The north Austin offices of George P. Johnson marketing firm are nearly indistinguishable from the rest of the drab, gray buildings that dot the area. But inside, employees work amid expansive murals that depict Austin culture in dazzling color.
The murals are the products of Show Goat Mural Works, a visual arts company that works with local businesses to produce hand-painted murals and signage. Artists Josh Row and UT alumnus Jason Archer founded the company in 2011 after working together on a mural for Frank Public Art, the brick wall on Colorado Street that features a mural from a new artist every month. As murals gained popularity in Austin, their business grew, and today a map of their work forms an elaborate scavenger hunt throughout the city.
“I feel like we sort of pioneered the most recent movement in the mural work here with Frank Public Art,” Archer said. “That’s where it started. We built a certain amount of momentum around that, and sort of went from there.”
Together, Row and Archer handle every aspect of any new mural, including planning the project, tracing out the design using a projector and painting everything by hand, usually in the span of a couple of days. Archer, who curates Frank Public Art, said murals offer a more personal alternative to the vinyl prints often displayed on storefronts.
“There’s this sense of nostalgia behind a hand-painted sign,” Archer said. “It lends a lot more credibility to your business rather than doing the modern approaches with vinyl or stickers. I feel like everyone, whether they know it or not, feels a sense of human emotion and attraction to a hand-painted sign.”
A graphic designer and illustrator by trade, Row said his free-flowing style naturally lent itself to mural work.
“There’s something about making a line with a brush,” Row said. “It’s almost relaxing when you’re up there. It’s kind of strenuous — you know, your arm gets tired and stuff like that. But it’s really cool.”
Show Goat murals are often Texas-centric, complete with cowboy hats and Row’s ubiquitous “Dang!” logo. Archer said the murals pay tribute to the work that has come before them.
“We seem to capture this essence of Texas within our work,” Archer said. “I feel like that translates very well to building the culture within the town, rather than doing something that is completely irreverent, that doesn’t necessarily fit Texas ideals. If you’re trying to build a certain culture within your own community, I feel like you want to touch upon the elements within the culture that have existed already and build off of that.”
In addition to showcasing their own illustrations, Row and Archer sometimes enlist other local artists to design murals, but execute the work themselves. In the case of George P. Johnson, local artists Mollie Tuggle and Lauren Dickens each designed a mural. Nat Wittstruck, the design director at the firm, said Show Goat’s roots in Austin made them a natural choice for the job.
“It’s like the A-list of Austin,” Wittstruck said. “That’s a big thing for me, especially for the [employees] who moved here, because maybe they don’t know Austin that well. At least this [mural] can be kind of an extension of it, so it’s not just totally this corporate environment that could exist just as easily in Milwaukee or Chicago.”
Row said the novelty of painting murals has yet to wear off.
“Every wall I look at, I want to put a mural on,” Row said. “There’s no wall that I’m like, ‘I wouldn’t want to paint that.”