Watching nomadic artist Sebastian “Vela” Velazquez put paint on a wall is like watching a maestro conduct a symphony orchestra. The artist thoughtfully chooses a color from a wide selection of aerosols that sit at his disposal, and then without any hesitation he expertly waves his arm. Paint sprays onto a blank grey wall, bringing it to life with vivid shapes and colors.
Vela is the latest artist to produce work for the Corvallis Mural Project. The freshly painted mural is located downtown on 4th Street, on the side wall of the Reynolds Law Firm building. The large-scale mural is a vibrant Pacific Northwest scene, complete with two large deer, waterfalls, Chinook salmon, a beaver, and an underwater beaver dam. The title of the mural is fittingly “Oh Dear.”
Hailing most recently from Santa Fe, New Mexico, Vela has been living in Corvallis for the past six months. He came to the Northwest hoping to branch out and expand his artistry. Vela said, “When I came to Corvallis I saw so many opportunities for public artwork and color. As I connected with nature and the things around here, I wanted to be able to translate that feeling of the natural environment into visual art for people and their community.”
As a child, Vela started practicing art by working with acrylics. He later advanced to studio work, and then on to large-scale murals as a teenager.
“People work all week long, going to work from 9 to 5. It is nice to pass by a mural that reminds you of the outdoors during your busy daily life. You can’t go on a hike in the woods every day, but a good mural can remind you of that scene and make life feel a little less hectic,” he explained.
Vela is a prolific artist with a long list of accomplishments. His honors include being the poster artist for the iconic Zozobra celebration in Santa Fe, a featured artist at Meeting of Styles in Houston, Texas, and a featured live artist for the South Park Music Festival in Colorado, to name a few. He has painted hundreds of murals across the Southwest, trying out different styles and using a variety of mediums. The mural he painted in Corvallis was done solely using aerosol paints.
It took a few weeks for all the involved parties to agree on what would be the final design of the Reynolds Law Firm mural. One of the proposed proofs included a huge mama black bear and her cubs, but the doe and her fawns won out in the end. Once the final concept was in place, Vela wasted no time. He completed the 30-foot by 70-foot piece in only five days—five long, and sometimes stormy, 10- to 12-hour days.
As soon as the mural was finished, Vela packed his bags to head to New Mexico, which will be home to his next project. He promises that Corvallis has not seen the last of him and that he will return in late August—hopefully to paint more murals. When asked what the future holds for him, Vela replied, “Art is mysterious. It is really unexplainable. The more I practice my art, the more I see people being affected by it in different ways. I want to bring more color and influence to more communities. That is the overall purpose of my life: showing people color.”
Full disclosure: the author of this article is the current curator for the Corvallis Mural Project.
By Jennifer Moreland