Austin’s Street Artists Share the Thought and Inspiration Behind Their Murals
We catch up with eight prominent muralists to learn more about the people making stunning street art across the city
By Darcie Duttweiler
Photos by Brittany Dawn Short
Street art is so much more than just a cute backdrop for your Instagram Reels. Just like any artwork, it imbues the soul and heart of its artist, even if it’s a commissioned piece. From flora to fauna and abstract to realistic, Austin’s streets are full of colorful pieces that add to the vibrancy of our city and speak to the amazing artists whose work graces our walls, power boxes, fences and more. Here are eight murals not to miss and the artists behind them.
“East Side King Mural” by Peelander Yellow
Austinites should be very familiar with Peelander Yellow. Not only was he one of the members of 1990s Japanese-American punk rock band Peelander-Z, the colorful artist’s work can be seen all over the city in the form of murals, posters, logos, shirts and more. Born in Hyogo, Japan, and a graduate of the Osaka University of Art, his self-expressed goal is to make people happy through his art, which adorns the walls at Google, Facebook, Little Darlin’, Sa-Ten, Thai-Kun and, of course, East Side King.
“I just painted an idea from my brain. He comes from ‘Happpeee Planet’ to make you happy,” Peelander says. “Please feel happy to eat awesome food at East Side King. I’m happy when I see your smiles!”
“Virtual Hike” by Soledad Fernandez-Whitechurch
Self-taught artist Soledad Fernandez-Whitechurch was born in Paraguay and grew up between there, Argentina and the United States. She comes from a long line of painters and sculptors — fun fact: her great-great-great-great grandfather Robert Whitechurch made a very famous engraving of the U.S. Senate in 1850 — and her work typically explores the Latin identity. For this piece, commissioned by Michael Hsu Office of Architecture for the Bouldin Commons project, she was inspired by local plant life and natural elements that would make the mural seem like it came from the earth as well.
“This mural is my love letter to Texas, and the magical, silent language of earth, rock and mineral,” Fernandez-Whitechurch says. “Even though you can’t see it with the naked eye, the soil below our feet is in constant transformation, just like our city.”
“Where the Wildflowers Grow” by DAAS
Finished in September, this vibrant, engaging mural was commissioned by the Downtown Austin Alliance Foundation as part of its initiative to transform the 301 Congress outdoor area into a welcoming space. The theme reflects the resiliency through community and is meant as an inclusive invite into the outdoor area.
“As an artist, I recognize the importance of artwork in the public sphere that inspires, encourages and uplifts the entire community, inclusive of all ages, backgrounds, genders and sexual orientation,” DAAS says. “My values align with the impactful work that the Downtown Austin Alliance Foundation is doing, and it’s such an honor to have been chosen to illustrate that on Texas’ main street.”
“Moth” by Brittany Johnson
While Brittany Johnson has a degree in oil painting, she learned how to create murals with spray paints in 2018 at graffiti park Hope Outdoor Gallery. This piece was created last fall during a live painting event with Hope Outdoor Gallery for Ani’s Day and Night. Johnson was inspired by the symbolism of moths, as well as their beautiful colors and patterns. She created this piece with spray paint.
“This piece was a ton of fun to paint,” Johnson says. “Sometimes in art and in life we are too focused on the end result. Enjoy the process and you will enjoy your life.”
“Headspace Salon Mural” by Jason Eatherly
Jason Eatherly is a jack of all trades. The self-taught fine artist is also a tattooer, muralist and fabricator. He’s well known for his image of the recently deceased Queen Elizabeth wearing a paint mask. In addition to his murals all over town, he displays and sells his art at local galleries Austin Art Garage and Ao5 Gallery. Located inside the Headspace Salon & Co-Op in South Austin, the original design for this mural was created way back in 2007 before being commissioned to don the salon’s wall.
“I want women to feel empowered and proud when they see this image,” Eatherly says.
“YETI Lids Installation” by Emily Eisenhart
The daughter of an artist and anthropologist, Emily Eisenhart grew up with a paintbrush in one hand and a field book in the other. Her work is heavily inspired by textures, patterns, shapes and colors around her, and with a formal background in Cultural Anthropology, she weaves research into her inspirations for motif and color palette development. This artwork was commissioned by YETI in partnership with Austin FC in anticipation of the Verde Store opening at Q2 Stadium. The recycled YETI lids were painted with Sherwin-Williams interior paint.
“This mural, painted on recycled YETI cooler lids, tells the dynamic story of soccer and the Austin FC community,” Eisenhart says. “The abstract, energetic shapes are all in motion — a goalie diving for a ball, players on the field, a teammate scoring a goal, fans cheering in the stadium — and set amongst the Austin landscape. My hope for this piece was to breathe new life into recycled YETI gear, transforming the cooler lids into unique canvases that captured the energy of the game, sharing it with fans and passersby as they navigate the Verde Store.”
“Guerrera por la Paz” by Eleanor Niz
As the only professional female stencil artist in Austin (and only one of the few large-scale female stencil artists in the world), Eleanor Niz’s work is instantly iconic and turns ordinary items, like electric boxes, into city landmarks. She is also a member of Few and Far Women, the largest all-female graffiti crew in the world. Originally from Lima, Peru, Niz’s art is rooted in Latin American culture, skateboarding, hip hop, and urban life. This piece was commissioned by the SoCo Historic District and was inspired by the Mexican cultural influence in Austin.
“The title translates to ‘warrior for peace,’ and the takeaway is to prioritize peace,” Niz says. “I wanted to encompass cultural diversity, so it is a mix of African American, Mexican, Asian, hippy and music cultures. It also includes the solar plexus chakra, which represents personal power and reaching our full potential.”
“For Those About to Rock” by Fabian Rey
Puerto Rican-born art director, photographer and muralist Fabian Rey asked the owner of this building to let him paint the wall for free. Utilizing acrylic house paint for his work, he was inspired by the song “For Those About to Rock’’ by AC/DC.
“The mural is a welcome sign to show respect and admiration to those artists that come to our city to perform live,” Rey says. “The mural is also a celebration of our city’s cultural diversity through live music and art. I want people to feel inspired by the city’s artistic vibe and the fantastic music scene.”