Jul 14, 2016

Artist Interview: Brad Carney talks Rhythm & Hues

by: Carly Rapaport-Stein

Artist Brad Carney got a giant assignment this year: create a 33,000 square foot ground mural for this summer’s fun at The Oval.  Read on for more about Brad, his style, and the inspiration for this year’s mural, Rhythm & Hues.

Carly: Tell me a little bit about yourself.

Brad: My name is Brad Carney, and I’ve been working with Mural Arts Philadelphia for about 14 years. I’m a teaching artist, and I really enjoy teaching. My personal practice is as an abstract line kind of artist, but when it comes to teaching, it’s about showing composition and flow and movement and color and line and portrait – a little bit of everything for the kids. Someone told me once that I’m a great “back seat designer,” and she meant that I allow my students to pursue design and help them make a great project out of it.

Carly: So what inspired the design of Rhythm & Hues?

Brad: My two high school teachers, Inez Star, an abstract painter and artist, and Ron Lamar, a musician who taught orchestra, jazz band, concert band, inspired me back in 9th and 10th grade, and I’ve never forgotten them – so this mural is inspired by my historical growth as a musician and as an artist, to come together as one.

Carly: How do you see visual art and music intersecting?

Brad: It’s kind of all the same – it’s all about composition. In music, you’ve got a beat or a rhythm, and you’ve got solo aspects, which act as focal points. You can draw attention with different rhythms happening at the same time – you can do all kinds of fun things with that! Music can be visual, can make you feel things, and it’s the same thing with color, painting, and line work. It’s composition, it’s focal point, it’s highs and lows, it’s contrast. When I design murals or drawings, it’s the same way I would sit with four or five musicians and say, “Let’s make a song together.” When I teach, I do music and art thought-wise at the same time.

Carly: So going from conception to implementation, how do you install a giant ground mural like this in just five days?

Brad: To create this mural, the first thing we did was powerwash the entire surface of The Oval. Then, we primed the entire 33,000 square foot area twice – 66,000 square feet of paint! The next day, we snapped lines in a 25 foot by 25 foot grid. I loosely drew in the organic shapes, and then Restorative Justice participants, artist assistants, and interns filled in all of the major color areas. By Sunday, we were doing second coats of those colors and starting to fill in the lines.

Carly: What’s been the biggest challenge in creating and installing this mural?

Brad: The heat! While it has been amazing and sunny, the first day out here was about 95 degrees. The other difficult thing is playing connect the dots, and making a design that’s a foot wide in your hand turn into 75 feet wide on the floor.

Carly: What’s been the most rewarding part of working on this project?

Brad: Seeing the conversations, seeing people laughing and enjoying themselves during the day. I also enjoy getting into the painting zone. For this project, we’re using mainly rollers, and we rarely use brushes, except for little fine-tuning moments. When you’re using a big roller on the floor, making these lines feels like creating Japanese sand drawings, like taking rakes through the sand. One of the assistant artists and I had a moment last night where we were just painting lines and it was such a meditative, relaxing, awesome experience.

As a teacher and as a person who likes to coordinate fun things, this brings together all of my different work at Mural Arts. I’ve worked with Restorative Justice, and so I’ve got Guild members here. I’ve worked with Art Education, and these Art Ed kids are here and they’re amazing, and having a great time. And I run a summer internship program, and most of my interns have been here. So overall, I’ve seen all three of my passions – public artmaking, process, and education – come together in one place, to all be one. We’re all here to paint and here to enjoy it and here to be outside and here to advocate for public art.

Can’t get enough Rhythm & Hues? Check out Brad’s mini-tour of The Oval! 

Last updated: Jul 14, 2016

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Donna Usher says

So incredibly beautiful and the mural has such joy.