From pizza to murals: Thompson to paint mural in Phoenix

“Women in a Dream III” located at the Montage apartment complex in Tempe. (Photo courtesy of Clyde Thompson)

Clyde Thompson is a former graffiti artist who has transitioned his art into painting murals, including one he is working on later this year in downtown Phoenix.

Mr. Thompson will create a new mural on the Central Avenue side of the Renaissance Downtown Phoenix Hotel.

“I like to take my time on pieces and not just do something really quick and leave.” he said.

He applied for this call to artists and said he was surprised when he became a finalist.

The Renaissance Hotel Director of Operations Brandy Staab says the Downtown Phoenix Partnership approached the hotel through a call wanting to do a mural on Central Avenue just like they did for the Malinda mural that is right around the corner and hides the speakeasy of Melinda’s Alley.

“With commissions, you are kind of compromising your art to go with whatever they want. With this [Renaissance mural] we were so in sync, and I just get to do my art.” Mr. Thompson said.

Artlink President Catrina Kahler said the company want to build a stronger connection between the arts and the community.

“These call to artists are effective to connecting local artists to opportunities that help them further establish themselves as artists,” she said.

For the project, Mr. Thompson says there will be a lot of moving lines and various shapes as well as various shades of sedimentary rock colors.

“Because there are a ton of shadows that drop over it,” he said.
This type of backdrop will enhance the shadows of the wall, he will be using cool colors like blues and greens to help cool down the blistering city.

A passion for the arts

Mr. Thompson has a passion for residential architecture, specifically the designing of homes.

This past winter, Mr. Thompson went to Alaska to do commercial fishing. He heard it was, “the most dangerous job in the world” so without any knowledge of how to fish, he went out on whim and spent four months working Alaska. He didn’t paint for four to six months.

“I like to do crazy things; I’ll get an idea in my head, like a crazy idea that just seems dumb and I’ll have to go do it,” he said.

His biggest inspirations are from the European art scene. When Mr. Thompson was 21 he went to Europe. While there he painted four murals, some have now been painted over.

“When I saw the murals in Europe, they looked like pieces of fine art that you’d see in a gallery, just at the scale of 10-20 stories tall,” he said.

“And ever since then, that has been my goal to create murals that don’t compromise quality and to eventually do something as big as 10-20 stories tall.”

Mr. Thompson’s logistical process of creating murals is unique. He will usually sit on them for a few weeks and not be happy with it and, “then all of a sudden something pops up that had been manifesting within that idea” and he has his masterpiece.

During this process, he admits to over-thinking everything and the best ideas come when you’re not thinking.

“I want to leave that impact that one gets when viewing the Arizona sunset, it is unexpected and it’s something that you cherish in the moment coming upon it,” he said.

“I’m figuring out the color scheme while I’m painting, which most artists are smarter than that and will have it figured out before they start painting.”

He makes it certain the quality of his murals will last a long time and the colors he chooses will look good on a large scale.

“The funniest thing happened on my last mural was when a middle school kid drove by riding in his moms’ car and yells ‘It looks terrible’, out of the window; I thought it was funny.” he said.

Other ways Mr. Thompson makes a living is working for a local general contractor or at a local tree service company.

A local story

After graduating high school, Mr. Thompson took an art history course at local community college. This was the first time he had been introduced to art, which inspired him to use his spray paint to create murals rather than just writing his name.

Phoenix muralist Clyde Thompson. (Photo courtesy of Clyde Thompson)

He graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Arts for Design studies in 2016.

“A lot of times murals are compromised because they are so large.” he said.
He painted a mural at a 45-degree angle wall that is 140 feet by 50 feet, which currently is the largest mural he’s done. Oh, and managed to complete it within three days. Clyde is able to camouflage electrical boxes and pipes as seen in his murals titled “Wherever you go” and “Women in a dream III.”

As Mr. Thompson is interacting more with the Phoenix art scene, he is realizing that a lot of people know his art but not a lot of people know him directly.

When asked what are some words others might describe him as, he chose: Mysterious, weird, not articulate and passionate.

“Every time I would meet people, they would say you’re mysterious.” he said.

Local storyteller Raina Bowers first met Mr. Thompson when he was her pizza delivery man in college.

“He texted me asking to get a drink and I had a That’s So Raven’s, flashback memory of 5 years ago in college.” Ms. Bowers said. When she was frequently ordering pizza and Mr. Thompson was her pizza delivery man but had trouble finding her apartment one night so he called her for help.

“He is one of the kindest, most respectful, thoughtful people out there and I appreciate that about him very much,” she said.

She describes Ms. Thompson as thoughtful, intentional and eclectic.

Mr. Thompson and Ms. Bowers have worked on a few projects together but mainly on photographing and dressing models for some of his pieces.

“If you’re in an area with a lot of people who are viewing you while you paint, you’re not going to finish it in that day, so you are leaving that progressed work out for everyone to view,” Mr. Thompson said.

“Some people think it’s finished. Some people don’t know where it’s going.”

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