Personally, I have always hated group projects. You have to get together with a bunch of different people and make all your ideas work together to come up with one finished product. It’s stressful and irritating, but to my surprise Forward Warrior, a joint art project was nothing like that.
This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending a live painting performance event that took over the Cabbagetown community in Atlanta. Over 30 artists gathered together under the leadership of Peter Ferrari and painted a joint mural on a wall along Wylie Street. I imagined that this mural painting would be like a giant group project for artist, but it was not.
All of the artists were given a section of the wall to develop and they were allowed to do whatever they wanted with their space. Some of the artists came with their ideas sketched out and others showed up that morning with no idea of what they were going to create. Artists that worked next to each other worked out ways to make their paintings fit together and the finished products came out amazing. I loved being able to distinctly see where one artist’s work ended and another started. Each style was uniquely beautiful and the differences are what made each piece stand out. The environment on Wylie Street was full of color that Saturday, the artists had their own set up and were painting with their tools of choice. I saw mostly spray paint being used to develop the mural, but at least one or two artists were using brushes and buckets of acrylic paint. One of the things I found to be interesting was the individual process of each artist. Some had on headphones, so that they could listen to music while working, while other artists had their music blasting from their car radios, and some of the artists were in conversations with people passing on the street.
I spoke with Ashley Anderson while at the event, he was using spray paint to create what he described as a mix of the cartoon character Garfield and a character from an anime called “Fist of the North Star” and I’d say that description was spot on. The character he was painting had a round orange head with Garfield ears propped on top, but the face was definitely inspired by Japanese art. When I asked about the inspiration behind his work, he said: “I’m really big into like modernism, like late 19th century through mid-twentieth century modernism, pop, but even stuff beyond that like [Jean-François] Millet,a French painter. Actually I just got back from New York last week. I went to see Glow ATL at Central Park. I went to the MoMA [the Museum of Modern Art], the Guggenheim, the Met, the Frick. I think I went to like 20 things in seven days of just like art constantly, so I love all kinds of stuff.”
Some of the other muralists used nature and space as their inspiration. As I walked down the street, checking out the art I stumbled across a slew of other artists including Amy Ashbaugh, Nelson, Lonnie Garner, and Skie they were working on a fence outside of the restaurant, 97 Estoria. They decided that they wanted each of their pieces to incorporate a piece of nature and outer space. These four pictures were easily my favorite pieces in the show. I loved how they meshed together with their theme, but how each style was really distinct. Also, these four artists were really welcoming and entertaining to watch. Ashbaugh worked with spray paint to create an owl that she had set in outer space. She told me that the reasoning behind her choice was that owls were one of her favorites and a general crowd pleaser.
Nelson painted a hummingbird in outer space that fit really well with Ashbaugh’s piece. His painting had a lot of personality. I loved the lines he used and the bright neon colors that made up his piece. Watching the progression of his artwork was really cool. He started off just getting color on the wall and then he just kept adding layers of detail. It went from looking like a basic wall to an amazing piece of artwork.
Garner painted an exotic looking woman surrounded by flowers with a cosmos background to match the theme of the other works on the wall. The woman he painted was so detailed and the eyes were incredible. I had to know what kind of art he usually did, and I was surprised to find out that he actually works mostly with design. On his website, Garner says, “My early influences in design originally came from skateboard, hip-hop, and graffiti culture but has now evolved over time to complement executions in communication arts and advertising. In 2010 I began to freelance for numerous clients focusing on apparel illustrations and since my career has grown into providing solutions for Digital, Print, and UX Design.”
In fact, most of these artists come from diverse backgrounds. Some of them paint professionally for galleries and others work in design. They use everything from watercolor and oil to spray paint and they all have different styles of painting. Forward Warrior was such an incredible experience for me and all the other art enthusiasts who were walking around Cabbagetown that day. To see artists work together to create one massive, awe-inspiring mural and each put their own unique mark down in Atlanta was fascinating. I look forward to seeing the art around town now and knowing the artists that created it.