Magic Muralist: Artist Skye Amber Sweet

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It would be a mistake to think of artist Skye Amber Sweet as only a muralist. A prolific artist of canvas art, Sweet has said “I find that paint and stretched canvas are made for better company.  Paint runs through my veins, across my heart and trails to my fingertips transcribing emotion from brush to canvas.” 

Although what she’s said above is poetic, and she also writes poetry, it would also be a mistake to view Sweet as anything other than what she is: an artist the way that we are all human – she breathes art and gifts it to those around her in a myriad of ways. And recently, one of those ways has been in the form of sweeping murals.

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Sweet has painted 13 murals, including one that will be dedicated this Thursday at 2 p.m. in Holly Park, located in Hawthorne, Calif. The mural was donated, and is the first gift of its kind to the city. 

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As the artist explains “I have been a full time canvas artist  since October 2012 when my company laid me off, and shut down the doors of the business I was doing in the design and building industry.  I started painting again to transcribe emotion into art and started selling my paintings within hours to days that I had completed them.  This allowed me to continue as a full time artist,” Sweet relates.  “I was contacted by my friend Lauren Jones who owns a PR company in Hollywood.  She had a client, Architectural Mailboxes who had four ElephanTrunks to sponsor to me as an artist.  I was given the four parcel boxes to paint on, re-home, and share photos.  This was really exciting to me because I was able to paint mini-murals on three-dimensional pieces.  I loved how they turned out and thought that it was so awesome to be able to share my art publicly on a parcel box around the area in a residential setting. That is when the light bulb clicked in my head that maybe I could actually share art on a larger scale to help beautify the area I lived in and share my love for art with a message of ‘Peace, Love, Hope – Now!'”
To that end, Sweet, who has two children, wanted to give back to the community she lived in. She donates some murals and is paid for others, in an effort, she says, to stay “humble and grounded.”

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Creating large scale murals comes with its own set of challenges.  She describes her process. “Some murals I love to freehand and not think of a plan, just like my canvas art.  I like to be free at painting so there is no over thinking and the flow of art in emotion can shine through.” Working on a canvas, Sweet says she can directly transcribe her feelings and use water and heat as well as paint to creatively manipulate the canvas and textures. “With murals there is planning, and I’m using spray paint which may drip or spray wrong, or I run out – it’s more challenging.” Frequently working with cities and schools, Sweet has also found that she’s had to forego her freehand style on mural projects.

Lately, my murals have had to be approved, and I start by drawing a mock version of the mural after meeting with the client and discussing what their wants and needs are.”

Once a project is approved, a date is set and Sweet begins her work.

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“I always start using brown paint.  It is neutral for my brain and it helps me outline the entire mural before color and details go in.  Once I do that, I start on the background in most cases. Then I paint away and I paint fast.  I try to keep my momentum and energy up to finish as much at one time as possible. Being new to the process I initially started using spray paint without the technical brush tips and less expensive paint.  Many times I will also use a brush and fill in more detail.”

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The artist has relied on a donation and discounts from Home Depot to pursue this work. “I would like to try new types of murals with more expensive paint and tips. I used to air brush and think that in the future I will be able to paint more technically challenging murals with practice,” she asserts.  

She donates the murals and raises money to create them when a project is for a school or a church. “I feel it is important to give to people and the community not for exposure, not for anything except I firmly believe our world needs kindness and more love.  I see so many artists that become successful and forget why they started painting in the first place. I want to always remember where I came from, why I painted and how much hard work it took to be able to become full time.”

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Creating murals is a lot of hard work. “It takes a week of recovery physically so I remember to keep feeling and striving and never forget to share.” But for Sweet, the challenge is worth it. “I like to give murals in places as well that do not have art.  I love working with schools because I love seeing beauty in the eyes of children.  I also do it for my family to remember the world is more than all about us or me.  We must love each other and promote beauty strength in community and growth. That is why I paint trees,” Sweet laughs.

The Holly Park mural took place after Sweet was approached by Hawthorne art commissioner Gloria Plascencia after Plascencia viewed Sweet’s work.

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“I automatically said of course and couldn’t wait to start raising money for the project!   When drawing the mock up I wanted to incorporate my tree which is the tree of strength and growth, along with a heart for the love of the community.  I figured the rolling hills vibrant in color would signify the adventure with the City Council of Gloria bringing art to the community in public spaces,” Sweet says of her work. “It also signifies that in every community there are ups and downs, and being able to work with each other through the process only brings more beauty to the world.  The flowers and hearts signify beauty and love.”

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While working with themes that Sweet has previously explored in her murals, she also wanted to make the mural all about the community than simply her own work.  “I wanted to involve the community, so I planned for community members to put their hands in paint and stamp my mural. That way they know I did this for them and it is theirs – for their children, for the parents and for the community in which they live in.  It was ours to share.”

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It took a year to get approval for this project, but it was finished in two days, March 25 through 26th.

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Above all else, Sweet wants her viewers to feel something from her art. “I want to promote happiness in all things…humans need art and beauty in their lives and by passing a mural, their day may change just by seeing a colorful tree or a silly heart that makes them think of something they love or someone they miss.”

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From murals to canvas, Sweet says her art is primarily emotional. “Sometimes I  am not quite sure where my unintended thought process took me. I do know that in my lightest and darkest moments something in my heart triggered the expressive flow of paint and tears, happiness, and smiles that somehow came together without thought.”

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Sweet is as much activist as artist. “I want to change the world.  I have since I was eight. I want people to see the very inner core of their being and maybe learn of open hearts, forgiveness and kindness through color and art.  I am not sure how to do so, but in my art I know that the thought is there and I hope that in looking close enough, you might feel enough of the world to stand at the doors of the bright colors, understand its flow and make a difference in the real world.”

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In recent weeks, along with the Holly Park project, Sweet has created a mural for St. Theresa’s of Avila in Silver Lake. and one for Clifford Street Elementary.

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Whether on a vast wall or on a small canvas, Sweet’s distinctive, swirling, dream-like style is captivating. Like the trees she’s painted, there is growth and scope in her works, and like the hearts she also favors, there is a pervasive sense of love and happiness in her subjects and her patterns.

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Above, artist Sweet; below, commissioner Plascencia.

DSC_2671iLook for Sweet’s work on buildings and in exhibitions all over town – and join the artist on the 20th as her Holly Park mural is dedicated and the city holds a ribbon cutting for the impressive work.

  • Genie Davis; photos: Gloria Plascencia and courtesy of the artist

Sabroso Festival: Tacos and Punk Rock On

Sunshine broke through the clouds at Dana Point last weekend, and with it came a bright expansion of the Sabroso Festival, this year featuring a taco eating contest, tastings of over 100 different regional craft beers, gourmet tacos, Lucha Libre wresting, and – music.

Sure, some people came to see whether Takeru Kobayashi could top his 2015 record of eating 144 street tacos, but most attendees were in it for the music. The crowd loved rocking out to punk and rock and Latin-edged acts. For the latter, it was Metalachi, for the punk it was Unwritten Law, Long Beach rock band Rival Sons, and Fullerton rock band Lit, straight up rock was well represented by Fueled by Defiance, and arguably the most renowned group on stage, Huntington Beach-based rockers the Offspring. Also on tap (pun intended): Canadian rock quintet Sum 41 whose set had a little pop sensibility.

Below, Fueled by Defiance commanded the stage with a blistering set.

Fueled by Defiance

Fueled by Defiance
Fueled by Defiance

Below, Metalachi added something primal and fun to a Latin edged set that was sexy, a little crazy, and totally intense.

Metalachi

Metalachi
Metalachi
Metalachi

Below, Lit was on fire.

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Lit
Lit
Lit definitely preached to a crowd of music believers,  including a couple who got engaged right on stage. “Miss You Gone” – nope, these guys should stay and play.

Rival Sons, below, offered a powerful set that throbbed with rhythm.

Rival Sons
Rival Sons
Rival Sons

Sum 41 tore things up with a set that was both straight up rock and some pop-influenced material.

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Sum 41
Sum 41
Sum 41
Sum 41

And closing act The Offspring proved their potency, reaffirming their status as a late 90s era headliner. If “The Kids Aren’t Alright” you couldn’t tell it here.

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The Offspring
The Offspring
The Offspring

Along the way, the “Best of Taste” taco prizes were awarded…we were fortunate enough to taste several of the winners’ wares.

Taco Taste Winners

First place went to Mess Company Canteen food truck, second place Falasophy food truck, and third place went to Kroft.

And the taco eating competition unfolded – stuffed faces, full stomachs, and prizes. Above, entering champion Kobayashi.

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Molly Schuyler
Molly Schuyler

First place record holder Kobayashi  kept his spot, consuming 159 Chronic tacos.

Second place went to Molly Schuyler who devoured 139 Chronic tacos.

Wee Man – of Jackass fame –  promoting his Chronic Tacos.

The crowd around stage grew as the day faded into the night.

Samples of Gringo Bandito hot sauce were offered.
The crowd at the stage was exuberant day and night.
Above, attendees enjoyed a high-powered set by Metalachi.
Beer tasting on the beach drew it’s own crowd.
KLOS d.j.’s Frank, Heidi, Frosty work the crowd.
The KLOS crew raising their glasses.
Away from the stage KLOS also made its presence known: the radio station’s tent was home to swag and strong event support.
Sweet James – accident attorney. KLOS staff think highly of this legal eagle.
Beer tasting next to the main stage.

Strong music, strong brews, spicy tacos, and a beach front setting with great acoustics…who could ask for more? Flexing their musical and event driven muscles, the Sabroso festival is quintessentially Southern Californian,  a mix of music and marvelous madness.

  • Genie Davis; Photos – straight from the photographers’ pit – by Jack Burke.

Spring Art Week Blooms with Global Variety

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Like spring flowers, art is blooming in Los Angeles – with a terrific art week at The Reef April 18th through 23rd. The DTLA location will feature three major art shows produced by Fabrik Media: Photo Independent Fair, The Los Angeles Festival of Photography, and EXPO Contemporary Fair.  Opening night festivities for all three events will take place Friday, April 21st from 6 to 10 p.m.

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Here’s a look at all three shows.

Photo Independent

In it’s fourth year, Photo Independent, which runs from the 21st to the 23rd, offers a stellar platform for independent photographic artists. These exceptional works are presented by artists who have not yet participated in gallery-based fairs or reached a global audience. As a part of the exhibition, attendees have the opportunity to view the work of internationally renowned photographer Roger Ballen.

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The South African-based artist will be presenting Ballenesque, four decades of work as well as pieces from his new series, The Theatre of Apparitions. Ballen will also be conducting a three-day Fine Art Photography workshop, as well as delivering the exhibition’s keynote speech, and holding a book signing. Working in black and white photography for over fifty years, Ballen believes that this medium as an “abstract way to interpret and transform what one might refer to as reality.”

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Ballen’s most recent series marks a departure from his already challenging oeuvre, inspired by hand-drawn carving on blacked-out windows in an abandoned women’s prison. Here his work is layered and experimental, merging painting, drawing, and photography using spray paints on glass, then removing the paint with a sharp object. We are looking at images which evoke pre-historic cave paintings. The series title refers to the theatrical mentality of life itself, dreams, imagination, and memories, as acted out on a mental and emotional stage.

In addition to Ballen’s work and that of other exhibitors, Paul Martineau, associate curator at the J. Paul Getty Museum will be reviewing photographers and their booths at Photo Independent, honoring one artist as Best of Show 2017. The winner will be awarded a solo exhibition in the 2018 fair.

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The Los Angeles Festival of Photography

This weeklong festival begins April 18th, and has as its goal the encouragement and celebration of photographic images and their creators. Lectures, workshops, gallery tours, networking, and of course, exhibitions are all a part of a festival that draws leading photographers.

Featured events include Keynotes from curator and writer Charlotte Cotton, and Roger Ballen, also leading a workshop on Fine Art Photography.  Other workshops will be presented by award winning photographers including Susan Burnstine, Karin Apollonia Müller, and Julia Dean.  Mobile Photography Workshops including David Ingraham: The iPhone Darkroom; Bob Weil: Creating Conceptual Art on Mobile Devices; and Nicki Fitz-Gerald: Life in Layers – Creative iPhone Artistry, will also be presented. The wide array of photographic exhibitions draws art lovers and photographers worldwide.

Fabrik photo contemporary EF Kitchen

Fabrik Expo Contemporary Linda Kunik

EXPO Contemporary

Looking for something different? Attendees will find exciting contemporary art here, in an annual exhibition that goes beyond the standard art fair experience, exposing audiences to a wide variety of artists, media, and practices. Both traditional and non-traditional media and materials will be presented from painters, printmakers, book and graphic artists, sculptors, assemblage and mixed media artists, muralists, installation artists, and high concept designers. The exhibition will also examine public art, experimental architecture, and environmental, social, and collaborative projects.

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As Chris Davies, director of Fabrik Media, explains having three different art fairs in Los Angeles at one time is an exciting prospect. “With so many options, there will be a show for every type of art patron.”

All three exhibitions will be held at The Reef, 1933 S. Broadway, in DTLA.

For more information on each fair, and to purchase weekend, day passes, and opening night tickets see fair websites:

A New Phoenix Rising

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Located on 3rd at its juncture with La Cienega is a reincarnation of the former Phoenix as – The Phoenix. And it’s a new bird rising. Sleek, French-bistro styling draws the eye to the  bar, while draft cocktails like the Dublin Donkey and La Paloma – as well as a wide selection of whiskies – draw the palette.

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While the food may be somewhat secondary to the beverages, it’s tasty too: below, Fusilli Marinara topped with a fried egg. The idea, our server tells us, is to mix the fried egg in with the basil and Parm cheese. The marinara sauce has a nice zing.
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Lighter fare is also present. The Phoenix House Salad adds feta cheese, pear, pepperocini, cilantro, cherry tomatoes, and red onions to fresh mixed green. Toasty bread on the side.
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Below, Adolfo Suaya, partner in the restaurant, ready to help patrons enjoy the classy but cool European vibe.

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The very red-lit patio was our favorite spot. Hip, happening, sexy lighting, comfortable booths and the al fresco bar scene that LA needs a lot more of.

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Below, crisply well-seasoned fries are redolent of rosemary.

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Below: those well prepared draft cocktails.

The Paloma features Milagro Blanco Tequila, Giffard’s Pamplemousse,  plus lime and soda.

We loved the Dublin Donkey, a nicely spicy blend of Tullamore Dew, Giffard’s Ginger of the Indies, lime, and Ginger Beer.

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To sum up: a welcoming place for a drink and some food, The Phoenix is open late and stays stylish. Insiders tip: the patio is the perfect spot for a date night. The Phoenix rises to become your next occasion for celebration. It’s located at 8480 3rd Street close to the Beverly Center.

  • Genie Davis; Photos: Jack Burke