Adam Crawford’s paintings are visual punches. Their vivid, striking colors and bold shapes will grab hold of your attention, demanding that you spend time in the playful, vibrant compositions that he creates. Whether painting in his studio or out in the streets, Crawford creates complex and dynamic work that somehow always forms a perfect and satisfying balance. The artist attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and is currently based in Philadelphia, where you can find many of his eye-catching murals. If you’re not in Philly, you can also find his paintings in public spaces around Chicago.
In this interview, Adam Crawford tells us about his transition from creating smaller scale, individual paintings to large-scale, public murals. Join me in conversation as the artist and I discuss what inspires his work as well as that familiar feeling you get when confronted with a blank canvas.
Tell us about your journey getting to where you are now. What has been your experience finding your voice visually?
This is one of the more challenging things you have to attempt to do as somebody who is creative. I feel like I am always struggling to try and find better ways to express myself visually. I’ve found it isn’t a path that I travel in one direction. In my process, I try to find a balance between pushing forward towards progress and looking back at concepts and ideas that may be worth revisiting. A lot of times I find I’ve tried something that I felt was a failure, and then years later I’m able to use it effectively in my work.
Your bold, eye-catching style contains visual elements that seem very rooted in design and balance. Do you have a background in design?
I don’t. I went to school at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. At the time I went, they really didn’t offer anything outside of very traditional art classes. I still regret very much not trying to switch schools so I could have experienced a more modern approach to my art education.
What inspires your style?
I try to keep my eyes and mind open to almost anything. These days there seems to be endless ways to be inspired just through social media platforms. In some ways this can even smother you with too much inspiration. Recently I’ve become much more interested in simplification, focusing on graphics and imagery that are more to the point in their shape and color. I’m finding there is a lot of visual strength in creating something that becomes complex but that was built from a very simple foundation.
I understand that, along with your incredible paintings, you also create dynamic murals. What was your process like transitioning from individual paintings to large-scale, public art?
For me, the transition was somewhat natural. Previous to doing any mural work, I had begun using a lot of template techniques in my studio paintings, which I was able to utilize on a larger scale for the murals. It was something that had been lingering in the back of my mind for a while as something I should try to get into. I volunteered to paint the side of Awesome Dudes print shop in South Philly and found the experience to be pretty frightening but extremely rewarding. The idea that I would paint a second or third one never really crossed my mind. I’m still surprised when I get a new mural to paint.
What is the most challenging part of translating your artistic vision onto a building or other public space?
I think overcoming the initial fear of putting yourself out in the public space is the biggest hurdle. Then after that I would have to say I stress out about transferring the idea onto the wall and drawing everything to scale. For me, it’s that first step when you show up to a blank wall and you have this idea in your head that you somehow have to get onto that blank slate. I always experience some amount of fear, almost like stage fright… that this time it will be a mess, and I won’t be able to pull it off. It sounds a bit dark but it feels good not to let that stop you and in the end I feel gratified to have been able to work hard to contribute something.
If someone wanted to see your work in person right now, where could they go?
In Philadelphia I have murals in a few locations if you were able to get around town. American Mortals 5th and Bainbridge Passyunk and South St. (between 5th and 4th just off South Street) Outside Whole Foods (bike corral mural 10th and South St.) Outside Tattooed Moms (bike corral mural 530 South St.) Woodrow Sandwich Shop (630 South St) pieces custom made inside Sidewalk in front of Repo Records (506 South St.) 2 murals behind Union Transfer (10th and Spring Garden) FN Lashes store front (1104 Spring Garden St.) The side of 20th Street Pizza (108 S. 20th St) 12th and Ludlow (window images for East Market) City Hall Court Yard (custom designed mailbox for mail in ballots) Five Iron Golf interior and foyer (2116 Chestnut St.) Outside Philadelphia. Five Iron Golf interior and foyer (883 Avenue of the Americas Herald Square. NYC) Five Iron Golf interior (609 N. Dearborn St. Chicago) Five Iron Golf interior and store front (Area 15 Las Vegas. 3215 S Rancho Dr.).