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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.”
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.
“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.”
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.”
It took a year to get approval for this project, but it was finished in two days, March 25 through 26th.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
Above, artist Sweet; below, commissioner Plascencia.
- Genie Davis; photos: Gloria Plascencia and courtesy of the artist