145 Market Avenue (1)
This 1999 masterpiece by Chalie Johnston for Athlete's Wear, entitled "Long Live Sport" was lost in November, 2004 after the building was purchased by Nygard. The original notes for this Mural immediately follow.
Charlie Johnston: "It was just a complete marathon of madness! I put in 15 hours a day
here minimum for three weeks to try to get it to look finished for the start-up of the Pan
Am games. I got a leave of absence from work because I think they knew that if they
didn't give me one I was going to quit then and there. I got lost in the madness of this
wall, this project. By then I'd met Sarah. She was very inspirational for me while I was
working on that. I was totally engrossed in this, totally in ecstasy. I was lost in painting;
was 50 feet in the air- it's like I was in the cross hairs of some cosmic drama. The Pan
Am games were happening around me, the Goodyear blimp was flying overhead so I put
a football at the top going off the image to represent my contemplation of seeing the
Goodyear blimp pass by the wall overhead. I was like one of the athletes in the game- I
was doing a Mural marathon, day and night. It pretty near wiped me out, though. I was
already separated, on my way to divorce and living in a crummy little apartment by the
river in the north end and I was doing this gargantuan piece of work- pretty amazing."
"Athlete's Wear was a milestone piece for me. I had done portraits, huge portraits as
billboards, but I hadn't painted anything that was 5000 square feet before. I modified a
concept that was done by an ad agency in London in order to make it work as a Mural.
The original design was just saturated with figures. There were 50 plus figures and there
were no empty spaces in the whole design which is why it wasn't doable. It would have
been completely confusing to the eye, totally crowded- it was meant as a brochure not as
a Mural. I'd talk to the marketing people for Adidas several times. They wanted the
feeling of the original idea of different size figures overlapping but I knew that too many
figures wouldn't work, so I asked them what with the minimum number of figures that
you would accept and they said ten. I said OK you give me 10 figures and I'll redesign
it with those 10 figures."
"They wanted Donovan Bailey; he was a key figure because he was coming here for the
games. For my CFL player, I wanted Bob Cameron. I actually could've chosen any
player I wanted because Adidas had a blanket contract at the time with the entire CFL,
but I what I wanted was the local hero and Bob Cameron was a natural, the longstanding
veteran of the team."
"Of all the figures there's only one that doesn't have an actual identity and that's the
basketball player; he's just a street player. Steffi Graf is holding up the big plate, she was
their recommendation. Franz Beckenbauer is the greyscale figure holding up the World
Cup of soccer trophy. Zinadane Zidane is a European star soccer player; the boxer is
Prince Nasseem Hamed, a featherweight champion with lots of attitude. And Stefan
Edberg is there, kissing the cup."
"Anna Kournikova was my failed portrait; it doesn't look like her! The problem was I
had no proper reference photographs for her, all I had this was a crappy little photo of
her. And then one day it's finished, I'm done, the scaffolding is gone and the art director
from Adidas comes and says, 'oh, I've got this picture, you want it', and it was like the
PERFECT reference photograph of Anna Kournikova! But she's my one disappointment
on this Mural."
"The day I painted Stephan Edberg somebody stole my little kit bag with my reference
photographs. I had no reference images to paint him, the scaffolding was there and I had
to do it that weekend; so I used the only thing I had left, a transparency; I stuck it on
paper and I went nuts and it worked like a charm."
"I was using a projector to project the image of Donovan Bailey and I was all the way
across the street. It was right around the time of the Fringe Festival and I think people
thought I was putting on my own performance art and I actually drew a little crowd! And
to make things worse, there was a streetlight there, and the city wanted 100 bucks per
night to turn that streetlight off. So I went up there on my skyjack and I had about three
or four pairs of work pants, so I took them and I tied them around the street light and I
just left them up there. It worked great, it blocked the light out, and I got all my
projections done. Then about a week later I looked up at the light street and my pants
were gone! So the city must have got a call, come out, and thought what kind of a party
was going on here?!?"
Donovan Bailey is a great athlete, a great figure to do in the piece, a very dynamic figure.
But some people didn't think he conducted himself very professionally while he was here.
And there were the jokes about how large a figure he was on the wall and, yeah that's
how swollen his head was. Some people were openly sarcastic to me that I put him on.
By the way he wanted five grand for a photo op at the Mural; so THAT didn't happen!"
"There were some cement planters at the side of the building. I was using 50 ft. skyjacks;
the 50 footer weighs 14 tons and the 44 footer weighs 11 tons. And I had to get under
that spot to paint Donovan Bailey's head hand and forearm and shoulder. I had already
busted two sets of ramps getting it up there and down from there. I had some assistance
with the background from another painter, Zeig Sokalski. We are both there working,
he's up on the skyjack working on the background and I got a call. I had lost all track of
time and they were coming to pick up the skyjack in four hours and I hadn't done
Donovan Bailey's shoulders and the head yet! So I buckled down, kicked Zeig off the
skyjack and just went berserk to get it done; I had rollers and brushes and paint flying
over the place but I got it done!"
"This was my first Mural using latex paint. The quality is good; the colour range is