On Tuesday afternoon, while the Neumos crew bustled around Capitol Hill planning this weekend’s Capitol Hill Block Party, artist Crystal Barbre sat smoking a cigarette waiting for her scissor lift to recharge.
With murals, the hardest part isn’t the actual painting, she explained, it’s all the logistical distractions you don’t have to worry about when you’re doing your art in the studio — permits, scissor lift maintenance and not blocking the fire exit.
The prominent distraction? Passing pedestrians, all eager to share their opinion on her work.
Barbre said pedestrians are her favorite distraction.
A mural “is something normal people feel they relate to,” she said. “All the time people say to me ‘oh I don’t know anything about art,’ but when you do it in the bar they’re drinking at or you do it on the street that they live on, everybody has an opinion.”
Barbre and two other artists were commissioned by the Block Party and other arts organizations to paint a new mural commemorating the weekend. The Pike-facing work on Neumos, completed Thursday after a two-week painting process, melds Barbre’s classical realism with Joe Vollan’s macabre surrealism and the wildstyle graffiti of
New Zealand’s Ouch Seattle’s Ouchey.
Barbre’s section of the mural includes 3 female figures, one of whom blows a dandelion above Neumos’ vaulted window as a hummingbird hovers between the floating seeds.
Trained at Capitol Hill’s Gage Academy, Barbre said her goal is “to take Renaissance art and make it punk rock.”
“If there’s a place you can do that, it’s Seattle,” she said.
Vollan’s mural depicts a whale with a skeleton operating machinery from inside the stomach, floating above an ocean that includes a message in a bottle and a ship.
“It’s definitely a story piece but I don’t really know the story,” Vollan said. “There’s a lot of extra elements to the story if you take a second and look at it.”
Barbre enjoys having to work around the physical material of a wall — jutting pipes and transitions from brick to stucco.
“That tricks peoples’ eyes,” she said. “It invades peoples’ space.”
Barbre’s mural work includes a piece at Belltown’s Rabbit Hole, but this piece is her first outdoor mural. Though most murals are produced using acrylic paint, Barbre did her work in oil. She said this forced her to mock up a design that could be reproduced on the wall more quickly.
“It’s how it blends together, how the color pops,” she said.
Barbre said the artists had “pretty free reign” in designing the mural.
“They wanted it to be cohesive in one way or another,” she said.
The three disparate artworks come together through shared background elements, like jade-green waves at the bottom of Joe Vollan’s ocean and a blue tone popping from the text of Ouchey’s graffito.
Barbre hopes she can do more mural work in the future, in full view of a community that always seems to have an opinion to share.
“These are the happiest times I have doing art, because I get to interact with people,” she said. “I’m starting to realize that this is what I love about art.”
Gilda’s Club Mural
KING 5 reports that Diamond Parking Service will donate parking spaces to the volunteers looking to paint a mural over graffiti on the side of cancer-support nonprofit Gilda’s Club.
A representative of Gilda’s Club said work on the mural, designed by Seattle’s Game Not Fame, will start August 29th.