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Watch as SHINE artists create murals in real time

Bill DeYoung



Saturday, late afternoon: From Montreal, Canada, artist Bryan Beyung works on his mural's background. All photos by Bill DeYoung.

Blank canvas: SHINE Mural Festival director Jenee Priebe and artist Bryan Beyung, before the first brushstroke.

Separated by several hundred pale feet of concrete block wall, artists Bryan Beyung and Loretta Lizzio began creating murals last week on the south facade of Stewart Moving & Storage, a stone’s throw from the Pinellas Trail in the Warehouse Arts District. The building, at 2875 7th Avenue S., is 25 feet high.

Both artists are first-time participants in St. Petersburg’s SHINE Mural Festival, which for 2023 includes 14 muralists working around town through Oct. 22. Beyung hails from Canada, while Lizzio is Australian.

Both sections of wall were cleaned and primed before the artists’ arrival. SHINE director Jenee Priebe and her street team pre-delivered mechanical lifts (all mural artists know how to operate them) and storage units stocked with supplies.

Beyung checks the grid on his phone and compares it to the one he’s painting.

Day One (Friday, Oct. 13). This morning, Lizzio is up in her lift, drawing in a grid of squares. It’s tedious work, but necessary to transform a sketch into a giant work of art. A small grid is laid over the picture, then the entire grid – including the image – is re-sketched as a series of proportionately larger squares. The paint comes later. Some muralists prefer to project their desired image directly on the wall and trace it, full-sized. Both Lizzio and Beyung are using the grid method.

Beyung arrives to survey his concrete canvas. He hasn’t made a sketch yet. “I told Jenee I thought it would be best for me to come here and feel the environment, what’s going on around here,” he says. “To see the neighborhood. And then create my sketch from that – to see if what I have in mind is still suitable.”

His world-renowned murals usually, in some way, address his “diasporic heritage” (Beyung comes from a Chinese-Cambodian family).

This morning, he sizes up his assigned wall. He prefers portrait-sized spaces, but this one is horizontal. “I’ll manage it,” Beyung smiles. “I’ll still want to paint some people, so I’ll find a way to make it fit.”

Australia’s Loretta Lizzio measures out her grid.

Day Two (Saturday, Oct. 14). Beyung made his sketch and began painting a grid on the wall before sundown the previous day. Today, that work continues. By day’s end, four standing human figures have appeared on the wall, drawn piecemeal into the grid squares.

Lizzio, Saturday afternoon.

Faces and hands have also begun to materialize inside the grid Lizzio has reproduced on her wall; as she draws, she adjusts. Lizzio insists a mural is always in transition. “The grid allows me to see exactly what I’ve got, and then when I’m close to the wall I can see how much I can change it,” she explains. “Whereas if you go by eye, you get the proportions wrong sometimes.” It helps, too, to come down from the lift and take in the whole wall at once, to see how the big picture is coming along: “It depends on how much time you’ve got.”

It’s starting to look like something. “By the end of today, I might start putting in a little color on the hair,” she announces. “I won’t start on the faces, or the actual body, until Sunday.”

Sunday morning.

Chiahan Lee, left, and Bryan Beyung.

Day Three (Sunday, Oct. 15). Lizzio is hard at work in the morning, brushing in soft colors on the eyes and ears of one of the female figures she’s creating. The sketch is on her phone, which she has with her in the lift. She frequently refers to it as she applies paint to the enormous facial features.

There’s a long road ahead, Lizzio explains. “This whole body is going to be covered in pattern work,” she says. “Kind of like the faces are, with leaves going all around the body and the hands and everything. There will be a lot of greenery on the sides as well.”

The image depicts three women who are, according to the artist, sirens (in mythology, they lure sailors to certain disaster). “So I want them to be very beautiful, very sweet … but like sinister,” Lizzio laughs.

Beyung and his helper, fellow artist Chiahan Lee – they share a studio in Montreal – are blocking in background colors around the sketched-in figures. Beyung has indeed deduced how to put a portrait configuration inside a 90-foot horizontal canvas.

The figures in his mural are Cambodian refugees, standing on the road separating their country from Thailand. The smaller of the two children is Beyung’s now-adult friend Andy, who lives in Sarasota. Beyung based his sketch on a family photograph.

He says the background, to accommodate the wall space, will be greatly expanded and include a “psychedelic” sunset behind the family.

Beyung enjoys chatting with passers-by; they walk up, drive up and arrive on bicycles. “In Montreal, I feel murals are maybe more common,” he says. “There are more of them there, so we don’t get that much encouragement. The people here have been so great.”

Meanwhile, the work will continue, from dawn till dusk, all week long.

Loretta Lizzio.






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