Hertel has landed another new mural. This time, the work is a collaboration between a number of fervent and iconic Buffalo figureheads, including the celebrated Buffalo band Goo Goo Dolls, and famed Buffalo artist Philip Burke. The project came about when owner of Zoom Copy, Rory Allen, approached Burke about the commissioned project – Allen and Burke envisioned a tribute to hometown rockers Robby Takac and Johnnie Rzeznik, which would be painted by Burke, with a particular Hertel Avenue wall in mind.
“We have been working on this for about a year,” said Allen. “I approached Philip last July 1st and we discussed the project for a few months before we settled on the Goo Goo Dolls as the subject. The building owners (the owners of the Public House and their partners – 1212 Hertel) loved the idea of paying tribute to the GGDs and commissioned Philip to custom paint this for the wall. The original painting is 6 feet wide by 2 feet tall. Then came the transfer of the image to the wall – it was a challenge because of all the windows and interruptions. We created a canvas for Philip with all of the interruptions and he had to be careful to put faces in spots so that would fit on the wall. This is the first of many we plan to work on together, although no specifics have been contracted yet so we aren’t free to announce them yet.”
The mural project also had another key supporter in the form of North Buffalo Council Member Joel Feroleto who has been a driving force for public art along Hertel. “Burke is a world-renowned artist who hails from Buffalo – he became a featured artist at Rolling Stone (1989-96), and his works have graced the pages of Time, The New Yorker, and Sport Illustrated,” said Feroleto. “The famed Goo Goo Dolls are also a locally cherished treasure. So it makes sense to team them together, to create another inspirational work of art on the street. It’s great that the mural is wrapping up just as the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival gets underway this weekend.”
Interview with Philip Burke:
You grew up in Buffalo, moved to NYC, and then returned?
I grew up in Buffalo and moved to NYC in 1977. I returned in 1983 – I met a woman here who wouldn’t come to NYC. A lot of people thought that I was still living in NYC, but I was actually working for a lot of NY publishing companies, while remotely living in Buffalo.
In 1983? It wasn’t like it is today, with the internet and technology… was it difficult?
I was one of the first editorial illustrators to work remotely. Thankfully I got an exclusive contract with Vanity Fair, which gave me the freedom to work from Buffalo. They paid me not to work for anyone else, and they paid me to work for them exclusively. I beat out a lot of artists a generation ahead of me – I was a young find. At the time, I was faxing my sketches and Fed Exing my works.
Have you ever painted The Goos before?
I did Robby and Johnnie for the Buffalo News – I was doing work for the Sunday Mag, until it died.
Do you work with your celebrity subjects face to face?
No. Mostly from photos. I try to create their images like they would look live. Unlike photographers, publishers don’t send artists on assignments. These days, Youtube and Google allow me to find images from different angles. I usually work with about 15 different photos, and study them for days.
Where will the original work of art end up?
The original painting will end up right back with me. People pay me for the first production rights, and I retain the original. It keeps my work affordable, especially for projects like this.
What do you do with the originals?
I have a business partner in Niagara Falls – he runs my website, and sells the originals. I also sell at some shows.
Your work has been in countless major magazines. What’s it like to work on a local project, as opposed to a more global project?
I love it. I’m getting back into the community these days. Over the past few summers I’ve been painting live at Artpark – I’ve worked out an arrangement with them that I will paint the performers (if they want me to), from images from the shows. I have also painted live at Music is Art. I kept a low profile for years, but after my 2015 Burchfield-Penney show, and getting inducted into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame, I’ve been connecting more with the community.
Have you ever done another mural in Buffalo – how about murals in other cities?
This is the first time any sort of mural activity has gone on with my work – always dreamed of it, but it was never feasible with time and money. This process has allowing me to fulfill a dream.
I’m really enjoying seeing the public art. I’ve never been a part of the club scene, but I have been becoming more familiar with local musicians. I’m excited about the public art process, and I want to do more of it. The magazine illustration business is shrinking and it’s not where the future is. The mural? It’s a new form of publishing thanks to the technology – I saw part of the Goo Goo Dolls mural yesterday… I can’t believe how much it looked like it got painted on the wall. It did not look like a transfer.
What intrigues you most about Buffalo these days? Does anything surprise you?
It’s hard not to notice the growth, the life, and the activity. At the same time, for me, it’s always been about the people. The people are the greatest asset. They are genuine, with no attitude. As for the changes, for the first time since I was born, Buffalo is starting to get cool… but it’s the warmth of the people that I love.
What would you like to see happen in Buffalo? What should be next on the horizon?
Personally what is already happening – the mural artwork is really exciting. You see it in NYC, Toronto, and now in Buffalo.
Skyway or no Skyway?
I enjoy the skyway – I like passing over the water.
Favorite local restaurant?
I’m picky – a lot of places, but the most recent place I like going to is Panaro’s – it’s comfortable, the food is good, and it’s not too fancy.