City Paint 6.5 – “Becoming” Artist’s Insight

In my most recent post on this western mural, City Paint 6.4 – “Becoming” almost finished…, I mentioned that I had spoken with the artist and that we were going to meet the following weekend.  Well…because of life and parades and being called-in to work, that meeting finally took place three weekends later.

Aside from talking about life and relationships with girlfriends and wives, his siblings, my children, living in military families, maturing on our paths in life, sports, mixed-martial-arts, college, art, blogging, sports-talk-radio, trust, forgiveness, graffiti, street code, bastards who tag over other artists’ work, guns, bartering, Utah history, and religion…we also talked about his mural….

The artist, Gerry (pronounced “Gary”) Swanson (at, has named the mural “Five on Five,” a sports reference to a battle being waged between a group of Native Americans and a group of western cowboys.

He was not formally commissioned to paint the mural, but he has done work for Gallenson’s Gun Shop in the past, so the store owner trusted that he would create something appropriate without having any guidelines or requirements.  Gerry said he wanted the mural to showcase an event from the history of the Mountain West…which included guns.

He said that the canyon provides a literal and metaphorical boundary or divide between the opposing sides, such geographical features are common to the Mountain West area, so it seemed fitting that it would be the line of demarkation between the participants.

When I asked him if this was a fair fight, guns vs bows and arrows, he said that the cowboys might have had a technological advantage, but the braves were stronger physically and had time and nature on their side.  The sun was painted as it was to represent the familiar image of the Maya calendar, easily applied to these native people, as they are of the same indigenous stock as the Maya.  The natives were aware of time, but it was simply part of life, the cowboys were caught-up in time and attemtpted to control it, marking their actions and lives by its rules.  The vegetation was supporting the braves, pushing them into the battle, while it was wrapping around the cowboys and hindering their efforts.

Gerry said that the cowboys weren’t in full control of their horses and are off balanced and not shooting straight, one cowboy is even on the ground wielding a bowie knife…while one of the natives isn’t even presenting a weapon…he’s in the charge, yes, but not needful of a weapon yet…so the battle isn’t as unfair as it might first appear.

The natives and the cowboys are painted the same color because they share in the brotherhood of their singular species, yet the braves have their white stripes and the cowboys have their red shirts, as opposing teams are given to wearing opposite colors when on the field of play.

Gerry said he put bandanas over the mouths of the cowboys to protect them against the dust, whereas the natives didn’t need the same protection, as they were adapted to their environment and had stronger constitutions.  When I mentioned that some commentors on the blog thought the cowboys might have been hiding behind their masks, he said he hadn’t considered that perspective, but he likes it.  He said he loves to stand within earshot of people as they are discussing the mural (or any of his other work), so he can hear  what they think it means, and in that vein, he appreciates the comments and the thoughts that drive them.

Additional “essentials” for painting a mural on a bright, sunny, spring afternoon in Salt Lake City….

Gerry said it might be interesting to add birds or some other object to the bandanas to increase the effect, to heighten the observers’ awareness of them….  On a side note, Gerry said that he is not finished with the detail on the guns yet; I understood that there would be greater definition, but the bright silver will remain.

To view the other posts that show the progress of this mural, please click on these highlighted titles: City Paint 6.1 – Becoming, City Paint 6.2 – Progress Report on “Becoming,” and City Paint 6.3 – Another progress report on “Becoming.”  You can also scroll to the bottom of this page and click on “Street Art – Graffiti” under the Categories heading to view all of the posts in the City Paint series.


33 responses

  1. Wow! Thank you for sharing this wonderful series!

    June 13, 2012 at 7:00 am

    • It has been my pleasure, Madhu…truly. 🙂

      June 13, 2012 at 7:02 am

  2. Thanks for bringing us the insight Scott. It really is an amazing piece of work. I’m glad to have ‘met’ the artist.

    June 13, 2012 at 7:11 am

    • You’re very welcome, Chillbrook…happy that I was able to make the introduction. 🙂

      June 13, 2012 at 8:08 am

  3. So great to see the artist. As was your interview. It adds to our understanding and appreciation of the work. Thank you so much for sharing all of this (and for discovering it.)

    June 13, 2012 at 7:16 am

    • You are very welcome, Gunta…I thought it was wonderful…and it does add so much understanding and appreciation.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:09 am

  4. Thanks for the detailed update . . . it answered my question on the piece.

    . . . when are you going to write about all the other stuff you talked about?

    June 13, 2012 at 7:21 am

    • You’re welcome, Emilio…glad I could touch on all of your questions. Gerry seemed to really enjoy talking about the mural and all of those other things…. I was going to offer greater detail on those topics, but they didn’t strike me as appropriate to the subject of the mural…so I don’t know that I will (if your question was serious). 😉

      June 13, 2012 at 8:13 am

      • Not overly so . . . but some of that sounded interesting, and it’s always nice to hear/read other people’s perspectives on things.

        Then again, we all tend to rationalize our own views and discount other people’s experiences and associated views, so perhaps it’s best we all assume we are of like mind and keep contentious debate at bay.

        June 13, 2012 at 8:27 am

        • It was interesting, Emilio…in the way that a conversation between a 50yo and a 30yo from similar and different backgrounds would be…sharing and comparing their experiences and perspectives…and gently gliding over any contentious differences for the sake of polite conversation and conducting the business at hand….

          June 13, 2012 at 8:54 am

  5. Amazing work.

    June 13, 2012 at 7:44 am

    • Yes, it is, Mary Lou…incredible stuff. 🙂

      June 13, 2012 at 8:14 am

  6. Nut Balls

    That truly is incredible work. I love the fibrous look in the horses…so awesome! 🙂

    June 13, 2012 at 8:32 am

    • Yes, truly incredible work, Nate…he studied a bit of physiology and has used a rope/twine medium for the presentation of musculature in other pieces of his art…might get a chance to see it someday….

      June 13, 2012 at 8:56 am

  7. When I lived in Bronx, NY, I lived in an eclectic neighborhood! It wasn’t a bad one at all, it was just this melting pot of so many cultures that I loved it! Right across from my building was this storage space that had huge walls. The owner would commission a graffiti artist every month! It was amazing to see these people work! Your images reminded me of what I did as well. I would talk with theme and ask theme questions and photograph their work and while they were working as well. Great shots!!

    June 13, 2012 at 9:09 am

    • I’m sure it was a great experience…and a new artist every month…wow…must have been incredible. Thank you, Lazaro. 🙂

      June 13, 2012 at 9:18 am

  8. Being able to talk about an artwork with the artist is a very rare and special thing. If I was able to do so with a piece that I owned I would cherish it even more. Thanks for giving all of us such a rare gift!

    June 13, 2012 at 9:48 am

    • I’m sure it would be a rare thing, Allen…and this has become even more special with watching the progression of the work and after having met and spent time with the artist…. And you are most welcome for sharing this gift. Thank you for following it with me. 🙂

      June 13, 2012 at 10:28 am

  9. Looks like you had a fascinating conversation with Gerry. And a lot of insights into the symbolism employed in the detail – much of which we were, until now, in ignorance of. This has been a great series – thanks so much for bringing it to such a wide audience.

    June 13, 2012 at 10:35 am

    • We did have a fascinating/interesting conversation, Andy, and it was so nice to gain the insight into his perspective and symbolism. I think I will wait to provide a final update until after he has had the “grand opening,” which will include a band, a large gathering of people from the gun store, other local artists, and probably some cold suds and other beverages…. I don’t know when it’s supposed to be held, but I will be collecting images of the last details and the truly completed mural at that time…or after the party on a quiet and unpopulated weekend morning. 🙂

      You are very welcome for sharing, Andy…I have enjoyed your company in watching the magical artistry unfold.

      June 13, 2012 at 3:16 pm

  10. Way cool post, Scott, as usual. I am giving you the One Lovely Blog award. You don’t have to do a thing about it. I just wanted to link to your beautiful and so varied blog. Thanks for everything, George.

    June 13, 2012 at 10:35 pm

    • Thank you for the nice words, George…and for your tender thoughts of my blog. I do appreciate your consideration and the link. It’s always nice to meet new people here. You are most welcome, too, dear friend. Thank you again. 🙂

      June 14, 2012 at 6:51 am

  11. Interesting read – I love the art work! Thanks, Scott.

    June 14, 2012 at 7:05 am

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the post and the art, Dreams and Zeros…thank you. 🙂

      June 16, 2012 at 6:26 pm

  12. Hi Scott. Thanks for sharing the story behind the art and the artist!

    June 14, 2012 at 8:10 pm

    • You’re very welcome, Cathy…I’m glad you enjoyed the “back-story.” 🙂

      June 14, 2012 at 9:38 pm

  13. Wow, fascinating story and very insightful! It’s interesting to know the story behind the artwork. Thanks for sharing. (I also find it amusing that the Bud Light is an “essential” item for painting!)

    June 15, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    • It is interesting, indeed, Fergiemoto…and you’re very welcome for sharing. You’re the first one to comment on the other essential item for painting, that can of beer. I’m sure it helps somehow…keeping the artist cool so he can paint, maybe? 🙂

      June 16, 2012 at 6:29 pm

  14. I like the way you presented your beautiful work, it is fun watching it unfolding over the last few weeks…did not know that budweiser had their own color brand…:) I guess it is one essential ingredient on a hot afternoon…:))

    June 16, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    • Thank you, JMR…the artist was incredible…and yes, it was fun watching it unfold. I’m sure the Bud helped steady the artist’s hand and keep him cool…it was quite warm. 🙂

      June 16, 2012 at 6:33 pm

  15. Awesome series Scott. I really enjoyed Gerry’s rationale. Incredible artistry!

    March 20, 2013 at 3:43 am

    • Thank you, Laura…it was fun watching the mural develop over the weeks and really nice to meet Gerry and talk with him about about it. And yes, incredible artistry. 🙂

      March 21, 2013 at 6:42 am

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