Bayne Gardner poses next to his most recent work in downtown Springfield, a ”Groundskeeper Willie” theme from the TV show, ”The Simpsons.” Jen Blue/The Creswell Chronicle
Muralist Bayne Gardner said he has been interested in the art form for as far back as he can remember. From 7 years old he remembered seeing ’80s-style graffiti on TV and in his hometown.
”It was something I enjoyed seeing and was curious about how it happened,” he said. ”They seemed like superheroes of art.”
Gardner’s first large-scale project was commissioned – although unpaid – for his father’s workspace, when he was 11. The project: A cowboy camping scene on a large piece of plywood. Now, Gardner has over 30 murals in Eugene and Springfield, and one in San Diego.
Locations of some of his pieces include RiverBend Hospital, E-parking on the University of Oregon campus, the Upstream murals in Springfield, as well as some untitled pieces in Springfield alleyways on 6th and 7th streets. Other notable ones in Eugene include the Falling Sky tiger eyes and Cheba Hut, but Gardner has also completed murals in the Eugene-Springfield and Junction City school districts.
”It’s a mash of all my influences through my entire life,” he said of his style. ”I love nature, pop art, commercial art. Depending on the project and wall area, I try to feed off that for my inspiration and what I’m going to paint, rather than a specific idea.”
He added that he pushes his comfort zone at each wall to try new things and progress as an artist. His work is featured both indoors and outdoors, and he will use either a spray can or brush and acrylic, depending on the project.
Gardner’s work is featured on private and public walls, but he said that he seeks out projects that give him as much artistic freedom as possible, because they are the most fun.
”I think the client gets the best, rather than squeeze that artist into whatever box they want the art to look like,” he explained. ”It puts a lot of stress on the artist because they’re trying to please somebody. We do our best work when we’re pleasing ourselves.”
Gardner’s work is evenly mixed between clients’ commissioning him and walls he pursues. Depending on the job, it can take him anywhere from one or two days to a couple of months to complete. One project that he completed in RiverBend’s hallway took around three months because he was using a brush and acrylic paint, which just took more time.
Although he has painted a mural in San Diego, Gardner doesn’t have any interest in doing too much traveling. He said that he hasn’t pursued anything outside of the area because he has a family, but he is willing to go if the conditions are right.
Gardner was recently in the public eye during the Springfield Mural Walk, which brought around 350 people to see his work. Due to the work being around 5 years old, however, he decided to paint over one that seemed dated to create a ”fan piece to the area,” which he said is his favorite piece of the moment.
Muraling also comes with its own set of challenges, particularly in the Pacific Northwest. As an outdoor muralist, Gardner said he doesn’t have the luxury of painting outside all year around, which makes business slow down in the winter.
There are also technical challenges: different wall textures; prepping equipment, like scaffolding; and sun exposure.
”There’s endless things, but it keeps it interesting,” he said. ”I think I like all the challenges because it’s not just, ‘here’s your canvas,’ you have to worry about ‘how’s the weather?’”
He added that the job is also very physical. He is constantly moving, climbing, lifting, bending and kneeling; it can be strenuous, especially mixed with long work days or nights.
Another challenge is people. Although Gardner tries to make everyone happy with his art, his public presence also leaves him open to critique.
”There’s a handful of people who felt the need to really go off on me for no reason,” he said. ”I will never forget them, because that sticks out. Every once in a while, if they don’t like it, they feel the need to let you know. It’s fascinating; here’s this job that you’re vulnerable in and people feel it’s okay to criticize and critique the art directly to the artist – it’s not like that in any other job.”
Despite those negative interactions, Gardner said the rewarding aspect is normally connecting with the public.
”It’s so positive and so fun to paint in the street and within 10 minutes get to meet a complete stranger and feel like you had a connection,” he said. ”It broadens your community.”
He added that it’s also rewarding for him to take a boring beige wall and add color to it. As people are driving down the street it can help life spirits or spark questions.
”That feeling that you took and transformed this, and people are taking pictures with it,” he said. ”It could have been a dead alleyway, but I jumped in and started painting it. You can take these spots and transform them, give them life, with not that much money or work.”