This local muralist has been covertly creating murals in LA for years now, paying homage to local heros & legends in the process. Each mural has grown his profile and today he’s one of the preeminent muralists in our city. Jonas Never is his name and his mural work can be seen in cities such as Pacoima, Long Beach, Venice and downtown Los Angeles just to name a few. I was able to get in touch with the artist and ask some questions about his work, his ethos, and his experience painting walls in L.A.
Please introduce yourself to the L.A. TACO readers. Who you are and what you do?
I’m Never and I paint walls.
You have a painterly style with the murals you create. What is your background? Did you go to art school? Are you self-taught?
I grew up in Venice and as a kid I watched folks painting the old Venice pavilion. The graffiti there mixed with all the rad artwork on skate decks and old punk show flyers really inspired me and I started trying to emulate all that. As I got older graffiti became a deep influence for me. Finally in college a couple professors I guess saw something in me and started getting me to paint more cityscapes and portraits. Eventually I started applying those same ideas to wall, first in some of our graffiti productions back in like 2004 and 2005. Eventually moving to true mural direction in 2007.
How many murals did you do last year? Which one was the most challenging to work on?
I probably did somewhere around 30 walls last year. My Pacific Ocean Park themed mural at Ashland Hill in Santa Monica was probably the most challenging technically. The portrait of Ayer (RIP) on the edge of Mid City was really challenging in different ways cause I was working from an old low res reference photo on a giant ladder in a crazy heat wave… and then did his letters in his style way up high.
You directed me to check out cult-classics.com to see more of your work. Very impressive to say the least. I have a few favorites. Do you have any favorites?
I’ve got a few favorites. The giant Touch of Venice will always be really important to me. The Mar Vista Floyd’s is a favorite cause it includes a lot of my family and my favorite band The Gaslight Anthem. It was also my first real big exterior mural. It’s always a thrill painting stuff that I love like the Sublime wall in Long Beach and the Karate Kid scene out in the Valley.
Talk to our readers about how the Stuart Scott mural came about? The how, why and ripple effect of that mural did for your work as an artist.
I was dealing with a few crappy prospective clients who wanted me to paint things that either weren’t good ideas or just didn’t make sense how they wanted them. I was annoyed and got in touch with my friends Jaber & Asylm to paint a wall, to start 2015 off in a good way. Stuart Scott had just passed away so I decided to do a portrait of him. I’ve worked in sports bars for over a decade and every night SportsCenter is on for hours and hours.
We were at the wall most of the day. When we finished I posted a photo of it on Instagram and went out to dinner with my lady. As we’re sitting at El Cholo my phone just started blowing up and within 20 minutes my battery was dead. By the time I got home and charged it the photo had gone totally viral. A few months later his daughters came and checked out the wall and made one of the coolest comments I’d ever heard. They told me how it gave them closure to actually be able to spend some time with the likeness of their father and I was really touched.
That whole experience kind of showed me the power of honoring people and things on walls. Other memorial pieces like the ones for Batle, Trigz, Bradley Nowell, Jrox, etc. have become a real sense of pride and labor of love for me.
Your latest Mural of Kobe Bryant is iconic. What type of research do you do before creating a new mural?
I really try to make sure the locations and themes of the murals make sense. With Kobe retiring after 20 years in LA I knew I wanted to honor him… and that it had to be as close to Staples Center as possible. I also wanted to use an image of him that showed the passion and energy he had for the game.
What are your influences visually? Are there any artist you are influenced or inspired by?
I’m really influenced by my city and the cultures within it. Murals need to connect with something that happened there, a hero of the neighborhood, or something that was filmed there. It’s public art. I want locals to know why the subject matter was chosen and tourists or fans of the subject matter to want to stop and see it when they’re in town.
My first influences were the album art of Rancid and the Ducky Boys, and the skate decks of Dogtown, Bulldog Skates and Santa Monica Airlines. I am also influenced by my buddy Bleek, he has a great eye for spot selection. I’m also heavily influenced by pop culture and 1950s era advertisements. Shag is by far my favorite gallery artist.
What other projects do you have in the works that our readers should look out for?
Just started a new wild west themed one on Venice Blvd … Hopefully gonna do a big one on Lincoln and Rose and one in Silver Lake. We’ll see what else comes up.
Is there a dream or fantasy mural that you have ever thought about painting regardless of budget and time?
There’s definitely a few dream murals I’ve always wanted to do: something from the movie Swingers on the drive to Vegas, a Dale Earnhardt Sr one in Carolina, a Lost Boys one in Santa Cruz. The list could go on and on.
Thank you for taking the time for doing this interview. Any last words?
Thanks for taking the time to interview me and thanks to everyone for not writing on my walls!