Tag: Street art

All the Art in Austin is Fine

Piece created by Rone, an artist originally from Australia who is famous for doing portraits. The piece is located on the corner of 5th and Pedernales street. (Credit: Jamie Balli)

Piece created by Rone, an artist originally from Australia who is famous for doing portraits. The piece is located on the corner of 5th and Pedernales street. (Credit: Jamie Balli)

When it comes to fine art and street art in Austin, the lines get a little blurry.

A sense of vibrant creativity has defined Austin for many years now. The city is best known for its colorful live music scene, filled with artists working in a variety of genres. But more recently, Austin has staked out a reputation for being a place for the advancement and exploration of art.

Austin’s famed Castle Hill Graffiti Park on Baylor Street downtown exemplifies this. The large collection of graffiti and street art is now considered a local destination, something tourists and travelers passing through make a point of seeing before they leave.

Street art, such as that which is on display at the park, has spread throughout Austin. Murals around town, like the University Co-op at the University of Texas campus, serve as examples of street art’s influence.

But as Austin grows and more people bring their business to the city, a new market has emerged for private commissions, pieces tailored more for an individual than for public perusal. Thus began the demand for Austin’s artists to produce fine art.

This piece done by Sloke, Rei, and Spain is located behind Kasbah Hookah Lounge on 28th and Guadalupe street. (Credit: Jamie Balli)

This piece done by Sloke, Rei, and Spain is located behind Kasbah Hookah Lounge on 28th and Guadalupe street.The camel is designed to compliment the Moroccan lounge. (Credit: Jamie Balli)

Jake Bryer of Austin Art Garage sees fine art as being far different from its street cousin.

“There are some defining characteristics separating street art and fine art,” Bryer said. “Street art is more about communicating on a large scale with the general public, while fine art is more about connecting on an individual level.”

This separation makes for some important differences in the actual creation of each piece. While fine art is meant to be owned by an individual and must suit the taste of a buyer, street art can be created free from such concerns. An artist is better able to communicate their own message or push perceived boundaries.

But there are financial issues which must be considered. For all the good a message sent might do, it won’t necessarily put food on the table. And even if an artist does decide to focus on monetary gain, there’s no guarantee that they’ll be able to sustain themselves.

Rachel Stephens of the Wally Workman Gallery sees many artists who face these kinds of struggles, and attributes some of that difficulty to a customer base that can’t keep up with the number of aspiring creators in town.

“Even today, very few galleries are able to survive because the collector base is still somewhat limited,” Stephens said.

Stephens sees adaptability as key for local artists trying to make a career out of their passion.

“I think that many Austin artists become jacks of all trades, as not many of them have been able to support themselves solely with their fine art,” Stephens said.

Artists may also be helped by having a willingness to expand the breadth of their work. Some residents who have an appreciation for Austin’s reputation for public art displays may wish to see similar works commissioned for themselves, blurring the line between art that is categorized as “fine” or “street.”

The Virgin Mary, a piece created by Sloke and Rei, is located on Cesar Chavez and Pedernales street. It was created with other art pieces around the wall that are dedicated in celebration of Dia de los Muertos. (Credit: Jamie Balli)

The Virgin Mary, a piece created by Sloke and Rei is located on Cesar Chavez and Pedernales street. It was created with other art pieces around the wall that are dedicated in celebration of Dia de los Muertos. (Credit: Jamie Balli)

“Who really defines fine art? I think the pieces of street art that go beyond self-serving graffiti and intelligently speak to a larger context can be considered fine art,” Stephens said.

While this may be true, Bryer is quick to note that, in his experience working in a gallery, he has found that not everything that works on the side of a brick wall can be expected to sell and generate income for an artist. Even if it isn’t purely self-serving.

“Not everyone wants a skull painting in their kitchen,” Bryer said.

While making it work as an artist and finding the right middle ground between one’s passions and the realities of the art business may be difficult, it can be done. Roshi K works as an artist in Austin and has produced many commissioned pieces for clients, such as Fun Fun Fun Fest and the Victoria Festival. She has found that the key to transitioning from working on the street to being a professional may lie in making the right connections and aggressively pursuing clients.

“(You need to) do well at marketing yourself and putting yourself out there, and you’re working and talking with people, which means you can’t be shy,” Roshi said.

Roshi also emphasizes the importance of striking the right balance between quality and quantity, producing enough to work to create a healthy reputation while also making sure that each piece is up to one’s standards.

And having some talent doesn’t hurt either.

“It’s one of those things where if you’re producing a ton of amazing pieces, of course that’s going to be more likely to catch a lot of people’s attention,” Roshi said.


Photo by Rachel Hill

Stencils of a homeless man’s face, by Seve Garza at the Hope Wall. Photo by Rachel Hill.

By Chelsea Bass, Joanie Ferguson, Rachel Hill, and Britini Shaw

Most artists were born with an easel in their cribs and a colored pencil in their hands, but local Austin street artist, Severiano ‘Seve’ Garza, learned his artistic skills following tutorials on YouTube.

“I had a lot of time on my hands and I started watching YouTube tutorials on how to do random skills,” Garza said. “I found Photoshop tutorials and I got really good at messing with people’s faces.”

At 16 he was diagnosed with Osteochondritis dissecans disorder, and was unable to continue with contact sports. In 2010 as a sophomore in college at Chapman University, in Orange Calif., Garza was at a standstill because he could no longer play baseball, and was compelled to seek out a new activity and thus created a new identity in art.

“Honestly I was really bored and needed something to take up my time instead of sports,” Garza said about his beginnings in art.

Some of his initial work included photos of celebrities, which he would morph together with animals on Photoshop. His most popular Photoshop project was of Paris Hilton with lizard features. He later looked into tutorials on stencils, which became his main medium for his artwork.

“I learned how to turn images into stencils, so I developed my own style,” Garza said.
Armed with an arsenal of spray paint bottles, a box of stencils, and spray paint under his nails, Garza does most of his work at the Hope Wall in Austin.

He often uses faces of those he encounters in his life journey as the subject of his graffiti art and duplicates and layers the image several times.

“People always ask me what inspired me to paint what I paint,” Garza said. “Honestly, I just use whatever I see.”
His artwork can be easily identified by his tag, or street name, g52cube. Garza uses the cube in his tag because geometry was “the only subject I was good at in school.”

The tag name originated from his great grandfather who drove 51 head of cattle from Central America. The animals were branded with ‘G51’. His grandfather then used the brand for his engineering firm and his father uses it currently for his venture capitalist firm.

Garza's tag, g52cube. Photo by Rachel Hill.

Garza’s tag, g52cube. Photo by Rachel Hill.

When his business-minded father found out his son, who majored in business marketing with a minor in studio art, decided to be an artist full time, he was initially hesitant to support him.

“Any resistance met from my family was because of the stereotypes associated with artists being broke and hungry,” Garza said. “Now that they have seen that it can be more sustainable than they originally thought, they’re more supportive.”

Even though Garza is not working directly in the business field, he attributes his current success to his knowledge in business marketing and the value of the Internet, which he says makes the “possibilities endless for an artist.”

“It’s like fishing in the ocean versus a small pond, if you’ve done your research [for a target audience] you have a better way to sell,” Garza said.

A lot of his artwork is solely based on his interests but he also works with Spartx street artist crew, a group of artists that helps curate the Hope Wall.

“I do a lot of work for them whether it’s photo, video or paint jobs,” Garza said.

As a street artist, Garza spends most of his time creating graffiti, but as a self-proclaimed activist, he also devotes his spare time to a yearlong awareness project he started that documents the lives of homeless people in Austin. “Forty percent of homeless people suffer from mental disabilities,” Garza said, while elaborating on his interest in the local homeless community.

“Nobody sees them as people,” Garza said. “I want to get people to think about something they’ve never thought about.”
Garza hopes to spread awareness through video interviews and paintings of the homeless men’s faces on the Hope Wall.

“We don’t notice these people,” Garza said. “I want people to know, [the homeless community] is here and it’s huge.”

In March, Garza was able to speak at TedxYouth in Austin for a crowd of 700 high school and middle school students about his work and identity as a street artist.

“I always saw myself as a leader and lost the only thing I could be a leader at and I always really valued the fact that people wanted to listen to what I had to say,” Garza said. “Now I use [art] as a way to seek the approval of others.”

In the future, Garza hopes to own a hotel or restaurant featuring art as a way to make money while cultivating new artists in the process, but for now he sells his paintings on his website and uses the Hope Wall as his giant canvas.

“When I moved back [to Austin] a friend introduced me to it,” Garza said. “It was destiny for me to go and paint there.”