Austin Weflen maintains an air of mystery as we discuss the methodology behind his piece for Hub City Walls 2020 and learn a little more about him as an artist. Inspired largely by friends and the Harbour City, he conceptualized and created a bold and vibrant experience for citizens and tourists to interact with.
The process was new to Austin due to the size and scale of the work. “I haven’t had much experience with large scale work, so the process was hella sketchy,” he said. “But, I know how to make art easier for me in the future though, so that’s nifty. Aerosol. Aerosol.”
Having the inside advantage of being from Nanaimo, Austin’s signature style and wicked graphics suit the waterfront location well. “The concept was easy, being a local my entire life,” he said. “Executing the project was a little more difficult with the dimensions of the wall. Plus, I’m afraid of heights, so that was a doozy!”
The nature of the staircase mural had its challenges—starting narrow at the top of the staircase and widening from the landing to the top of the retaining wall, the level skill and planning required to complete it is obvious. “The piece sort of evolved and changed over time, which was easily my favourite part of the process.”
Always a solo artist, this project, being part of an overarching festival, was as close as it comes to collaboration for Austin. “I don’t collaborate,” was his response when asked about past or possible future collaborations. Though his method and process are solitary, he believes in the benefits public art has for the community.
“Public art is important. Not only for the audience or artist. It is for the landscape and environment,” he said. “One or two steps down from planting a tree in the same spot somehow.” This idea of art enhancing or even creating the experience of a geographical location has become known as place-making.
Weflen said he started making art “probably [by messing] up my parent’s wall with my fingers and paint” and also said, “shout out to Iron Oxide for keeping me curious about art.” Austin’s palette was pulled from the Montana Cans Black and Gold lines: Gold Matte, Shock Kent Red, Snow White, and Black. This high-contrast piece is a must-see for urban art lovers and a great spot for photos. You can see Austin’s piece, Harbour City Livin’, at 236 Bastion Street.