Visual Arts

See Douglas Miles' Selfie-Inspired Mural at MonOrchid in Phoenix

Artist Douglas Miles combined stenciling and hand-drawn imagery to create his new mural on the east wall of the MonOrchid Gallery on Roosevelt Street.

Miles, who owns Apache Skateboards, incorporated five black-and-white portraits, including a self-portrait of himself, on the mural in the parking lot alley next to MonOrchid, where the simple palette stands from colorful neighboring murals.

See also: Douglas Miles' "APACHE X" Is the Best Show in a While for Phoenix's MonOrchid

The mural, which was Miles' contribution to Paint PHX, was also a part of his "Apache X" exhibition, which was on view at MonOrchid through March 30.

Miles, who considers himself a bit of a portrait artist, works to embody the characteristics that empower Native American people. The two women featured prominently in the mural are his "tribute to strong Native American women."

Though not all of his portraits are based on real people, they are all inspired by the idea of strength, independence, passion, and concern for community and family.

"It could be a single mother, maybe someone that's taking care of their grandmother, maybe she's working two or three jobs to take care of her family, an artist finishing grad school," Miles says. "Sometimes it's based on friends of mine, sometimes my daughters."

Miles frequently works from photographs. A large portion of the mural is based on "selfie" culture; Miles based one of the women in the mural on a selfie photograph she took of herself, the portrait of himself is based on a selfie, and one of the smaller characters is holding a camera-phone, taking a selfie.

Miles says that the selfie is "an art form in itself."

"Even though there is a little irony in there, I'm not trying to be sarcastic. It's a play on words and it's true," Miles says. "I see people do it all the time. They will take 20, 30, 40 selfies to get the right lighting, pose, expression. But once they find that aesthetically pleasing shot, that's the one they want to share with the world."

The mural was completed in about two days using spray paint with stenciling and hand drawings, after outlining the piece with a lighter color. His decision to keep it colorless was to add a boldness to his design.

"It's trying to say a lot with a little. It's kind of a bolder technique in a way because the black always stands out," Miles says. "It's also challenging because [with] the black on white, it's easier to see mistakes."

Miles compared his use of black and white with Japanese calligraphy, the simplicity in the lines.

"The artistry is in the mood, feel, and flow of the stroke and the line in itself," Miles says.

Although he created the mural using spray paint, Miles works on his skateboards and gallery pieces using whatever he can find at the hardware store.

"That's the fun thing about the work in Apache X. I use whatever I can get my hands on and that's what makes it kinda raw. I use anything from aerosol, spray, house paint, markers, permanent ink."

Miles attributes much of his growth as a muralist to friend and fellow artist Thomas "Breeze" Marcus, who coordinated Paint PHX and is someone with whom he's worked on numerous projects.

"Anytime someone works with an artist at another level it's always gonna increase your talent," Miles says. "He's been a big influence on my work. I learn from watching him. He's been doing large scale work for much longer. I've done large murals off and on for the last 15 years, but never focused on them the way I do now."

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