Street Artist Gets Permission To Paint City With Funny Internet Memes

He knew it was illegal, but a few beers in and Paul Walsh stealthily started drawing a picture of Grumpy Cat on a wall of the local dog park in Auckland, New Zealand.

That was in 2013. Given the success of his artwork today, many would say, “The rest is history.” But, it’s safe to conclude that it’s history that this artist is now making with his paintings on utility boxes around his city.

Paul Walsh knew that painting a picture of Grumpy Cat on a wall at the local dog park was illegal, but that day, he did it anyway.

That’s when things picked up steam. His artwork was later featured in a local newspaper, and before he knew it Chorus, the company that owns utility boxes around New Zealand was contacting him.

While in conversation with Wonderish, Paul, born in Rotorua, New Zealand, talks about how he landed the oddball position of painting utility boxes. After his Grumpy Cat artwork was featured in the local newspaper (thanks to a friend!), Chorus, a company that owns multiple utility boxes around the country, reached out to him. They showed interested in his talent, and Paul says “They gave me free reign to paint on their boxes, and so far I’ve painted over 30 of them in Auckland and around New Zealand.”

He has now painted over 30 boxes around the country.

And the only thing that slows him down is the wintertime that comes with an abundance of rainy weather.

There’s so much skill involved in these paintings, so it’s natural to question how when and where it all started. So, what was Paul’s inspiration? “It came from my parents, “ says the artist. “They had hundreds of interesting records from the 70s with psychedelic covers, and also had prints of artworks by Dali and M.C. Escher, all over the house.”

The artist is also a former DJ and web designer, so when he’s not painting, he’s keeping busy one way or another!

Despite being born in Rotorua, Paul has lived in Wellington, New Zealand, as well as in London, England. But life brought him back to Auckland where he now resides with his wife and kids and works as a full-time artist.

But he says he’s way too old to be partying all night (no more DJing!), so his off-time now consists of fishing on his kayak.

But what came before art? Paul was a DJ for 20 years before he gave it up: “I don’t do so much anymore—I’m too old to be partying all night!”

Creativity has been a big part of his life from his childhood.

He may have given up DJing, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t know how to keep a crowd happy anymore. As the conversation steers back to the subject of his infamous drawings, he admits that “The response from the public [and Chorus] has been all positive.” Paul tries to paint at least one box a month, although the going gets tough in the wintertime with all the rain.

His parents had hundreds of interesting records from the 70s with psychedelic covers, and prints of artworks by Dali and M.C. Escher, all over the house.

Each utility box is unique in design, so it’s only appropriate to ask if there is a story behind each of the images he paints on these boxes. He responds like this: “Some of the early ones [paintings] were inspired by Internet memes—anthropomorphic animals with simple patterned backgrounds. I started by copying from a few actual memes, but they have taken on a life of their own now. Some of them are from my photographs, [and] other source images are inspired by old magazines and books, and then altered to fit into my distinct style.”

At first, he was heavily inspired by internet memes, so a lot of his box paintings reflect anthropomorphic animals with simple patterned backgrounds.

Creativity and hands-on projects are like second nature to Paul. As a former web designer, he still devotes some time to web and graphic design. He says that he has “been creating canvases and illustrations for a lot longer than I’ve been painting in the streets, which gives me something to do when it’s raining, like today!”

But more recently, his designs “have taken a life of their own,”  he says, and his audience wouldn’t have it any other way. Paul’s artwork is well-received and loved by the masses.

How did you like Paul’s work? Which utility box design is your favorite? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below! And if you enjoyed the artwork, then don’t forget to like and share this post with family and friends!

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