MANATEE -- A former street artist is taking his talents to new levels -- all the way to the top of Big Earth Landscape Supply's two-story building in Oneco.
While Richard Brasil, 26, has demonstrated talent in several artistic mediums, he considers himself to be a vertical artist for the colorful and powerful murals on local businesses. Big Earth Landscape Supply, 6001 15th St. E., is the second project Brasil has completed in the Oneco area, a neighborhood in steep decline over the past three decades.
Amanda Hebert, director of sales and marketing for Big Earth Landscape Supply, said the 15th Street East area has seen better days, and local businesses are fighting back to reclaim a neighborhood that has crime issues and isn't known as having pleasing aesthetics.
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Street East, Brasil was previously commissioned by Keaton's Art and Office Supply for a mural. Big Earth Landscape Supply management took notice of the possibilities to make their business standout while making a positive impact on the neighborhood. Hebert said management contacted Brasil, and a meeting ensued.
"It was important to us not just to paint something, but for Richie to get to know and understand us as an organization and what we wanted to convey," she said.
Brasil said going into the meeting, he had a completely different sketch designed than the one he ultimately presented.
"I had a vision the night before that came to me in a dream," said Brasil. "I did a little sketch and scratched the other one completely. I wasn't sure how it would go over. I'm always very confident in the image in my head, and it's hard to explain that image to people. You just have to do it."
Over two weeks, Brasil battled stormy days as he went to work with spray paint cans to create "The Hero," an image of a celestial hand holding Mother Earth, which is wrapped in orange peels as a tribute to Tropicana's presence in Bradenton.
Hebert said the company had an idea of what it wanted but also wanted Brasil to be free to create.
"We had to take a leap of faith," said Hebert. "And we are very happy we did."
Brasil has done murals in other states, but has only recently pursued his artistic passion full-time.
"I've always been serious about it," he said. "I was making good money at my other jobs and doing well in everything I pursued. But I didn't have the time to do what I love to do. So I quit my jobs to pursue this full-time about four months ago."
Big Earth Landscape Supply used its social media presence to take day-by-day photos of Brasil's work with a link to the artist's own Facebook page. The job offers are flowing in at a steady pace for Brasil to consider himself a full-time artist.
Hebert said it's been good for business, Brasil and the community.
"This location has been here for 30 years and has seen the changes to this area," she said. "We wanted to add something positive to the community. Obviously, we want people to notice the building, too, but it's really important to get involved in the community and this was a perfect relationship because landscaping is living art."
There are some who say wall murals are glorified graffiti. Brasil is OK with that perception.
"Graffiti is art," he said. "With time, people have come to peace with respectful graffiti. And by that, I mean nothing derogatory or disrespectful and certainly nothing that would be considered vandalism. But I would encourage the talented street artists out there to approach businesses that do have a blank wall and volunteer to do it for free to start opening doors. Don't stop doing what you love, just find a resourceful way to do it and stop at nothing."
Brasil views a blank building wall the same as any artist views a blank canvass.
"It's about taking nothing and turning it into something," he said. "Isn't that what art is all about?"
Find out more about the artist at facebook.com/richardbrasilart
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.