Queer Mural – Drag Queen Mayhem Miller – Los Angeles

queer Street art mural of drag queen Mayhem Miller by David Puck, in Los Angeles California
Mural of Drag Queen Mayhem Miller, Los Angeles

One of the first things I did when I moved to LA in 2019 was paint this mural of LA drag legend Mayhem Miller at Venice Beach, on the free graffiti street art area near the skate park and just off the boardwalk (famous from films like Lords of Dogtown). I’d never painted on a beach before, such a beautiful setting. I also painted Trixie Mattel’s pink eyes on a trashcan and a quick piece of Raja before the sun set and it got too dark. Multiple LA Ru Paul’s drag race drag queens taking over the usually straight graffiti park hehe.

Mayhem saw the painting, shared it online, and recommended it to Hank & Henry, the beauty YouTuber, to use as the packaging image for their lipstick collaboration. I went to her 90’s night at The Abbey in WeHo and introduced myself, she was so nice and invited me and my friend into the VIP along with Pandora Boxx and Mariah. I hadn’t met many of the internationally famous queens in person at this point so I was fan girling my little gay heart out.

Later on Mayhem was a guest on my visual podcast ‘Painterview’, where I talk to my subjects about their lives, creativity and mental health whilst painting their portrait. She was super open about mental health issues like depression, it was a really insightful and inspiring conversation. See my IGTV at Instagram @DavidPuckArtist for the full episode, or search ‘Painterview’ on podcast platforms. Select clips posted also on my Instagram along with the finished painting.

My painting of Mayhem for Painterview. Spray paint & Oil.
Still from Mayhem’s episode of Painterview.

The lipstick collaboration with Hank & Henry was one of my first paid gigs in LA, and it coming so quickly really helped me believe that I could support myself from art. I had moved to LA with not much savings, only knowing 1 person and with zero art contacts. I rented a cheap paint studio in East LA and slept in my car for the first 6 months. I had only sold a few paintings in Europe before this, but I moved to LA determined to make a living from art. I worked non-stop doing as many projects as I could find, and creating my own like painting Mayhem at Venice Beach, and thankfully almost straightaway I was managing to get at least 1 decent paid gig a month, enough to break even (not a small task considering LA prices, rent, and needing a car for murals). Although burnout eventually came on hard, in the long term this experience really encouraged me to go for the things I want, to follow my intuition, trust that it will work out and not be afraid. I moved to NYC this Summer similarly not knowing many people, but hit the ground running and hoped for the best. Hank & Henry had said they wanted many more commissions also, but they never materialized, which taught me another lesson that often projects will fall through and that’s okay, there will be more. They had a booth at DragCon LA that year so we got to meet and I saw the lipstick on sale! I had an artist table selling prints and it was my first time at DragCon so it was nice to have this there also. Hey Qween TV also shared the mural to promote Mayhem’s interview with them, which eventually led to me working with them to paint portraits of their guests for their intros. I had been watching Hey Qween for years online so this was a fun project.


So overall the message of this mural to me was to be bold and go for the things you want and believe in, and you never know what it might lead to. I’ve learnt that art careers aren’t usually one big viral break, but rather many stepping stones over a long period of time, scattering seeds every which way and trusting that some will grow.

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Monet X-Change Drag Queen Mural

Street art mural painting of drag queen monet xchange in los angeles california
Monet X Change Mural, Avery Schreiber Theatre, Los Angeles California

Timelapse video painting process of this mural is on my Instagram @DavidPuckArtist

This mural based on Monet X-Change – drag legend – is in the lobby of the Avery Schreiber Theatre in North Hollywood, Los Angeles, California.
My last post of the Ru Paul mural talked about how I came to these walls,and the creative freedom that allowed me to paint drag queens on them.
In short this is the theatre where I had been doing improv classes for the previous couple months, before corona lockdown, and the coach is active in the local theatres and council.

The pattern is taken from Victorian fabrics. I love florals and anything that reads as old lady wallpaper or sofa patterns. Aesthetically I love the ornate intricacy, and conceptually that they evoke nature, feminine energy, historical gravitas, and old ladies.
Originally I had a different colour palette in mind, but this was right towards the end of me living in LA, so I was trying to use up all the remaining paint I had accrued over the last year and a half. But like often happens, I was glad for the restrictions as it led to doing something different. I think of the overall design as like a human flower vase. The entire piece is latex house paint, without any spray. I’ve been trying to limit my use of spray paint anyway for environmental and health reasons, plus this lobby is indoor with very limited ventilation. I had recently started using paint flower, which I also use for acrylic pour paintings, to thin out the paint enough to make the transparent highlights and shadows on the face. Previously I had thought on this scale only transparent cans could do it. The one thing I miss from spray paint is the vibrancy, but I’m sure if I sprung for nicer latex paints I could still achieve that. Due to lockdown, no one was around the theatre, so again like in the Whitmore-Lindley I could amuse myself by pretending to put on plays that no one showed up to (much like the actual plays I’ve been in).

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The best part of this mural was that quite a few friends came around to say hi! Queer artists @AlexDSalyer, @StevieLovesYou,  @Jennlmnop, Max and @DivaDogLA. I like that painting doesn’t take a lot of concentration when the design is already decided, so I can talk with people. That was part of the inspiration for my visual podcast Painterview also.
As much as I criticise certain aspects of LA, one thing I did love was many of the people, and I was lucky to have met so many talented and lovely queer artists whilst living there. Unfortunately its hard to see each other cus the city is a mass of spread out freeways but anyway I digress.

The timelapse videos I make for the process of the murals, I’ve been trying to include audio overlay from the subject of the painting themselves (the next best thing when they are not a guest on Painterview!). So later I listened to a lot of different episodes of Sibling Rivalry and The X-Change Rate, which was a pleasure. I listen to both often anyway, but recently I’ve been trying to lower my media intake so there is a lot that I had missed. I settled on a clip of Monet talking about what Defund The Police actually means, and the reasons why its appropriate in America. For example, their police budgets are so high and disproportionate compared to other countries. LA the police budget makes up for over 50% of the entire government spending in the city… And this is cus of things like military grade equipment for domestic use, a culture of  armed police being sent out for minor disputes even between young children at school, and unnecessary spending like regular helicopter patrols over poorer neighbourhoods in LA (no suspects, just like how a policeman would casually walk around the city, but instead dollar and gas guzzling helicopters).

 

Street art mural painting of drag queen monet xchange in Los Angeles California

Street art mural painting of drag queen monet xchange in Los Angeles CaliforniaStreet art mural painting of drag queen monet xchange in Los Angeles California