By Mason Kelley
Alex Forster never planned on painting a mural in the Husky Stadium tunnel. The 39-year-old never expected to show off his black-and white art in a space made famous by the Huskies’ Saturday success. He certainly never expected to receive a compliment from Washington football coach Chris Petersen.
But sometimes, fortunate accidents put people in the proper place at appropriate time.
Forster, who started painting the tunnel shortly before the start of fall camp, was commissioned to employ his realist touch after a previous project caught the attention of Shannon Kelly, Washington’s Associate Athletic Director for Marketing and Strategic Programs.
Forster painted the mural on a wall at Slave to the Needle, a tattoo shop in Wallingford. He was there for three weeks, pretty much every day. Kelly frequently drove by while Forster worked. Kelly asked if Forster was interested in a new project.
He was given a tour of the tunnel, which at the time featured glossy purple vinyl images that were difficult to see under florescent lighting.
After exploring the space, Forster was intrigued by the possibilities.
“Since I’m painting black and white anyway, that’s perfect, because it’s a space that fits black and white. It’s best if you just have it black. Then you have the stark white of the fur, and it will just make it pop.”
It didn’t take long for Forster to strike a deal with the university.
As the piece takes shape, Forster’s work is turning heads. Several people have walked by and said, “That’s incredible,” while others are impressed that, “This guy is doing it by hand.”
In fact, just days before the start of fall camp, Petersen spent a few minutes examining the piece before praising Forster’s work.
Forster has been interested in art since he was a child, specializing in realism for the past decade. He started painting murals four years ago after entering a contest in Sacramento, Calif.
“I wasn’t quite sure I could pull it off but, once you’re in it, you’ve got to do it,” Forster said. “It’s an arduous, very finicky process, but I can pull it off, I guess. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have gotten this job.”
Once he started painting walls, Forster decided he preferred the aesthetic of public art.
“You can change a whole neighborhood with murals,” said Forster, who works as a commercial roofer to supplement his artistic interests. “It has impact.”
His work at Washington is certainly making an impact. And, compared to painting murals in 100-degree heat in Sacramento – the paint dries before it hits the wall – working in the air conditioned comfort of Husky Stadium is a cushy gig.
When it comes to painting murals, Forster has a saying: “If you can’t make it good, make it big. But if you can make it good and big, now that’s great.”
Since he is painting fine details on a grand scale, Forster’s work often requires taking a step back to survey his progress.
When assessing his work so far, Forster likes where the project is headed.
“It’s already pretty intense,” he said.
Just wait till he’s finished.
For more of Forster’s work visit: www.cabron.us