The Five Local Artists Who Creatively Killed It at the Second Annual POW! WOW! Long Beach

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Photos by Asia Morris.

These five Long Beach residents were invited to contribute to the second and largest POW! WOW! Long Beach yet, where more than 20 murals were painted throughout the city by artists from around the world. 

Last year, Jeff McMillan was the sole Long Beach artist invited to paint during POW! WOW! Long Beach, a fact that many locals lamented. This year, the street art festival has not only expanded its reach throughout the city, but it seems like the local artists have also stepped up their game and risen to the occasion, some painting larger than they’ve ever painted before.

Read below to learn about each of the murals painted and how the artists went about creating their works on an epic scale:

David Van Patten 

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David Van Patten’s first POW! WOW! Experience has been one of over 100 tedious hours, learning to paint on a large scale and guiding the dozens of community members who showed up to help in the right direction. It’s almost a story in itself how very Long Beach Van Patten’s experience turned out to be.

“One local guy had a really cool lightning bolt T-shirt, and I commented to him that I liked it, and he literally took the shirt off his back and gave it to me,” said Van Patten. “People have been very generous—the building tenants bought me pizza, Berlin café has given me free coffee and lunch all week, people have brought me beer, even weed, and lots and lots of people have helped out with the painting in color process including random people of the neighborhood who I don't even know.”

Inspired by The Beatles' Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover, he inserted a lot his own characters into the larger-than-life size cast, now immortalized with Van Patten’s paint brush. The mural is finally finished, just not by the artist’s standards. If you happen to be walking or driving down Broadway Thursday morning, you might see Van Patten leaning over the roof, touching up the sun in the top right corner.

“It’s a bullshit little touch up that no one will notice, but I will lose sleep over it if I don’t fix it,” he said.

After the sun is done, the artist plans to enjoy a well-earned rooftop cigar, to be had while “staring down at the city like a gangster.” 

The mural is located in the alley at 425 Broadway.

Gail Werner 

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Werner’s Native American background and affiliation with the Southern California-based Cupeño, Luiseño and Kumeyaay tribes informed her mural, now gracing the side of the Super Suds Laundromat on the corner of Alamitos Avenue and Appleton Street.

As a Long Beach resident since the early '80s, when she ventured here to earn a Master of Fine Arts at Cal State Long Beach (CSULB), the painter and printmaker was understandably a little anxious about blowing her usually intricate style up to greater proportions.

“I was very nervous,” she said. “You anticipate all the problems leading up to these things, but once [I] started, you’re not worrying about all those things as much.”

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The larger-than-life Rock wren perched above the painted plants based upon the artist’s collection of dried yucca pods, is an inspiration garnered from the tribal songs, called bird songs, that describe the journey of a migration.

“Each song is different,” Werner explained. “Some are related to creation stories, but the main thing I like is they’re talking about the migration of the birds, but they’re actually people. They lose their homes[...] or decide to leave, but it’s all the things that they see on their migration, the mountains, the desert, the night sky. I like the fact that it’s about this journey and what they’re seeing on this journey.”

Werner was helped by CSULB alumni, while the Department Chair of Native American Studies proposed that she take on the project. The artist’s mural is truly a Long Beach gem worth checking out.

The mural is located at Super Suds Laundromat at 250 Alamitos Avenue.

The Draculas 

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The Draculas were formed unofficially during the inaugural POW! WOW! Long Beach, when Jeff McMillan was invited to paint a mural larger than he ever had before, and enlisted the help of friend, illustrator and production design teacher at Cal State Long Beach, Gary Musgrave.

The duo would work on McMillan’s haunted cranes, located in between the Hyatt Regency and the Long Beach Convention Center, late into the night. Thus the two dubbed their collaborative effort after the nocturnal character.

“There's just something that happens at night that appeals to us,” said McMillan. “Working when the majority of the city is sleeping is great. It's totally quiet and peaceful, the phones aren't ringing, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are slow and it's usually pretty cool, temperature-wise.”

McMillan and Musgrave are also illustrators, their days often jammed with freelance jobs and other projects, so working at night has been ideal for the duo. This year’s mural also took on a dark theme that McMillan describes as “eerie nature.” The new mural at the Westin Hotel features a different animal and a moody night time scene.

“The most exciting thing to me is cranking on a mural for a week straight,” said McMillan. “Seeing it transform day by day. And of course seeing all the other murals in progress and being around creative people all week. That's the best part, just getting inspired and being blown away by the talents that POW! WOW! brings.”

The mural is located at the Westin Hotel at 333 Ocean Avenue.

Sket One

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The largest wall this illustrator, street artist and designer has painted is now inside the Long Beach Arena, as the only indoor mural painted during this year’s festival. Andrew Yasgar, better known as Sket One, was originally slated to paint a wall at the Edison Apartments on Long Beach Boulevard. However, this piece is a hidden gem of sorts, as only those entering the space for an event, as well as its staff, will be able to see the vibrant work of art.

His background with design, cartooning and graffiti is reflected in the piece, as well as his love for color play, while the artist is also aiming to guide his mural work to become a bit more obscure.

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“Because I’ve been doing all these murals lately, I’m trying to shift more to an abstract interpretation of these elements,” he said. “Without making it adolescent-looking. I want it to convey fun, to be impactful, yet I want to be a little more obscure instead of it just being my normal cartoon stuff coming through.”

The first POW! WOW! Long Beach might have had two local artists painting walls last year, however Sket One opted for the festival’s Hawaii outfit because he couldn’t miss his daughter’s graduation back east, he said. Needless to say, he’s proud to be painting during this home festival.

The mural is located within the Long Beach Arena, part of the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, located at 300 East Ocean Boulevard.

Yoskay Yamamoto 

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Yamamoto has lived in Long Beach for less than a year, but we’ll gladly mention the Japanese native who collaborated with Andrew Hem and Edwin Ushiro to complete the whimsical mural at Steelhead Coffee. The trio took five days to finish what turned out be an imaginative and welcome addition to the Cal Heights neighborhood.

Although this is Yamamoto’s third POW! WOW!, the artist known for his pensive and whimsical paintings, drawings, sculpture and installation work, says he still has a tough time expanding his artistry to a larger scale.

“It's always a challenge to me to paint in such a large scale, but working next to my friends made it a less stressful and fun experience,” he said. “Plus we had such great support from the neighbors that it made us feel appreciated.”

In his sketches for the mural, Yamamoto says he roughly drew out an idea that incorporated elements of both Hem’s and Ushiro’s styles.

“My friend Andrew does awesome figurative work and Edwin does amazing and beautiful plant life and nature images,” said Yamamoto. “And for me I have been doing a lot of simple and playful Love Me drawings, so I wanted to use those elements to create a single image that was dreamy.”

Steelhead Coffee is located at 1208 East Wardlow Road.

For more information about POW! WOW! Long Beach, visit the website here



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