Artist Goodloe Byron needs no introduction, especially if you’ve seen his murals on the Church Street Parking Garage in Frederick, at the Red Line Metro in Silver Spring, in Baltimore’s Mount Vernon area—or more locally at The Surf House, Kannavis and Laurienzo Brick Oven Pizzeria. “You need to see art in person,” Byron said. “You are used to seeing it on the computer screen—it (in person) gives you a better feel for what the person was thinking.”
Byron’s current show, “Funhouse Mirrors” at the Delaplaine Arts Center, features his eclectic towering acrylic, watercolor, ink and spray paint collection of dinosaurs, cats, dogs, a fox, a heron, the infamous Snallygaster, David Bowie and Nietzsche!
Byron is well known for his whimsical and expressive characters created with style and a sense of humor, so I was intrigued to learn that he has no formal art training. His mother was an abstract painter, so he was around art when he was younger. He loved comics as a kid and started out doing book cover illustrations for a small independent press. For fun, he would lay out colors and look for ideas. He did a lot of self-portraits, stick-figure drawings and digital portraits that led to his great love of large work, particularly murals. A compulsive doodler, “I floundered my way into it!” he said.
His laid-back personality and easy smile perfectly complement his work. It was obvious during his artist talk and presentation a few weeks ago at the Delaplaine that he thoroughly enjoys exploring his imagination in the creation of his art. “In painting,” he said, “nothing turns out the way you planned. You have to accept that fact at some point. Digitally you can modify, but not in painting.”
Part of the appeal, he said, is that “people would watch me go from being totally awful to OK—and then to OK and what I am now. People support me and the more they do, the more I’m encouraged.”
His work has been referred to as a fusion of Dr. Seuss and Tim Burton. “I think that’s a pretty cool compliment,” he said.
Byron’s style is reminiscent of Welsh illustrator Ralph Steadman, whom he reveres. “He is always my hero. He takes on darker and darker themes, and I tend to stay away from that. I’m more whimsical and playful. I got to meet him at the American University Katzen Center retrospective last year.”
“Funhouse Mirrors” is a joyful show full of oversize characters, color, expression and mood. The Nietzsche painting on the blue background is Byron’s favorite. He likes “Night Heron” as well. “Stray Cats” is a “family portrait” with girlfriend and dog Pugloe. He’s the one with the trash can lid on his head. “My dog has a strong personality—he stares at me when I paint!” Byron explained. “Starman” is a stunning likeness of David Bowie.
“Most would consider me a watercolor painter,” he said. ”I use that 90 percent of the time. It is easy to mess up; acrylic is more forgiving.” Recently he has focused on pet portraits that he does at events and as commissions. “I love to draw dogs and cats; I’m struggling with people,” he laughed.
Byron is also a musician, playing punk/folk music with a drummer friend in downtown Frederick. “I’d like to do it more often, and I used to write a lot. Now I paint more.”
He works an office day job and paints from his home studio in Frederick. “I never get to work as big as I’d like,” he said. “I like to take in more than I think I can. I’d be doing 100 murals all the time if I could. It’s very high stakes, especially if someone tells you something doesn’t look good!”
He’s on constant lookout for calls for murals and is currently working on a mural project in Philadelphia and waiting to hear on another in the Frederick area. He talked about his dislike for the business of art, but conceded that “doing what you love is putting up with the whole part of the process.”
Step into the cool confines of the Delaplaine and treat yourself to a smile as you stroll through “Funhouse Mirrors,” which is on view through Sunday, July 28. See more of Byron’s work on Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.