INTERVIEW: Reporter Cynda Green interviews mural artist Bill Hudson, May 2013
I caught up with artist Bill Hudson at our dining table Sunday morning, and, over coffee, officially interviewed him about the PBR mural he’s painting at the Victoria Tavern in Salida, Colorado. The mural is directly across Sackett Avenue from Riverside Park and the Arkansas River — a fine place to spend this beautiful Memorial Day weekend.
CG: How did you get the job painting the mural?
BH: I saw a poster on the streets announcing a PBR art contest. Peter and Molly Simonson had decided to replace the old “Pepsi” mural on the outside of The Vic, and they were challenging the local artists to come up with a piece of art to replace that mural on their building. So when I got home I told my partner Cynda (you) about the contest, and we were both excited about the possibility of me creating a large painting… considering I hadn’t painted much since the late ‘nineties. You encouraged me… I created my sample sketch… and when the dust settled, Peter had chosen my painting as the winner of the contest. He then invited me to paint the mural… 7 feet tall and 16 feet wide. Being an unemployed artist, I was happy to take on the job.
CG: How did you come up with the concept of using PBR cans as kayaks?
BH: Peter had explained that he didn’t want the PBR logo to dominate the art. He wanted it to be some sort of a fun art piece that featured PBR but wasn’t just a logo like the old Pepsi logo. If it evoked Salida, that would be even better. My general tendency, when I create art, is to try to do something that tickles the imagination and that is whimsical. Having just moved to Salida last summer, I was amazed by the number of people that carried kayaks around on their cars, and in bike carriers, and in general by the number of kayaks and boaters on the river and in this town. So I guess it was just natural to think of kayakers floating down a river of PBR beer. And why not have them riding in PBR cans?
CG: How did you figure out how to make the pouring beer and the foam so real?
BH: I actually went down to the river and took photographs of PBR cans sitting in the river, and also took photos of PBR pouring onto small rocks — to see what it would look like if a huge PBR can was pouring beer across the landscape. So I generated photographic references to figure out how it would look.
CG: How many murals have you painted before?
BH: I did some large-scale art pieces in my former life as a sculptor and a sign painter in Alaska, before I moved to Colorado. But I think the only mural I did was for the day-care center at the Juneau Racquet Club. Most of my large-scale work was done in wood and fabric and beads. I’ve always loved painting, but I haven’t done many large scale paintings before. It’s been a challenge and a lot of fun!
CG: Was being a sign painter in your former life helpful?
BH: Yes. I did paint on walls occasionally, when I painted signs. But mostly, I learned how to use paint and brushes. This was in the day before signs were made from computer-cut vinyl, so almost all of my signs were hand-painted and hand-carved. Although the techniques were different from what I’m using on this mural, I learned a lot about how to mix paint, how to match colors, and how to handle a brush on a large surface.
CG. So how do you find working on scaffolding in the busiest part of downtown Salida on Memorial Day Weekend?
BH: A lot of people just walk by the scaffolding without a word. But those who have commented are excited to see a fresh mural go up on The Vic’s wall. And I think everybody “gets it”. This mural is whimsical Salida… it’s people having fun. PBR is the most affordable beer in our local bars and restaurants — it’s the working class beer, and I think that appeals to a lot of people in Salida because we’re working class and we like to have fun. That’s what this mural is supposed to represent.
CG: Are we going to see this mural other places? Does PBR have the rights to this?
BH: No. I’ve given the Victoria Tavern permission to duplicate the mural image on Vic tee shirts, but I retain the artist’s rights to the artwork at this juncture.
CG: Last question. Are you going to paint more murals?
BH: I have to say, I really enjoy doing this kind of work. And now that I’ve done my first mural on a brick wall, I can probably do this again pretty easily. But I’m not sure how Salida feels about murals. I know certain people have enjoyed what I’m doing on the Victoria Tavern. But I don’t think everyone wants Salida to be known as a fun, whimsical place. Some people want Salida to stay quaintly “historic” instead of being a fun, artsy, happening town.
CG: More coffee?