By MICHAEL WHITNEY
Published December 28, 2022
Everett mural brings Jimi Hendrix to life,
and it’s all by spray can
Michael Whitney photo
Graffiti artist Hyper steps over to a ladder Dec. 15 to go paint more details onto the Jimi Hendrix mural on the side of the Hodges Building on Hewitt Avenue.
EVERETT — It's no accident why a rock legend stares down Hewitt Avenue.
Serendipity, though, maybe.
A four-story tall mural of Jimi Hendrix now graces the east wall of the Hodges Building.
Earlier this month, Hyper, the Snohomish artist, was doing the finishing touches on this supremely technical graffiti piece.
Gered Mankowitz's iconic 1967 photograph of Hendrix staring into the camera was the inspiration.
Pete Sikov sought to have something on the Hodges at Rockefeller and Hewitt avenues. He's embraced having art on many of the buildings he owns downtown.
In freezing temperatures Thursday, Dec. 15, Hyper was using quick, sharp sprays to detail the stitching on the embellishments on Hendrix's Napoleonic-era cavalry jacket.
He's paired with a Stratocaster awash in color —- layers of sprays to get a multi-hue effect of lime greens, yellows, oranges, purples and pinks.
Of course that Strat's depicted with Jimi's way of flipping the strings to use it left-handed. The knobs on the top have sprayed-on indents, and the neck has pockmarks for the wood.
“With something this significant, I want to nail every detail,” Hyper said.
Michael Whitney photo
The guitar’s body in the mural is layered in psychedelic colors with multiple spray paints as Hyper works on the details of Jimi Hendrix's jacket.
The last steps were applying a watercolor effect to give an extra semi-realistic effect, and lastly a clearcoat to protect the art.
It’s given plenty of challenges.
He’s doing the painting by clambering up and down the Hodges’ fire escapes, sometimes adding ladders to reach many of the spots, because there’s no other way to access the wall. It’s been “not for the squeamish,” Hyper said.
Doesn’t this frighten him? Not really, he told a reporter.
Keeping the spray cans functional in freezing weather posed its own challenge, because the cold makes the aerosol sputter. He’d have to warm them in his jacket, and sit in the truck with the heater on high.
The result could have been way different. In summer 2020, Sikov’s early concept was a portrait gallery of important figures: Nelson Mandela, George Floyd, Martin Luther King, Jr., Jimi Hendrix and more.
Time passed and they went back and forth on a design until one day they had lunch at the Thai restaurant on Hewitt and solidified on Jimi.
Sikov recounted that “it seemed to me from hearing him talk (about Jimi Hendrix), from seeing that enthusiasm,” the spark was there. He said to go for it.
A coffee table book of photographs gifted to Hyper put his inspiration into overdrive.
Painting Hendrix matched one of Hyper’s ultimate goals. Jimi and Bruce Lee, the artist said. He’d lived in Renton for 10 years near the cemetery where Jimi Hendrix is buried.
The Hendrix connection
Sikov was basically too young to see Jimi Hendrix perform live before the musician’s death from complications of a drug overdose in 1970, but in the early 2000s their stories became intertwined.
When Hendrix’s childhood home in Seattle was going to be demolished, people approached Sikov to save Jimi’s house. He agreed, starting a chain of events where he put up the money to have the home moved by flatbed trailer — twice. Once in Seattle, and a second time to Renton.
“Suddenly I had Jimi’s fans from all across the world” become acquainted with him as well as Hendrix’s family, Sikov said over a phone interview.
He said that changes in city administration had him lose support and require moving Jimi's family home.
Ultimately, Sikov deconstructed the house and put everything he could salvage into storage.
Small parts of reclaimed wood from the house have been recomposed into guitars built by master luthier Reuben Forsland with the Hendrix family’s blessing.
Michael Whitney photo
Using his honed skills in applying spray paint, Hyper draws more of the stitchwork of
Jimi Hendrix’s ornate military-style jacket onto the semi-realistic mural Dec. 15.
Everyone who’s seen the mural has been impressed, Sikov said. He’s pretty pleased himself.
Hyper estimates that about 200 to 250 cans have been used on this commissioned piece. Multiple layers are sprayed to get a rich realism.
Hyper’s been working in the graffiti medium for more than 30 years, and this is one of his tallest pieces.
“When I look at a wall, especially a large one, my mind goes ‘what can I put on that wall to blow people’s (expletive) minds?’” he said.
He’s proud. Drivers on Hewitt can see it if they look.
“To come out and express art and beautify the city — that’s the goal,” Hyper said.
Hyper’s wife and business partner, Brianna Jones-Mattes, said by email the Jimi Hendrix mural showcases “what graffiti artists can do and that graffiti doesn’t automatically mean vandalism.”
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