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A Young Artist Makes Yonge and St. Clair a Place to Visit

There is a new life in Toronto city, thanks to Phlegm’s 8-storey mural.

phlegm mural painted on st clair

The Mural

What was once an empty side of a 12-storey commercial building at Yonge Street and St. Clair Avenue is currently a monster wall painting done by Phlegm, a British street artist and illustrator. Phlegm collaborated with a public arts organization, STEPS, to create Toronto’s newest public art landmark.

Assisted by Danforth-based muralist Stephanie Bellefleur, they painted a human silhouette peering at its surroundings. Stephanie was lucky to land this gig from a pool of over 100 applicants. While Phlegm was busy burning through cans of spray paint, Stephanie provided logistical support; overseeing materials and other hardware, working the swing stage and offering artistic input when required.

Phlegm came up with the idea of creating a human body out of the Toronto landmarks like the ROM, CN Tower, Old City Hall and St. Lawrence Market to portray the city as a spirited, living ecosystem. He also consulted with over 230 native residents and integrated their insights including certain buildings and ravines.

st clair mural being painted by phlegm

Phlegm

Born in North Wales and now residing in Sheffield, the UK, Phlegm is widely known as a cartoonist and an illustrator. His work is composed of quirky figures and a descriptive structure. They usually feature strange creatures and ancient-like beasts.

Most of Phlegm’s arts are entirely based on illustration. The larger part of his vast characters originates from comics which he often spray paints onto massive walls. Phlegm likes to use the black Indian ink and a dip pen for painting his work and only uses color for painting large murals or screen-painting.

Phlegm’s style has developed entirely from his independently published comics. In the most recent years, he has put a solid exertion into taking a shot at street art. He appreciates working the empty spaces on large walls, old industrial facilities and different structures. Phlegm believes that a piece of art in the street becomes part of the urban architecture and is impacted by what’s around it rather than being a cumbersome canvass in the art display or gallery.

Since Phlegm’s took the stage, he has gained recognition across the world and is a standout amongst the most respected street artists. His street art is distinctive and exceptionally full of energy. His work has additionally shown up in various objects such as vehicles, boats, planes and several street art festivals across Europe; the UK, Germany, Norway, Sweden and Croatia. He has also painted murals in Tunisia, New Zealand, Australia and the United States.

STEPS

This award-winning company was given the task to leverage underutilized public spaces in the heart of Toronto by Slate Asset Management, the owner of the four corners of Yonge and St. Clair.

STEPS couldn’t help but invite an artist to help beautify the plain wall of the Padulo building at 1st St. Clair Avenue. Their instincts led them all the way to Britain, calling Phlegm to take part in the project. Phlegm was chosen from 10 shortlisted artists because of his vast experience with giant murals and his unique black and white style.

With a solid mandate to fabricate the capacity of local developing artists, the St. Clair Ave. project was STEPS’ first on international level. They strongly believe the mural will cultivate cultural dialogue and help foster tourism in the region.

2016 leslieville mural painted by elicser

New Leslieville Mural Celebrates Local History

Toronto is one of the great cities of the world, a diverse metropolis with a rich history, progressive citizenship and, of course, beautiful street art. In fact, Toronto’s art scene has only grown with the city itself and people in almost every neighbourhood can point to beautiful, community-focused public art projects. In Kensington Market, the road is adorned with beautiful food graphics promoting the area’s food scene. In St. James Town, people can see the now-famous phoenix mural soaring on a prominent apartment building. And now, Leslieville has its very own mural that celebrates its past and looks towards its future.

Unveiled in September, the mural is a depiction of Alexander Muir sitting under the Maple Leaf Forever tree, which was destroyed during a storm three years ago. Muir, a Toronto poet, educator, soldier and songwriter, was the first principal of the Leslieville Public school and grew up in the area. Appropriately enough, the tree under which he sits in the mural is named after his most famous song, “Maple Leaf Forever.” The mural was painted by local muralist and artist Elicser Elliot and can be seen at the corner of Queen Street East and Jones Avenue.

The mural itself is actually covering up a mural that was created by a group of students twelve years ago. That mural, having since deteriorated and suffered vandalism, was in dire need of updating or repair. But, according to local copyright laws and regulations, the original creators were the only ones allowed to alter or restore the mural. Since their names have been scratched off or painted over, that became next to impossible.

2016 leslieville mural painted by elicser

2016 Leslieville mural painted by Elicser

Replacing the old mural has involved years of hard work by many members of the Leslieville community, who saw collaboration as a key aspect of the new mural. According to Inside Toronto, “Volunteers from the Leslieville Historical Society, members of the Leslieville Business Improvement Area, residents, and Elia, in partnership with the Ralph Thornton Community Centre and Ward 30 Councillor Fletcher’s office, formed a steering committee to discuss the future of the landmark site.”

old leslieville mural painted by students 12 years ago

The old Leslieville mural – damage is clearly visible.

Once a plan was in place, they secured grant funding from the city and mural designs started to pour in. Eventually, the selection process came down to just three artists: Dan Bergeron, Elicser Elliott, and Mediah. To make the final decision, local residents and business owners were invited to Project Gallery to decide on which mural they wanted. Elicser Elliott, often known more simply as ‘Elicser,’ had his design chosen and it was soon installed.

Leslieville has a long and rich history with a number of famous people who have contributed to its identity and success. Now, it continues that tradition with its latest mural, all while contributing to Toronto’s blossoming and diverse art scene.

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.

kwest working on large mural sculpture

KWEST Crafts World’s Largest Graffiti Sculpture

Graffiti wording is one of the most recognizable aspects of street art. Highly stylized letters and words have become an intrinsic part of the street art and graffiti culture, so much so that learning to letter properly is often seen as an important stepping stone in any artist’s career. It’s a place where people can start to experiment with their own true style and many artists end up creating a definitive signature that is the result of everything they’ve learned about graffiti lettering, often very early on in their career. You can see it on most street art, in fact, a small but perfected signature of the artist on their piece. No matter where their work has gone, that small homage to the graffiti letter will always remain.

But such widespread popularity has made graffiti lettering an often ignored or reviled aspect of the street art scene. Indeed, many people can list off examples of lettering that they would consider crude graffiti, not art, scrawled to announce graduating classes, love, or simply to write profanity in a certain way. It appears on bridges, in subways, and all over, and most people would prefer to ignore it.

Enter Canadian street artist and graffiti lettering lover KWEST. The Toronto-based graffiti artist has mastered the art of lettering, as anyone in Canada’s largest city can attest. His beautiful and distinctive renditions appear all over the city, from Kensington Market to GO Station rails, and is some of the most accomplished work in the entire city.

So when KWEST (pronounced “quest”) was invited to a European music festival that has a large dedication to art, he decided to take what he does best and make it so no one could ignore it. The result is his biggest project to date, a series of graffiti letters made from wood that looked like they were scrawled in Toronto, but were actually freestanding at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark.

The process of putting together what has been called “the world’s biggest graffiti letter sculpture” started in a warehouse near the festival, where KWEST and his team were given hundreds and hundreds of pieces of wood to make the letters. Working together over the course of a few days before music lovers showed up to the festival, they carefully carved, cut, and sanded the pieces into the perfect shape. The entire process looked like the team was making an abstract skateboard park more than graffiti letters and it wasn’t until they were up and painted that the project began to take shape.

kwest-largest-sculp

KWEST does all of his graffiti writing free hand with spray cans and he wanted to give that style to the letters, but also give them considerable depth. So, with the help of some of his friends and co-artists, they decided on a colour palette that gave the pieces an even larger, more pronounced look. The result was a sculpture that commanded an audience, impossible to ignore and breathtaking in scope.