New York mural artist Victor Ving and Ohio photographer Lisa Beggs are on a cross-country journey in an RV, creating interactive murals that highlight communities through public art. If you’ve recently visited cities such as Chicago, Denver, Seattle or Cleveland, you’ve likely seen their “Greetings From” work. Inspired by vintage, large-letter postcards from the 1930s to 1950s, the murals paint wall-sized pictures of each vibrant and unique local culture.
Self-taught artist Victor says he painted his first large-letter postcard-style mural in Queens a couple of years ago, and the duo completed their first official painting in New York City’s Chinatown in April 2014. “The reaction from that mural was overall really positive,” he says.
Lisa adds, “Later that summer, we went on a California road trip, up the coast. We went back to New York and realized we wanted to be on the road. Victor’s a painter, I’m a photographer, and we kind of just merged our talents together.
“My family has a history with and I grew up in the RV industry, which is kind of crazy, living in New York. Victor had no idea about RVs, I never thought I would actually live in one. That was never a goal of mine,” she laughs.
Victor and Lisa officially left New York to start the Greetings Tour on April 28, 2015. Their first stop was in Chicago. With the help of fellow artist and friend Amuse126 and local street art gallery Galerie F, they secured wall space on the side of a plumbing supply business called Shilvock Co. in Chicago’s hip Logan Square neighborhood. Lisa and Victor slept in their RV under the “L” train tracks as the mural progressed.
The painting contains images of classic Chicago food items, sports teams, and even an Amuse126 abstract painting that depicts Chicago’s extreme weather; it has quickly become a modern city landmark, beloved by locals and tourists alike.
To determine an ideal mix of content for each city, Victor and Lisa crowdsource ideas via social media, posting photos of upcoming projects and asking locals what they’d like to see. “We do like to leave a letter kind of blank,” Victor says. “We like the interaction of locals who come up and give a suggestion. Usually those are the best ideas. We also collaborate with a local artist on at least one letter and just let them do what they want.”
Victor’s technique and attention to detail are key factors in these fun pieces of public art. “I design everything, sketch them out. I try to do it digitally to save some time. But the fonts are all original fonts that I drew out and reorganized the letters to spell out a city. Scale-wise, sometimes I’ll use a projector for the initial keylines of the piece. Then, it’s just kind of done freehand.”
“He’s a perfectionist,” Lisa interjects. “He’s been painting for years.”
“They take longer each time because I keep trying to make myself better,” Victor continues. “I use Montana spray paint on all of them. Lately, I’ve been spraying paint into cups and using brushes for the finer details, which I never used to do, but it’s all done with spray paint.”
While Victor went to business school and worked in project management for years, he began painting graffiti on the side 15 years ago. “I always did it as kind of my escape from that corporate world, I guess you could say. I finally decided to quit my job and I started my own gallery in New York.” He now co-owns the Klughaus Gallery, a contemporary art gallery that celebrates graffiti and street artists.
He met Lisa while painting graffiti on a photo shoot backdrop for DKNY. “The job he’s talking about took place at the photography studio where I was working,” she explains. After the two-day shoot, the pair started talking and eventually conceptualized this current project together. Lisa grew up dancing and notes she has always had an interest in the arts. She picked up photography when she was 21, partially inspired by her grandfather, a fellow photographer who happened to shoot a lot of images for mid-century postcards. “I’ve been on the lookout for the past five months. We always go thrifting and to antique shops, and I’m always on the lookout for his postcards.”
Embarking on this road trip, Victor and Lisa researched vintage large-letter postcards, studying their unique style, imagery and history, and note there are around 2,500 large-letter postcards total. They’ve turned into collectors, too—at the time of our call, they had just purchased around 900 old postcards, which Victor says he uses as inspiration and as a reference for their color schemes.
Their common interests have led to what seems like a natural partnership. While they’ve successfully created a mural in every city they’ve wanted to, the process isn’t always seamless. “In Denver we did go through asking a bunch of different businesses [to use their walls]. We almost gave up,” admits Victor. “But then luckily we happened to find a wall where the business was called Denver Beer Co., so they didn’t mind the ‘Greetings From Denver,’ which is essentially the name of their business, too. They ended up helping us and helping fund it, so it all worked out in the end.”
The duo just finished a “Greetings From Toledo” mural in Ohio and will celebrate the release of a limited “Greetings From Chicago” screen print, courtesy of Galerie F, in the near future. “From Chicago, we’ll take route 66 down to LA. We’re going to do a ‘Greetings From Route 66’ somewhere along the way and do a mini-Route 66 project,” Victor says. The end goal for this tour, which will take at least a year, is to do something collectively with all the artwork, perhaps creating actual postcards that offer a modern twist on the vintage imagery they find so inspirational.
“It’s hard to choose a favorite, each one has a little something we love. Everywhere we go has a lot of hometown pride. But for whatever reason, the Chicago one seems to have the most attention,” Victor notes.
“We’ve been inspired being on the road and seeing the country, different landscapes,” Lisa says. “Things we wouldn’t have seen if we hadn’t left New York.”
Follow the Greetings Tour as they continue to create original works of art here: http://greetingstour.tumblr.com/