Visual Arts

Local Artist David Quan Is an Art Explosion

David Quan deals in blue ooze. You may have noticed his signature paint drips on canvases around town, and if you've taken a drive down Grand Avenue or Jefferson Street, you've likely seen them on a few façades.

The local artist is a rare breed in the street art community, mostly because he didn't hone his craft on the street. Quan says he always wanted to be a comic book artist; he's more interested in goofy faces and a great story than getting his name out or snagging a sweet spot on an electrical box.

We spotted his illustration work a few years ago and convinced him to share one of his cartoon-scapes in 2009's Best of Phoenix "Wonderland" show. Lately, he's been doing quite a bit of work for New Times. It's no secret we dig his knack for clean lines and not-always-clean stories, which he tells in his weekly comic, Magical Moment, on our culture blog, Jackalope Ranch (

When we landed on this year's Best of Phoenix "Underground" theme, we knew Quan was the perfect local artist to bring the vision to life — online, on our pages, and even on our walls.

From a ladder leaning against the New Times building a few weeks ago, Quan said he never thought he'd get paid to do murals — or art, for that matter. He laughed, remembering using his air compressor and brush for his first mural gig, exactly one year ago on The Trunk Space.

Quan's passion for drawing started in math and science classes in middle and high school. He filled notebooks and homework sheets with cartoon characters and storylines of his adventures with friends growing up in North Phoenix. He says he wouldn't have gone to art school had his mom, who's also an artist, not had a say.

"She never had a chance to get formally trained," he says. "Here, I thought I was going to go to school for something that made money — engineering or something — but she wouldn't have it. I was going to New York to study comics."

Two years after moving to the Big Apple, he came back to make a go of it in his hometown. He started on paper and canvas; then local arts maven Beatrice Moore brought him into the large-scale scene.

Last summer, when he was sick of the tags and graffiti that kept appearing on his own garage door off of Grand Avenue, Quan picked up a bucket of black paint and covered the spray-painted letters with dancing figures. Moore, who runs Kooky Krafts down the road from Quan's house, drove by one morning and wanted to see more.

She asked him to paint the same figures on The Trunk Space, a Grand Avenue art and music venue that was also a favorite spot for local taggers. Quan had other plans.

On a hot September afternoon, he painted a huge, oozy monster and signed it "Luster Kaboom."

The name, he says, materialized years ago, again, thanks to Mom. She voiced her concerns about his "gross" characters and often-uncensored subjects. Instead of adding his own element to his father's side of the family legacy in Phoenix (his grandparents owned a market in the old Phoenix Chinatown), and in an attempt to keep his work "mom-proof," he says he came up with a list of monikers and picked one.

Luster Kaboom became a street name of sorts. The 34-year-old uses it on his artwork currently at Regular Gallery. Inside the Trunk Space, and on the murals he paints between his day job (painting houses) on The Chocolate Factory, City Wide Studios, and, for a while, anyway, on the New Times building at 1201 East Jefferson Street.

In September, with the help of artists Jenny Carolin and Colin Chillag and New Times' art director Peter Storch, Quan brought to life an oozy ladder scene. The four completed the two-story mural in a few days. Quan hesitates a little before saying it'll probably be the last one he'll paint in Phoenix for a while.

In October, he's moving back to New York to give his dream of drawing comics another chance.

He washes his brushes, packs his paint, ties his ladder to the top of his pick-up truck, and assures us he'll be back. He'll have some boxes to pick up, a few friends to see, and he still has to decide how he wants to hang his creation for Jackalope Ranch's show of Phoenix maps by local artists (which opens October 21 at Regular Gallery).

And while the artist figures he'll get roped into a few more murals on the East Coast, he says he's looking forward to diving back into his oozy, smaller-scale passions. For now.

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Claire Lawton
Contact: Claire Lawton