Painter finishes mural in downtown SB
Gus Harper usually doesn’t wear headphones when he paints in his studio. But when he’s working on a mural, he uses headphones to drown out noise outside.
Passersby shouted compliments during the interview. He was just finishing up his mural outside of Urban Grow Systems, at 611 E. Gutierrez St. in Santa Barbara, and said he’d call it “Abundance.”
“Urban Grow Systems is all about growth, like a healthy kind of growth. Also, right now, there’s a lot of anxiety in the world,” he said. “So many people have been coming by. I’ll be painting and there’s somebody standing there, coming just to watch this thing and just smile.”
During COVID-19, he has been painting a lot in his studio. Normally, he travels, but the pandemic has kept him stateside for months on end.
“I’m just as busy as ever because, especially at the beginning, we were told to stay away from people. I stay away from people and paint all day in my studio as it is anyway,” he said. “So I just have been getting a ton of work done.”
Next, he’s going to paint three concrete barriers to surround a parklet in Santa Monica. And he’s painting 15 to 20 pieces in collaboration with another artist.
He works with businesses to inspire his murals, though he says most of them give him artistic freedom.
“Whenever I start a mural, I always start with a game plan, but I allow space in my mind for change to come in,” he said.
He planned for less red when he started painting “Abundance” but grew to include more red in the final mural.
He’s enjoyed working on it and finishing another mural in Santa Barbara. His first is at 126 E. Haley St. and caught the attention of J.D. Ashton, owner of Urban Grow Systems.
Mr. Harper’s clients find him through social media, word of mouth and seeing other murals. He booked a lot of murals after painting in Southeast Asia.
“It’s a nice way to spread positivity,” he said. “If you go to a country where nobody there has ever met somebody from your country, whether you want to be or not, you’re like an ambassador. So it’s always nice that I can go there and give people a positive experience and be invited back.”
He paints as a gift when he’s abroad. Then, he meets locals and gets invited to eat in their homes. Eventually, he goes back to see the friends he met and paint some more.
He hopes to do more work in Santa Barbara and make more people smile.