Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Shepard Fairey, unedited!

It was fun playing reporter for the Providence Journal, but it stinks getting edited, even if it was (hopefully) just for length. Here's my self-edited and just a tiny bit longer version, which of course, I thought was perfect as submitted.  I'm glad my paintings don't get copy-edited . . . at least not out loud.

Johan Bjurman opens his email to find a digital file, a drawing by artist Shepard Fairey for a 40’x80’ mural in three colors. His mission—translate it to the wall of the Pell-Chafee Performance Center, on budget on and on time. The budget being small, time being 4 weeks.
Which is why AS220 turned to Johan, an artist in his own right and a professional billboard painter. A “walldog” to those in the trade. And it’s why Johan hired E.F. O’Donnell & Sons to make short work of the square footage. And it’s why he looked slightly amused when I pitched the idea of “helping” him. He was gracious enough, though, to let me hang around and watch how it’s done.
I meet Johan at the worn parking lot behind AS220. Two white clad painters, high on a cherry picker, dip rollers into 5 gallon buckets covering the side of the building with a white canvas of paint. Johan goes into a shed and pulls out the plan he has mounted on a 3ft board, the graphic on one side and a map of broad areas of color on the other. He has time now, while he waits for his canvas, to explain how he’s grided the drawing in sections to fit to together “like a swiss watch”.  
When I stop by the next day I see rolls of brown paper, tied with twine and chalked with numbers and arrows, leaning against the shed. Forty 4’x20’  pounces have been prepared in his studio by tracing a projected enlargement using an electrically charged “pencil” that burns tiny holes in the sturdy brown paper.
High above, Johan is silhouetted against the white expanse. Unfurling a roll, he hits it with a cloth bag of powdered charcoal, leaving a wide smudge of black dust which escapes though the holes and imprints on the wall.
By day 5 the painters, following Johan’s charcoal lines, are finishing up huge areas of black, red and cream, creating a lively abstraction. The outline of the Bank of America, better known as the “Superman Building” anchors the center.
Day 7. More pouncing is done, this time for detail. Now it’s up to Johan, alone on the lift, to pull the mural from the abstraction. 30 feet up he is both removed and on display. The mural is starting to attract attention and the occasional Shepard Fairey groupie wondering if it’s Fairey himself up on the lift. Johan keeps his concentration on the wall. Each section has been assigned a fixed numbers of days to complete, with only a few days grace for bad weather.  The unveiling is scheduled for AS200’s Foo Fest on August 14 and he’s right on schedule.
When people speak of this, and they will, they’ll refer to it as the mural artist Shepard Fairey painted. Although Johan often wields his brush as both the artist and the painter, for this project being just the painter is fine with him. It’s good work when you can get it, being a walldog.

 Thanks to Johan Bjurman for being such a good sport and letting me take up his time when he needed to be painting, check out his website when you get a chance.

Here's the version of the video and story that projo ran, maybe it's better and I'm just a jerk!

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