Overall Murals made, from scratch, something we really love and are proud of. Spoiler alert, it’s not an ad. We painted three big art pieces dedicated to the adventures and misadventures of 2020, thus far, in a package we titled “Do the Right Thing 2020”. The murals can be found on our largest and most unique set of walls in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, at the foot of Domino Park.
This is a passion project spearheaded by my partner and I, with immense support from our talented team and the undeniable skills of our favorite artists. If it appeals to you and you’d like to donate to a great cause, head over to our online store. Here you can buy some cool DTRT2020 mural related stuff, like a bandana or print. 100% of the bandana proceeds benefit an important organization, Art Start.
I detail in the article below how we got here and what it means to us. Check out more photos here.
In the middle of the Great Recession, in 2008, my husband, Dmitry Pankov, and I started a little painted sign shop called okMitch Studio. For two years we designed and painted most of our own murals and logos for small and big businesses around New York. When the recession was supposedly over, in 2010, we felt the pull to go bigger and beyond just the two of us. In April that year, we birthed Overall Murals, a hand painted outdoor advertising company. Fast forward 10 years, to 2020, which as many of you know, has been less than ideal. Living in a global pandemic feels like a bad acid trip, making our initial company struggles seem like a birthday party at Disneyland. I can’t imagine there’s one person out there who has not been affected, big or small, inwardly or outwardly, by the unfolding events these last several months.
As an operator of out-of-home locations, the usual space filler on a piece of unsold inventory, might be a company logo, a phone number to “ADVERTISE HERE”, or in some cases, a piece of art. We’ve definitely done one of those before, but given the circumstances, felt it’s the time to contribute more. As an organization that is run by people with art backgrounds and deep artistic passions, there’s an inherent need to make something iconic and that could be a piece of art history. We consciously seek to challenge people’s minds and eyes with what we can create for the world. At the very least we could say we put our blood, sweat and tears into it.
When we first entered New York’s “Pause” this past March, we were naively optimistic. “This will blow over by April… Okay, maybe May. Um, who the hell knows?” The virus continued to permeate our lives but luckily we didn’t lay anyone off and we’re still working. Subsequently, we felt compelled to make work that could respond to this new uncertain world.
If you’ve received any swag from us you would know that OM enjoys making all kinds of merch. Part of our collection includes custom designed bandanas, which we’ve been making for years. This piece of cloth is needed more than ever now, and the next one required a Covid-19 inspired design. My husband concepted and gave direction to illustrator, Pedro Oyarbide, based out of Spain and an artist we have relied on over and over again for quick, yet inventive work. The art we arrived at is of a painter, wearing a shirt with “F___ the Virus” scrawled across it, whilst surfing in the barrel of a wave of viruses bobbing about. Upon its completion, we decided we’d make a coronavirus themed mural with the same artwork.' As June neared, re-openings across the country were impending. Is this big wave finally crashing down? Will business bounce back in a promising V formation? We’re all wondering where the twists and turns will lead us and hoping for the best.
Black Lives Matter. As a result of built up tensions, horrible events, unsettled historical BS, plus to be honest… cabin fever, boredom, economic downturn, and the need to feel alive and that life has purpose… peaceful protests as well as unrest unfurled across our nation. Yes, although this did suck and setback business further, it was a necessary awakening for society.
It became clear to us that developing relevant and informed work was a race against the everchanging newscycle. Internally, we decide to change our bandana up and make the other side dedicated to a guy surfing a wave with BLM stuff floating around him. After some debate, his shirt says, “FTP”. As we reflected on BLM and the rest of the year, the mural’s concept grew.
In only the middle of June, we all felt that although the year is not yet over; it has felt like two years have passed these last three months. “How are you?” is a question we now feel uncomfortable answering.
We are still riding the first uncertain wave of this already monumental, chaotic and unforgettable 2020. The news and discussion of it all is inescapable. Cell phones are glued to our hands and just about everyone is constantly reading, sharing and reposting. At this point, a recap includes the Australian fires, Kobe Bryant’s sad departure, to of course, coronavirus and its massive ripple effects, and then there were swarms of locusts and murder hornets, onto the vital flourishing and uproar of the BLM movement (including supporters and foes) to monumental events like Space X, inexplicably nonstop fireworks, and historical mass nationwide protests… As a world, country, city and people we can’t help discussing and contemplating these experiences. It is in some respect, our responsibility and the most American thing we can do to exercise our right to engage in these conversations. We’ve all been provoked.
Art, too, is meant to provoke. Whether it be beautiful, thoughtful, disgusting, political, funny… what art does is question our reality and defy popular thought. The best work should make us talk, reflect and question. We must not be afraid of it.
“My belief is that art should not be comforting; for comfort, we have mass entertainment and one another. Art should provoke, disturb, arouse our emotions, expand our sympathies in directions we may not anticipate and may not even wish.” ― Joyce Carol Oates
At OM, a bandana design gives rise to asking… What about murals? As a mural painting company, we wanted to use our voice and platform to visually and artistically represent all of this. We made a list and sent it to our artist to create the designs. We strived to cover as much as we could and wanted to put it on our favorite advertising location. A call was made to prepare our landlord partner. Then there was a lot of internal back and forth, adding, editing and removing items, testing our designer’s patience.
The final design by Pedro, who prefers to work with limited colors, was sent to us in black and white with red blood highlights. It was striking on the screen and as a print. Blowing it up in real life, however, still felt unfinished. At the last minute, after our team had already prepared the patterns for production, we enlisted a friend, Anya Karbashyan, an illustrator who works with watercolor to quickly color in the illustration’s bones. Usually color is finalized before prep, so it was a rash but essential decision. A couple of team members questioned the aesthetic need and timeline, but we were adamant that the visuals be more challenging and remarkable. The end product allowed the digital image to come alive, helping differentiate the various scenes with pretty and somewhat hallucinogenic colors and watercolor effects. The addition also helped balance some otherwise aggressive images. Still, the original deep red was purposely stained throughout.
Finally the team could start painting. It took roughly seven days with seven painters. While the 100-foot street level wall documenting an out of sequence timeline of things that occurred, the second upper wall looming above it, beckons viewers, “Do the Right Thing”. The statement harkens one of Dmitry and my favorite Spike Lee films, and like our office, it’s based in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, and oh, so fitting for today’s narrative. Surrounding the text are roses, stars and hopeful symbols of better things to come. Smack dab between a pair of bird wings is a large QR code to bring folks to our store, where you can donate and receive the black and white bandana.
We added a third mural to this unit, which is normally sold as a duo. We’ve never painted this wall because it’s too close to the park for advertising. This time we could use it and placed big letters stating, “2020, Now but Not Forever,” in black and white. Underneath is an artists statement or synopsis of what the mural is about, pretty much a shorter version of this whole article. We added another QR code here to bring users of it to vote.org.
The public response has been largely positive. During production, those who loved it walked up to the painters with sincere compliments. Like most of our work, and especially this time, many snapped photos or simply stood there and digested it all. Of course, as expected, there were those who were not so fanatical about it; and they only let it be known from their quick passing bikes, cars or patrol vehicles.
In some countries we would be censored for such a piece. We feel lucky that we are able to express ourselves and bring what’s shining daily on our screens to a big outdoor canvas. The circumstances we all experienced must be accepted as they are but as humans we innately feel the need to solve problems and implement change. And in today’s postmodern world, what can we do?
DO THE RIGHT THING. We can empower one another and offer suggestions on how, by using whatever tools and means possible.