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Evolution unfolds: Bold map art inspired by love for town

Contributing writerOctober 5, 2012 

In the past year or so, David Joel says he’s seen an evolution in his artistic style: Personal symbols and significant events from his life are finding their way into what previously was abstract work.

Joel’s acrylic painting for the cover of this fall’s Arts Walk map is a perfect example. His work will be on view at Darby’s, where his mural “The Yellow Brick Wall” dominates the dining room with its bold swirls of color.

Inspired by old Olympia Beer advertisements, he decided to focus the cover piece on a Victorian lady. Most of what you see on the finished piece came spontaneously.

“I had a plan for the way her eyes looked and her face and I kind of set that up,” he said. “I knew she would have some kind of dress and some kind of hat and some kind of abstract hair.

“I just made it up as I went along. That turns out sometimes.”

The Capitol Dome made its way into the painting. So did a sweep of homes that were inspired by the layout of a medieval city and that call to mind some of the steeper streets on Olympia’s east side.

Joel’s love for Olympia also shows through.

The Seattle artist was born here. He grew up in Eastern Washington but spent a lot of time here visiting his grandparents, who lived on Guffy Lane.

“It’s a tribute to Olympia, to my friends and family there,” he said of the piece. “I feel like I never really had a chance to present Olympia with anything — other than the mural at Darby’s.

“This is my way of saying, ‘I love this place.’”

It also is a way to honor his grandmother Lynn Dawson, who still lives on Guffy Lane. Born in England, Dawson jokingly referred to herself as “the lady of Guffy Lane.”

“As a kid, multiple times a year I would come to this house,” he said. “That was so important for my imagination.

“We had all kinds of forests to explore. We had a beach that we would explore. We would carve sticks and hunt for spiders. I wanted to pay tribute to that with this piece.”

The city commissioned the piece after a jury selected Joel as the featured artist for this fall, and it will be part of the public art collection.

“David’s work has a wonderful graphic quality,” said Stephanie Johnson, the City of Olympia’s arts and events manager. “It’s an interesting piece both close up and far away.”

Joel has been painting full time for the past couple of years. Besides the mural at Darby’s, locals might have seen his poster for 2011’s All Freakin’ Night, the Olympia Film Society’s horror movie marathon.

Last winter, he was the artist in residence at TwispWorks, which aims to bring economic vitality to Eastern Washington’s Methow Valley. The residency was partially funded by Artist Trust.

He painted two murals as part of that residency. He loves working on a large scale but is doing more small-scale paintings these days for practical reasons.

“It was really a cool project and really helps me be excited about volunteering as an artist,” he said. “I believe being an artist you are doing it for virtue over money.

“Public art gets more and more attractive as I get older and realize I’m not going to be a millionaire from being an artist.”

Art by David Joel

What: The Arts Walk XLV cover artist, a full-time painter, has a bold graphic style with colorful swirling shapes.

When: Joel’s work will be on view only for Arts Walk weekend — except for the mural, “The Yellow Brick Wall,” which is a fixture.

Where: Darby’s, 211 Fifth Ave. SE, Olympia


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