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David Ruiz is muralist, photographer and entrepreneur extraordinaire.
Until a few years ago, Chattanoogans had to go to a city like New York or Atlanta to see anything like David Ruiz’s art. He has refined a method for quickly and efficiently applying images to surfaces, and he uses it to create iconic murals.
He’s also a skilled photographer, and can often be found around town with his camera. His pictures are source material for the murals, which have quickly become a vital part of Chattanooga’s scenery. David was kind enough to answer a few questions about his work.
The Pulse: How did you start doing murals?
David Ruiz: Mary Margaret LaVoie and I started Paperwork (PPRWRK) back in 2011. We went to New York for a couple of months to study art, and then to Austin, Texas. During that time, the 10x10 Showcase was going on in Chattanooga. We were looking at it on the computer and were like, “When we get back into town in 2012, we’re just going to go nuts, we’re going to put up a bunch of stuff.”
We decided to call the people who threw 10x10 to make sure that we wouldn’t work where they planned on having something, so we weren’t rude to any artists. They offered us a stipend to put up murals, and we said, “Of course, we’ll happily do that.” We did 13 pieces for that project, and it kind of grew from there.
In March of 2013, I got the grant for Tour De Noog, which was an art-guided bicycle tour of downtown. We put up 23 murals of local musicians stretching from North Chattanooga all the way to the Southside. It was meant to promote fitness and artwork, and you could enjoy it with your family and friends without spending a penny.
It was a great success, and also generated a lot of acclaim for musicians. I can’t play music to save my life, but I can promote it!
TP: Do you also help to promote musicians with your website?
DR: Yes. The website is called 423BR.com. It stands for 423 Bragging Rights, which is the name for my music photos. We also have 423PK.com, which is a local music database. An EPK is an electronic press kit, so a 423PK is essentially a Chattanooga press kit.
The musicians are all local and have played at least twice in the past six months. We have over 180 submissions, with 90 profiles up currently and about 90 more to build, so we are roughly halfway there.
It keeps on growing. We are doing fundraisers to keep this service affordable for the musicians we represent.
TP: What inspires you to start taking pictures?
DR: Music! The camera almost doesn’t touch my hand unless there’s someone playing live music. As soon as that happens, I’m engulfed in the finger work of the keyboardist, or the head bobbin’ of the drummer, or the person standing at the front of the crowd, in the middle of a dance floor just wailing and enjoying life.
That’s what I like; the live music scene. Thinking about what I can contribute to it has inspired my street art.
TP: What murals are you currently working on?
DR: I’m working on the McCallie Walls Mural Project, which is organized by Kevin Bate. He got a grant to get it started, and has since gotten additional funding to keep it going. Kendrick Hardcastle and I just finished our mural for Phase 2 of the project; it’s got my dog Meat and my brother Joel’s dog Doc Brown on it, as well as Kendrick’s cat Travis.
The dogs are barking and angry looking, but the cat is real chill. It really fits all of their personalities very well, and we have agreed that it should be titled “Don’t Panic”. The final product measures 10x13 feet.
TP: What process do you use for your murals?
DR: We make our wheat paste with flour and salt water from a generalized recipe. We use that to glue the paper to the wall. We print the images on 11x17 pieces of paper and tile them. This minimizes the cracking that occurs from weathering because the smaller pieces of paper have more give, like a sidewalk.
It’s all biodegradable and we can remove it with a pressure washer. There is a science to figuring out what works and what doesn’t. I think I will probably always use paper in some form. Whether it’s painted or not, I’m going to use paper to get there!
Find out more about David’s work online: causeway.org/cause/view/the-worlds-first-drive-through-gallery, 423br.com, and 423pk.com