Queer Mural – Drag Queen Valentina – Los Angeles

queer Street art mural of drag queen Valentina, Los Angeles California
Mural of Drag Queen Valentina, Los Angeles

I painted this huge mural of Drag Queen Valentina on the back of my art studio warehouse in East Los Angeles – Low Road City. It’s still to date one of my biggest murals. I wrote in my previous Miss Vanjie mural post about this strange and wonderful warehouse and the project to paint it’s alley. I was stoked to get to paint something this big and have creative freedom. I chose Valentina because she’s from East LA, Mexican-American and represents Latinx culture in her drag, and this neighbourhood in particular is very Mexican. Directly in front of the mural is a parking lot that I discovered on holidays is used for giant traditional community parties. One day I stumbled on one with various costumes, mariachi bands and food stalls. Every so often I’d be in my studio painting and hear Latinx music coming through the walls, so I’d take a break and take a wander around the party.

This mural was painted during a particularly busy time. NYC World Pride mural project, OutFest LA LGBT Centre mural, Enigma Beverly Hills live painting, Oaklash drag festival, Serenity Gathering live painting, Art Battle SF, vending at DragCon and art trips to SF and Mexico, all happening in June-July. There wasn’t much money for paint supplies for this mural nor time so I kept the design very minimal, which suited what I had been doing stylistically at the time anyway. Shout-out to Boxcar Vida for all her help in making this mural happen, and showing me the best Ceviche taco trucks in LA.

Some time after I remember seeing this come up on a popular post on Reddit. A lot of the comments were very rude/critical about it looking like various different queens. It was pretty upsetting at the time, considering the huge effort and investment it takes to organize and paint murals this big, and relatedly how rare queer drag murals are, and yet these hardcore reddit drag fans didn’t have any appreciation for that. Very few ‘Wow I haven’t seen this before, that’s huge’ and many negative joyless comments. I generally don’t read comments off of my own posts anymore because there is always this perfectionist negative skew. I think random criticism can be beneficial if it’s to do with morals and ethics, but otherwise it’s not helpful or useful. When I want stylistic or technical improvement I’ll get it from someone who actually knows about the various factors involved in a particular project. There are a lot of practical reasons why things end up looking the way they do, none of which a reddit commenter knows. Overall this moment and others like it have been positive experiences because they’ve contributed to counteract my people pleasing and perfectionist conditioning, and instead find a more freeing and understanding mindset. There will always be someone who is negative and unhappy, you can never please everyone, so why bother people pleasing and diminishing yourself for others validation. Just do what you want and believe in. It’s also taught me to be much more compassionate and understanding of others and to look out for my own negative/critical bias. I believe we are all just doing our best, and unless it’s a moral/ethical issue, I don’t see the need to drag others down. I’d rather celebrate achievement than criticize imperfection.


Queer Mural – Drag Queen Miss Vanjie – Los Angeles

Mural of Drag Queen Miss Vanjie, Los Angeles

I painted this mural of Miss Vanjie in 2019 on the front of my warehouse art studio in East LA – Low Road City. I had just moved to LA and as I’ve written about in previous queer mural blogs I knew no one, had no art contacts, rented this cheap studio and slept in my car for the first six months. I didn’t want the studio to know I was living in my car so I would drive around the corner and park on the nearby street each day haha. After a while I got more comfortable to leave it parked outside and even sleep in the studio sometimes. I still don’t know if they knew or not…

I stumbled on this studio online. At the time I was up in San Francisco also looking for art studios there, and finding this one in LA was a big factor in moving there instead of SF. I also liked the energy and enthusiasm of LA, everyone wanting to ‘make it’.

Whilst signing the rental contract I mentioned being a mural painter and by chance they were currently painting the whole alley. A graffiti writer called Boxcar Vida was organising it. She made a weekend paint festival for us all to paint at the same time, which in her words minimised the chances of gang trouble. Other painters there included VyalOne and Eric Skotnes, both huge names in street art, so I was fan girling and surprised – it was a dirty industrial alley in a lesser known part of LA after all, the area legit gave me post-apocalyptic vibes. After I wondered if that’s cus Hollywood art directors were inspired by their surroundings to create their post-apocalyptic scenes, which influenced my perception, or cus it actually just looks post-apocalyptic with it’s wide dusty streets, cracked trash-ridden pavements and minimal pedestrians. Or both perhaps.

The Vanjie mural is next to the front door, flanked on the other side by a Latina woman, and I usually parked in front of them. Walking inside each day I thought of them as the art Latinx Chinese lion door guardians, looking out for us and protecting the door from strange passersby (of which there were many). Stylistically I was still trying to replicate my small-scale spray paintings as a mural, so trying to paint large drips and energetic marks.

This warehouse studio frequently surprised me, like it did with the street art festival. One day I saw a giant monster followed by Vander Van Odd, filming an episode of Dragula. One of the S3 Ghouls was ‘killed’ outside my front door. Other renters in the warehouse included Doja Cat’s photography, scene builder and mixers, but they didn’t know each other and just happened to all independently be there. The yard where I spray painted was often rented out on weekends for huge raves, so I would show up expecting to paint but end up sneaking in the back door to go dance at random parties.

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.