, is an industrial and cultural hub for Hawaii’s capital and is the perfect launching point for this diverse and amazing festival.

On the surface, POW! WOW! is not dissimilar to many other street art festivals that take place around the world. It has a series of activities in which people can partake, including lectures and concerts, and it attracts some of the world’s most up-and-coming muralists and street artists. But what sets POW! WOW! apart is its diversity.

Being an island state in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii is unique to much of the world in that it’s a true mosaic. Cultures and cultural influences are all around you when you walk through Honolulu, especially when it comes to other Pacific islands. POW! WOW! celebrates this diversity with a heavy influence on artists from places like New Zealand, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, and more.

beautiful mural being rendered at the pow wow art festival

POW! WOW! gets its name from the Indigenous American term for a gathering. The word itself is derived from the Narragansett word powwaw, which means “spiritual leader. Appropriately enough, the Narragansett are an Algonquin tribe traditionally from an island themselves: Rhode Island.

In many ways, POW! WOW! is about gathering people together, which is why there is such a heavy focus on events and diversity. At any time during the festival, there are talks happening in galleries and on the streets, and people can interact with artists and some of their art as part of the festival. And, of course, there’s plenty of entertainment as well. It’s also one of the few festivals in the Northern Hemisphere to take place during the winter, in the dead of February to be exact, which makes it an excellent retreat for people who want to see great art and get out of the cold.

What POW! WOW! represents for the street art community is two important things: the necessity of inclusion and the importance of discussion. With a focus on both, POW! WOW! is an important festival for showcasing numerous talents that may otherwise be considered “regional.” By giving a voice, and the chance to create, to a wide variety of artists, POW! WOW! is leading the charge in making great festivals that are by everyone and for everyone.

artist j3 on scissor lift painting mural of man jumping

Artist Bio: J3

When it comes to the world of street art, some artists enjoy the mantra of “Go big or go home.” There are very few artists, however, that take this to heart as much as J3, the American graffiti artist who’s wall paintings have graced public spaces around the world.

J3 was born James Bullough. Growing up in the Washington, DC. area, he learned his craft by studying classical painting, specifically oils, from people as varied as Rembrandt and Picasso. You can immediately see the influence in his own work, where larger-than-life paintings show a mastery of human form and a close eye for perspective in the unique environments that J3 chooses as his canvases.

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J3’s wall art is almost exclusively in a realist style that, when combined with their size, makes for truly awe-inspiring pieces that catch viewers off guard. Each is made with a careful reproduction of a human without exaggeration or over-stylization. From there, J3’s pieces change and move according to his vision, settling the eye on the naturalness of his characters. Indeed, his pieces seek to express emotion through the beauty of composition rather than placing his subjects themselves in extremely emotional poses and situations. They can range from the thoughtful to even the funny and quirky, like a giant face peeking at your from behind a bridge.

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J3’s art has also changed as his skill has progressed, and his latest pieces have started to play with perspective and continuity while still maintaining a realist bend. For example, recent pieces will split the image into pieces, like looking at it though a series of mirrors. It plays with the eye but also allows his chosen style to bleed into the distinctly uncharacteristic or abnormal without alienating the audience through extreme abstraction. The result is something at once beautiful and unexpected, two characteristics that many forms of street art should aspire to have.

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What makes J3 so different from many of his contemporaries is his influence from traditional sources rather than within the street art community. By drawing from outside yet familiar sources, and combining that with his obvious incredible skill with a paint brush, J3 has been able to infuse his work with a familiar look that pushes beyond general graffiti. To look at his pieces is to see skill at the forefront, and it makes for an experience that is both intriguing and unforgettable.

Since getting his start in street art, J3 has moved to other forms as well, including directing, illustration, and even traditional painting. While these certainly don’t have the scale of his murals, they do display the considerable skill of an artist in his prime.

museum of public art website

Museum of Public Art

In the state of Louisiana, on the banks of the historic Mississippi River, lies the city of Baton Rouge. It’s a city steeped in culture and history that’s often overshadowed by it’s much louder, more popular Louisiana metropolis New Orleans. But it is here that a small nonprofit museum has been established to celebrate the best public art in the world.

Choosing a town like Baton Rouge for its headquarters makes sense for the Museum of Public Art. In a recent video, Museum Director Kevin Harris explains the importance of public art, and why it’s less invasive than the art in galleries. “The benefit of public art is not necessarily conscious or literal, it’s unconscious,” he says in a video promoting their recent Egoless event,  “And when you try to get people to explain ‘how does this benefit you?’ they can’t consciously come up with a reason, even though it affects them.”

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The museum was the brainchild of Mark Rogovin, Marie Burton, and Holly Highfill, leaders in the Chicago mural renaissance. Founded in 1973, the museum and its curators wanted something that rejected the usual means of “making it” in the art community. Instead of barring access, they wanted to open it up and include the community in their artistic endeavours and politics. So the Museum of Public Art was created with a simple but important mission statement, that “the priority audience for which we paint is the audience of our own communities, working people of all ethnic backgrounds. Our subject matter comes from the history and culture, the needs and struggles, of communities. Our art speaks of the dignity of the people and projects a vision of a future free from war and exploitation. The form we have chosen is murals, murals can be a great way to reaching thousands upon thousands of people, since they are in public spaces, accessible to everyone.”

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The building itself is small and unassuming, a contrast to the powerful pieces inside, a brick building on the corner of Eddie Robinson and Myrtle in the Old South Baton Rouge Community. The building, naturally, is surrounded with murals that constantly change based on who’s available and who wants to paint. The museum itself is open every Sunday for tours and insights into what public art is, how it’s important to the community, and what’s on display at the museum.

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What the Museum of Public Art accomplished is an important mix of what makes street art important and different. While the building itself rotates artists, it’s constantly giving a permanent place to artists who want to connect with the community. It gives an art form that is almost necessarily without a home, without a permanent place, exactly that: a space that can be considered safe and useful for a community that isn’t safe, and is often derided as being useless. Here, public artists are given the museum treatment, their works taken seriously without crossing over into the traditional system that has discriminated and dissuaded thousands of artists from gaining legitimacy and recognition. Instead, this is a museum for street artists, by street artists, and catering to anyone who thinks public art is an important part of our contemporary and historical experience.

Be sure to check out their online gallery.

walldogs website homepage

The Walldogs: Bringing Towns to Life with Mural Art

Imagine you live in a small town with limited resources but lots of character. You have old buildings that need a bit of sprucing up or entire streets that are wearing their age on their sleeves. The town looks like it’s on the cusp of being beautiful and it just needs an extra push to get that look it once had. With some extra life added to the town, you could attract new visitors, maybe even some new residents, and get some fresh blood into your home so more people can share in what makes your town so special.

Walldogs is a business and art collective that’s dedicated to that exact problem. Coming from all over the world, the Walldogs descend on a town for a short time and blitz a whole bunch of new murals for a town. They take old buildings and give them new life and, in turn, can help towns revitalize and start on a new path with a new look. Think of it as a new haircut but for an entire town, and it’s been a very popular service all over North America.

Here’s how it works: A town that wants to liven up their look contacts Walldogs. Walldogs sets them up with a project coordinator and event host who work with the city to decide on the murals, where the murals will be, and how many the town wants. The Walldogs then supply all the paints while the town itself supplies the other necessary materials. Then, over the course of a few days, the Walldogs come into the town, enlist local volunteers to help, and paint all the murals. Some towns turn the event into a festival of sorts, bringing in music and entertainment to help drum up support and excitement for the event. Then when it’s all said and done, the Walldogs leave and the town has a new set of murals for everyone to enjoy.

The Walldogs is a for-profit service but one that helps bring towns together and, compared to other revitalization methods, is incredibly inexpensive. Unlike some plans, which involve long construction, delays, and often times imported labour that divides a town rather than unites it, the Walldogs is about the community itself. The murals are designed with the town’s history at heart and people are encouraged to join in on the fun. The Walldogs themselves seem to welcome anyone that’s willing to “show up to an event with a brush in hand and jump in.” By uniting the population through art, and by using experienced painters as project leads, Walldogs can bring an entire town together and give it a new lease on life.

The Walldogs themselves are an art collective that are all passionate about murals and street art. Most of them own their own sign shops and do Walldogs as a special side project. The movement is now over 20 years old, with dozens of towns reaping the benefits. So if you live in a small town that may need some sprucing up, consider street art and consider the Walldogs.

LA City

LA’s Ban On Murals

Once deemed the Mural Capital of the World, LA became a ghost town for muralists. Started in 2003, the ban was directed at advertisers and simply took many artists with it. At the time, LA was concerned about corporate messages being hidden in the many public art displays around town, a guerrilla marketing tactic that made it hard to differentiate someone pushing a product and someone trying to create art. A blanket ban on murals ended the all public art displays, corporate and otherwise, but the city has been persuaded after a long decade that public art can be allowed back. LA’s own Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles, a non-profit dedicated to preserving and documenting murals, drafted the legislation as a combined effort between the city and hundreds of local muralists and artists. Even though the ban has been repealed, it hasn’t come without restrictions.

Murals are still banned from public buildings, being restricted to privately owned buildings exclusively, and those murals can happen only after the artist pays $60 and fills out the appropriate application form. To prevent advertisers taking advantage of the changes, murals must stay up for 2 years. Unless, of course, the city itself decides otherwise. Artists are still being met with restrictions and red tape at every turn and even if they do manage to get everything in order, there is still a strong chance the city will paint over the mural if certain protocols aren’t met. The city, despite lifting the ban, doesn’t seem to eager to let local artists do good work on private property.

Even the public is on the fence about whether the ban is a good thing or not. A large mural downtown, for example, only barely managed to get made and had to justify itself against a petition with 12,000 signatures and an intervention by the Mayor’s office. Neighbourhoods have to also “opt-in” to the repeal, limiting the space where artists can work even further. Just where, what, and exactly how these murals are being made seems to be at the forefront of many people’s minds.

Of course, the ban was unevenly enforced during its 11-year reign. Celebrities like James Franco managed to get murals up when they wanted, while others were forced to take them down. Now, artists have a bit more freedom and are less likely to face any legal ramifications for their art, but the regulation still makes public art a public concern.

LA’s ban and subsequent repeal brings along a large number of questions about public art, corporate advertising, and how a city and its citizens regard murals and the people who make them. Many citizens worry about graffiti and vandalism, or murals they think are inappropriate or being made in their neighbourhood in a city where shock still seems to reign supreme. The efforts by the city are an example of listening to artists and concerned citizens, even if the result is difficult and cumbersome. Muralists still seem to be the villain, or at least a barely tolerated presence in the city that once claimed to be the Mural Capital.

mural routes website

Mural Routes, Bringing Artists, Business & The Public Together

Here at MuralForm, we like to talk about awesome street artists and cool projects, but we also love showing how street art can improve communities. Street art and murals can help cities develop tourism, document their history, or even celebrate their triumphs. Murals can define a city’s aesthetic or even contribute to a national identity, as many saw in Brazil this year during the World Cup, and there are many organizations both local and international that try to encourage street art for these reasons.

One such organization is Mural Routes, a not-for-profit organization based in Ontario dedicated to “the promotion of wall art as a public art form for the general benefit of communities and artists,” according to their website. The organization works with local and international agencies, volunteers, and artists to bring mural art to Ontario communities, predominantly Toronto, and to helping mural artists and enthusiasts to stay connected and mutually supportive.

A Little History

Mural Routes has been around for nearly 25 years, starting in the 1990s as an art project with the Scarborough Arts Council. By 1994, Mural Routes had expanded its scope and incorporated itself apart from the Arts Council while still working closely with them. Much of their artistic work results from collaboration with local businesses and governments. The recently unveiled “Eastern Gateway” mural, for example, is the combined efforts of the City of Toronto and Mural Routes. Located at 277 Old Kingston R. in Scarborough, the mural is a permanent piece designed to welcome people into the town. While designed by local artists, the project came together through the volunteer efforts of Scarborough youth interested in street art and making their town that much brighter.

Mural Routes was also integral to the Warden Avenue Underpass mural. This piece documents the local history of the area while adding some colour to a usually ignored part of a city. Once again a collaboration of the City of Toronto and Mural Routes, the piece was praised by city councilwoman Michelle Berardinetti.

While Mural Routes is interested in getting murals onto walls, their major focus is connecting and educating the public and artists on the benefits and opportunities tied to murals. The organization regularly hosts networking events and professional development workshops, embracing the business end of street art while promoting its benefits to Canadians. Much of the information shared and exchanged at Mural Routes various meetings was compiled into Mural Production: A Resource Handbook for artists and business owners.

Mural Routes continues to bring artists, businesses, and the public together by promoting the many benefits of street art, whether its through community meetings or murals made with community involvement. The program is great for aspiring artists, community members, and business owners together and it is this multifaceted approach that lets Mural Routes stand apart from other muralist organizations. For more information, be sure to visit their website.