Calgary artist contributes murals, rewarded with human connections

A Calgary artist says he gets valuable human connections as a gift while contributing decorative, detailed murals around the city.

'You broaden your perspectives and you understand things a little deeper than before,' Alex Kwong says

Alex Kwong on mural art

3 years ago
Alex Kwong on mural art 2:12

A Calgary artist says he gets valuable human connections as a gift while contributing decorative, detailed murals around the city.

"Being out there in the community, meeting the people. All of those connections give it a little more meaning," Alex Kwong told CBC News.

  • Watch the video above to hear more from Alex Kwong and see his artistic process

Kwong and fellow artist Sergey Ryutin have added murals centred around faces to blank walls around Calgary, which enhance those spaces.

"Putting something like this in here really brightens the area, people are really pleased about it. Doing these large projects in Calgary, it's a cool way to make your mark, sort of let people know you are out here," he said.

Calgary artist Alex Kwong says he sometimes gets as much as he gives when he adds beauty to a blank space. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

"It helps contribute to Calgary's art scene, the visual culture out there."

Kwong, who has an art history degree, works often in spray paint, building around human forms and figures.

He says that while we, as consumers, are surrounded by sales pitches, sometimes it's nice to take a little break.

"With all of the advertisements we are inundated with these days, everything is trying to sell you something. It's telling you, 'you are lacking this, so buy this.' It's everywhere you go, right? Just having a mural on a wall is a bit of a gift for just a moment, however long you want to enjoy it for. But it's not trying to sell you something," Kwong said.

"It is just trying to give you a moment to breathe, enjoy and reflect."

Alex Kwong and Sergey Ryutin worked together on this mural. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

Working on large scale murals outside, often in cold weather, provides a different set of challenges versus working at a desk indoors.

"Sometimes the paint is freezing on the wall before it dries," he said with a laugh.

"But you make do and you make it happen. It's like a full-body experience, really. There's such a physicality to it. After a full day of painting, man, I am sore."

Alex Kwong and Sergey Ryutin worked on this mural in downtown Calgary. The face on the right is Hygieia, the goddess of good health, cleanliness and sanitation. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

Kwong draws inspiration from social media like Instagram, adding hard work can really pay off.

"Everyone says, 'I can't even draw a stickman.' I couldn't draw a stickman when I started. We all start somewhere, and some of us stick with it, whether it is enjoyment or determination. For me, it is a bit of both. It is not always enjoyable, that's for sure," Kwong said.

The Calgary artist is self-taught.

"No formal education, just self-trained at the table, pencil in hand. That's about it. Observing others and soaking that up. I am a bit of a vampire in that way."

This mural of actor Owen Wilson is located next to a downtown Calgary LRT station. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

And his art has allowed Kwong to connect with and understand other people more effectively.

"Painting on walls sometimes can be a little frivolous, but the lifelong friends I have made through painting, that's been the most valuable thing. It gives more meaning to the final piece than just what it is on the surface," Kwong said.

"I get to become a family member to the people I am working with. They are sharing their stories with you. You really gain a lot from that. You broaden your perspectives and you understand things a little deeper than before."

With files from Monty Kruger


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?