There’s a splash of color developing off East Gutierrez Street as artist Gus Harper paints a mural on a cinderblock wall outside Urban Grow Systems.
The project will take at least four days, so it may look like a big, red canvas now. But eventually, it’ll be painted full of florals, gems and blue agave. Mr. Harper said it’s a “painting about abundance.”
“It’s a theme I paint a lot, the quest to find beauty,” he said.
His website, gusharperart.com, lends a taste of his work. He paints in deep, saturated colors with gradiation that brings depth to large, flat walls. He says murals draw attention to businesses and locations.
“It beautifies the property but also puts a spotlight on it,” he said.
Business owners can easily direct customers to their establishment when a piece of art adorns the property. One of Mr. Harper’s clients tells people to “turn left at the mural.”
J.D. Ashton, owner of Urban Grow Systems, relocated the business in January 2018 to 611 E. Gutierrez St. in Santa Barbara.
He just added a nursery to his store and sells plants that produce food.
He saw Mr. Harper’s mural “Sojourners” at 126 E. Haley St. and gave him a call.
“I wanted to add some art to the area,” Mr. Ashton said. “I look at that wall every day; it’s my view outside my office.”
He wanted a mural that would compliment the powder blue vintage truck that ornaments the nursery. They decided on blue agave as the main plant featured for its color and since it fits the business’s edible-plant philosophy (because tequila, of course).
He commissioned a second mural around the side of the business too.
“I wanted to beautify the area downtown and give our nursery clients good vibes while they’re shopping with us,” he said.
Mr. Harper has seen more murals pop up over the years as more people come to value public art and also use it as a form of expression.
“I think people really appreciate art the public can see,” he said.
He primarily paints on traditional canvases and says that side of business has been busy lately.
“During this whole COVID-19 time, I’ve been selling a lot of paintings,” he said. “People want something happy in their home.”
He estimates that he’s painted 30 to 40 murals, and they’re located all around the world.
“Every country I go to, I do a mural,” he said.
He’s a Santa Monica resident but does work all over the region.
He studied art and pre-law at UC Santa Barbara, so he has lots of friends locally. He says he may be painting for a bit longer than four days if he gets distracted by his buddies.