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story.lead_photo.caption Joseph Raymond poses for a portrait next to his mural, "Colors of Life," at the 1894 Market on Wednesday in Texarkana, Texas. The 125-foot-long digital mural was painted onto a custom canvas and then photographed at a high resolution to be reproduced onto the aluminum walls of the building. Photo by Hunt Mercier / Texarkana Gazette.

TEXARKANA, Ark. — The ebb and flow of our existence now has a visual representation downtown with a new mural bursting to life near Front Street.

Dubbed "Colors of Life," the lively, dynamic mural — more properly called a digital mural, perhaps — appears on an 1894 City Market lofts parking structure — about 125 feet wide and 10 feet tall, a size to rival the iconic Scott Joplin mural just a few blocks away.

Designed by Texarkana artist Joseph Raymond, the digital mural has both personal and community significance for him, and it joins a popular trend of beautifying downtown through art, situated as it is not far from the new Texas-side Kress Gap murals and Dr. Pepper mural at TLC Burgers & Fries.

"'Colors of Life,' I just wanted something lively, splashy, that had movement," Raymond said. He worked with local business Digital Effects to essentially have a print made of his own painting, which was first created on a much smaller scale.

Raymond explains that 1894 City Market owner David Peavy approached him about the project. Peavy renovated the interior and exterior of the old Ritchie Grocery Building to include a modern gallery space and living quarters.

Joseph Raymond talks about his mural, "Colors of Life," at the 1894 Market on Wednesday in Texarkana, Texas. The 125-foot-long digital mural was painted onto a custom canvas and then photographed at a high resolution to be reproduced onto the aluminum walls of the building.
Photo by Hunt Mercier/Texarkana Gazette.
"He left it up to me, just something that would really enliven and bring some art downtown," the artist said. Thinking about this, he considered that there's already much downtown that's historic in nature. How about something new?

"I said, let's get some life, let's put some color, let's liven downtown," Raymond said.

Hence, the creation of "Colors of Life," which shows Raymond's fluid style, which he shows in many of his large, equally splashy paintings.

They discussed physically painting the entire piece along the side of the parking structure, but that would conceivably take months to finish. They decided, rather, to do something similar to the kinds of vehicle wraps that Digital Effects can make. Peavy commissioned Raymond to prepare a to-scale piece, 12.5 feet wide by 12 inches tall, which would then be magnified digitally.

"He purchased the original from me with the rights to reproduce," Raymond said.

This required Raymond to consider the work in a new way. How would it appear as a much larger mural? What would happen if people stand beside it? For people snapping pics, what was possible here? He worked on a smaller scale, but he essentially thought on the macro level, too.

"We're in an age where everything's social media and etc., so I really wanted it to be able to be a backdrop for the community for pictures," Raymond said. "We've already had senior pictures taken. Believe it or not, wedding pictures — people are coming it makes me really, really happy."

Anyone who views the mural can see tell-tale signs of an original painting. Go up close and you'll see the texture of canvas, which appears to be pixels but isn't.

Standing back, the sense of flowing colors and an undulating swoosh movement dominate, as if this is a color-crammed river of paint seen from above. When Raymond looks at it, he sees seasonal transitions in the color scheme, from Christmas colors to spring and summer.

"There's just something for everybody. If you don't like red, go down there," Raymond said, pointing to the array of colors all along the wall.

But when he thinks about the rough times in life for his family, such as the loss of his infant son, the design has personal, meaningful resonance for him.

"Life changes. I feel like every season in life is good. We think of the hard times as bad, but it all works together," Raymond said. "Romans 8, Verse 28 says all things work together for good. Life ebbs and flows and moves but it all somehow turns out beautiful." Out of the difficult times, something good can come.

Along with this personal meaning, he sees a communal, forward-thinking element, too. He believes it adds both value and beauty.

"It says a lot about our city, not just the rich heritage, but also moving forward. I love the fact that it's 2020, January, fresh decade, fresh new year. If you look around there's a lot going on," Raymond said, referring to the upcoming lighting ceremony for the Hotel Grim project, for example, and other downtown projects.

"There's a lot happening downtown, and I'm just glad to be part of it, really," Raymond said, noting people want to feel positive about developments down here. "Especially young people, they want to feel like they're excited about their city."

With the original image on canvas, custom built to scale size, the work was photographed by Digital Effects at Raymond's studio. High-resolution images were created, and from there Digital Effects printed it to place along the side of this parking structure, panel by panel, roughly a month ago, Raymond said.

"There were probably six or eight people working on this," he said. He works on fairly massive canvases — 10 to 12 feet large — that he ships all over, but nothing has been this monster-sized.

A digital art mural for a loft apartments parking garage? Peavy says it's all part of his luxury apartments — and the luxury cars housed inside an indoor garage meant to protect them. Even downtown, luxury can be available and look good.

"We don't want tenants to sacrifice anything they are accustomed to by living downtown," Peavy said.

And as for the digital mural itself, Raymond would like visitors to feel joy seeing this life here. "I hope instantly it just makes them happy," he said.

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