When former graffiti artist Clyde Thompson experienced the European art scene at age 21, he was inspired by the sweep of what he saw.
“When I saw the murals in Europe, they looked like pieces of fine art that you’d see in a gallery, just at the scale of 10 to 20 stories tall,” said the Arizona State University alumnus, who graduated in 2016 with a bachelor's in design studies. “And ever since then, that has been my goal to create murals that don't compromise quality and to eventually do something as big as 10 to 20 stories tall.”
He'll be getting a chance to create his next mural later this year as part of the Call to Artists initiative, when he paints the Central Avenue side of the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel. The Call to Artists opportunity was an effort by the hotel and the Downtown Phoenix Partnership, with support by Artlink Inc.
Artlink President Catrina Kahler said these initiatives were opportunities to help artists further establish themselves.
“We want to be the art link organization that helps connect artists, business and communities to create a stronger arts and culture community,” Kahler said.
Thompson is excited for the chance.
“With commissions, you are kind of compromising your art to go with whatever they want,” he said. “With this (Renaissance mural) we were so in sync, and I just get to do my art.”
Although he often figures out the color scheme while he's painting, Thompson predicts he will be using cool colors such as blues and greens to help cool down the hot city.
“There is going to be a lot of moving lines and various shapes and tons of shades of that (sedimentary rock) color throughout the entire wall,” Thompson said, “because there are a ton of shadows that drop over it.”
After graduating high school, Thompson took an art history course at local community college. This was the first time he had been introduced to art, which inspired him to use his spray paint to create murals rather than just writing his name. He went on to complete his studies at ASU.
As he is interacting more with the Phoenix art scene, Thompson finds that a lot of people know his art but not a lot of people know him directly.
“Every time I would meet people, they would say, 'You're mysterious,'” Thompson said.
Local storyteller Raina Bowers, who first met Thompson when he was her pizza delivery man in college, calls him intentional and eclectic.
“He is one of the kindest, most respectful, thoughtful people out there, and I appreciate that about him very much,” Bowers said.
Thompson — who also makes a living working for a local general contractor and at a local tree-service company, and who spent four months working as a commercial fisherman in Alaska this past year — is both inspired by the scale of murals and realistic about the challenge in that.
“A lot of times murals are compromised because they are so large,” said Thompson, whose largest mural to date was 140 by 50 feet, painted on a 45-degree-angle wall, which he completed within three days.
He is often able to camouflage electrical boxes and pipes, as seen in his murals “Wherever You Go” and “Women in a Dream III.”
Murals elicit immediate feedback from the public — Thompson recalled a middle school kid yelling “It looks terrible!” as he and his mom drove past his last mural, which struck him as funny — and have the unique challenge of being visible while they are still in progress.
“If you’re in an area with a lot of people who are viewing you while you paint, you're not going to finish it in that day, so you are leaving that progressed work out for everyone to view,” he said. “Some people think it’s finished. Some people don’t know where it’s going.”
Written by Cronkite School student Ashley Oakes