Jeff Claassen paints bold mural inside Artisan
Jeff Claassen, a Paso Robles resident and contemporary artist, is painting a mural on the entire wall by the bar inside Artisan restaurant, 843 12th St. in Paso Robles. This is Claassen’s second mural at the downtown restaurant; the first is a small black and white painting by the front entrance.
The artist started work on the mural on Jan. 29, working as he can based on the restaurant’s hours of operation. Claassen said he drew a couple of the elements out on paper before starting the mural, the majority is done as he goes.
“I’m very spontaneous about things,” Claassen said. “Normally, I wouldn’t [sketch anything in advance] but I threw out a few ideas on paper.”
The owners of Artisan, Claassen said, told him they wanted something colorful that would pop off the wall. It grows from the floor and stretches out organically. The owners wanted something to go with the local wine area, so he included leaves, something he doesn’t normally do.
The first thing he painted on the blank wall was a heart. Just an outline of a heart.
“Painting a massive wall like this is fun,” Claassen wrote on his blog the day he started working on it. “It can be a little intimidating at first. I mean, think about it, this is a pretty big wall that can’t be missed when you walk into Artisan. A lot of people will see it, so you want it to look good. It can be very easy to over think what you’re going to do. Because my style is very spontaneous and I like to create on the spot I find it best to not focus on the big picture. Just start with something small like the heart. Then add a couple of other details. Then a couple more. After awhile it all starts coming together. Eventually you get to a spot where it just feels right. Almost as if you might ruin it if you add more stuff.”
Claassen has lived in Paso Robles for the last year and a half and painting since 1999. Before moving to North County, he operated The Claassen Gallery in San Luis Obispo for about nine years. At that time, he decided to join Studios on the Park on Pine Street. He was part of the cooperative art gallery and studio until August 2014. He now works out of his garage and a SLO studio, The Bunker. While the studio had never been opened to the public, the first public exhibit was held in December 2014 and now it is open on the first and third Saturdays of the month and by appointment.
“I would love to have a retail place in Paso, but the rent is too high to do it on my own,” Claassen said, adding that many of the buildings he’s seen available are very large and setup for restaurants.
At The Bunker he shares the space with eight other artists, including Neal Breton with whom he shared a studio at Studios on the Park. While Claassen has described himself as a contemporary artist, he said that some people liken his work to graffiti or street art. He said his work stems from growing up skateboarding.
“I like skateboard graphics,” he said. “I really like graffiti also. I think there is some street art influence.”
While Claassen produces a lot of his own work, he also works on commission, such as the mural he’s creating for Artisan.