BY SHALEEN DESTEFANO
Meet this talented freehand muralist who is reinventing the visual landscape of Denver one wall at a time.
This past September the good people of CRUSH (Creative Rituals Under Social Harmony) once again brought the art community together to raise awareness of the cultural significance and importance of art for all ages and all demographics. This in and of itself speaks to us and it was at this event that the art of Casey Kawaguchi caught our eye. His murals stand out with bold color choices and often feature strong female characters. Focusing on the eyes, you can feel the intensity in his pieces. Casey’s work is celebrated around town but he is humble and grounded when talking about his vision and process. Most notably the fact that he freehands all of his murals. “There is the opinion out there that using a projector is cheating,” Kawaguchi says. “But I don’t care whether an artist uses a projector or not. To each their own.” In short, we fell in love with his nonjudgmental and open spirit.
I don’t know what the urban landscape will look like, but hopefully it will have big walls and I can paint them!
You took part of the amazing CRUSH 2017. Tell us what about this experience and what it’s like to be part of such an important movement.
Yes, this was my third year painting at CRUSH and it’s been getting better every year. I love connecting with so many different artists and sharing inspiration. I’ve gotten to paint some of my favorite murals that I’ve ever painted. But the best part for me is having the opportunity to meet artists that I admire and make new friends from all over.
When we look at your murals, it is obvious that your talent knows no limits. You choose to do your murals freehand, while some muralists use projectors to put their images on such a large surface. Can you walk us through your creative process?
Thank you. My style of painting has developed pretty naturally by just trying to paint like I draw. I create my work using mainly black and white and I use the two sort of like you would use a pencil and eraser. When I approach a wall I just imagine the composition in my mind. Then I sketch it out on the wall with spray paint until I have the sizing right. Then I fill everything in, and do all the detail. Without using a projector it might take more time to get the size correct, but to skip all of that would be skipping my favorite part.
I guess I realized I had a talent when I started school and started getting compliments from my teachers or other kids. I took art classes in Jr high and high school, but I wouldn’t say I “studied” art. I mostly used the time to work on my own drawings. I consider myself, self taught.
How did you get started in the Denver Street art scene?
When I came out to Denver in 2015 I ended up meeting Robin Munro, John Lamb, and Michael Ortiz right when I got here. I painted a wall in RiNo and came back two weeks later for CRUSH 2015 where I met EASE ONE. We did our first collaboration that year. I went back to Salt Lake City super inspired and me and my girlfriend started to make plans to move to Denver shortly after that trip.
We can see a little Stella Im Hultberg in some of your pieces. Who are you inspired by?
Stella’s work is great. I’ve been inspired by a lot of different artists. Early on it was comic books, and video game characters. I got really inspired by Dali and Van Gogh at one point. When I first started painting larger work I was inspired by Greg Simkins and Alex Pardee. These days I’m most inspired by the artists that I know and surround myself with. I get inspired by their passion and dedication towards their work.
Is there a mutual respect between street artists and graffiti artists who tag?
I think that all just depends on the individuals. Whether they are respectful or not.
Where can we see your art around town?
You can find a few of my murals at:
• 32nd & Blake Street
• 38th & Blake Street
• 13th & Santa Fe
Can we purchase prints to enjoy your work indoors?
Yes, I do print releases from time to time. You can follow my instagram @CaseyKawaguchi to catch the next one.
Well, to say the very least, Casey, our city looks good under your brush. The best part of the exploding street art scene in Denver is that it gives us an overwhelming feeling of connectedness. It offers us a sense of pride in that we as a community recognize the importance of sharing art. We look forward to your next projects and thank you for taking time to let us introduce your work to our small corner of the world.