‘Public art should lead people to be more open-minded’: Local artist paints mural for Walmart in Visalia

August 25, 2023 /

Mikayla Gutierrez is a body art and tattoo artist whose artwork can be found at the local Walmart in Visalia.

Gutierrez, 25, currently resides in Visalia, California, and is currently working at Body Art Gallery in Tulare, California. She has been a tattoo artist for three years now but has been a painter since adolescence.

“I started drawing when I was about 13 years old. I remember being bored one day and picking up some watercolors and literally thinking to myself, ‘I would love to get good at this.’ From then on, I spent more time drawing than finishing homework in my adolescence, and luckily, that negligence worked out for me,” said Gutierrez.

Gutierrez attended the College of Sequoias in Visalia for two years, where she mostly took art classes. She was an art major, and although she didn’t get her degree, the two years she spent in the art program helped improve her work in amazing ways. Being able to study technical art with the amazing professors at COS propelled her career as an artist. 

“I had messed around with tattoos as an adolescent but never really took it seriously until I was about 21 years old. While I was attending COS, I took a figure drawing class and was able to meet Joseph Cabello, the owner of Body Art Gallery, who apprenticed me and taught me how to tattoo,” said Gutierrez. “Joseph really led the way for me when it came to learning how to apply art to a living canvas. I have everyone to thank at Body Art Gallery for helping me become a better tattoo artist.”

Back in January, Gutierrez received an email from NOW ART, the organization that teamed up with Walmart, who wanted to find a local artist in the area to create a mural that represented the town’s cultural significance. She was asked questions about her experience as an artist in Visalia, and previous works she had done before. The interview seemed to go well, although she didn’t hear from them for months, Gutierrez assumed that she didn’t get the gig.

“Once I got another email in June saying that I was chosen to work on this project, my heart was filled with joy. NOW ART had a representative reach out to me through email. Through the interview process, they took a look at my previous projects my painting style, and asked about my experience as a working artist,” said Gutierrez.

Gutierrez started working on her project with Procreate, which is a digital sketchbook you can buy on your iPad that pairs up with an Apple pencil.

“Using Procreate, for me, is definitely a ‘work smarter, not harder’ tool. Walmart requested that this mural be painted digitally, at 720 dpi, so that they could blow up the image and install it themselves. I was very thankful that Walmart went about the mural in this way, because it cut out the need for me to go out and do the physical labor myself,” said Gutierrez. “When art is at such a large scale, you pretty much need your whole body to execute the project, and being able to use procreate to create the digital painting took that out of the equation.”

The design was actually commissioned by Walmart. They told Gutierrez that they wanted the paintings to have cultural significance to the area, and they wanted it to represent the people of the town accurately. They had spoken to the manager at Walmart and asked them what themes they would like to see in the painting, which included Sequoia National Park, agriculture, and the Hispanic community. Gutierrez took all of this into heavy consideration when designing the mural and ensured that the composition and subject matter were within the standards Walmart was asking for.

“The design was inspired by Visalia. I thought about what Visalia is known most for, and thought about what’s important to the people that live here. Of course, I had to include Sequoia National Forest, considering that we are the gateway to one of the most beautiful national parks in California,” said Gutierrez. “I also included the College of the Sequoias’ Paul Bunyan statue as this statue has a lot of significance in this town and has been on Mooney Boulevard for a very long time… I included the Fox Theater and downtown because that’s where Visalia’s heart is. I was also inspired by all of the agriculture surrounding this area, as this is basically what feeds Tulare County.”

Gutierrez’s family was amazed to see her work at Walmart. She made her parents proud, and they almost couldn’t believe it. Her family has constantly supported her through every project she dives into, and it feels good knowing that all the energy, love, and support that has been poured into her is turning into something very beautiful, not only for herself but for her family’s legacy.

“My goal is to simply be present in experiencing the deep beauty that we call life. Creation is where time and space meet, and it seems for me the only appropriate way to spend my existence. I would love to continue to support myself with my artistic endeavors and eventually have children that I could share the beauty of being an artist with. I think my goal is to just live a comfortable, happy life, where gratitude is in everything that I do and live by,” said Gutierrez.

Gutierrez said it would be amazing to work with more local businesses in Visalia. She would love to see not only her personal work but the work of other artists being appreciated by the people in this town.

Right now, Gutierrez is currently working on tattoo projects, personal paintings, studies, and a small mural for the tattoo shop she works at.

“When we shed light onto local individuals servicing the community in such a way, we represent not only the individual, but everything they stand for, and everyone in this town that also stands for the same things. Visalia tends to be conservative, so welcoming the ideas of the Latino community in public art spaces is crucial to make people in this town feel represented,” said Gutierrez. “I think public art should lead people to be more open-minded about what is considered beautiful and what we value in this community. Public art, and art in general, brings people together. It helps share ideas without words, it moves people emotionally and inspires others to also create. Art adds value to our lives, and it’s in everything we do. God loves to watch us create.”

People can book an appointment by going to her website, www.mikaylagutierrezart.com, and

clicking the link to the booking forms. When you visit the website, there will be a button that says book an appointment, where she has clients fill out a descriptive form to give her an idea of what they’re looking to get, then, she normally responds through email to book.

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