Some art is created on a personal scale. It is enjoyed individually, whether it’s inside someone’s home or on the wall at a museum. Other art is big and bold, designed to be shared with a group and draw us all together. It’s art we live in and live with.
Local artists Candy Kuo and Wade Thompson (aka Fish) specialize in that second kind of art. These Austin muralists can take a blank wall and turn it into a panoply of theme and color that smacks you right upside the back of the head.
When we needed some large-scale pieces to deck out our workspaces, we knew exactly where to turn—to Candy and Wade, our newest Featured Artists.
It was a shared love of art that brought these two spray paint savants together. They were both artistic kids, experimenting with both visual art and music. Candy was born in Taipei, Taiwan and raised in South Texas, while Wade was born in Washington State and raised in San Antonio. Although they both attended the Art Institute of Austin, the pair didn’t meet until years later, when their collaborative life began.
Like many Austin artists, Wade began spray painting at Castle Hill. He forged friendships with other muralists and joined the Blue Dozen Collective, a group of local artists that wash the city in color. Candy was also interested in large-scale painting, but she wasn’t sure where to start. After she and Wade connected, she found a community of muralists who were happy to help her learn the basics. While she had an artistic background on canvas, she fell in love with this new medium.
“The speed of execution, public exposure, and ability to cover so much ground in such a short time really drew me in,” she said. “On top of that, the art community I met through painting in places was amazing. It was nothing short of magical to find a group of people who were striving for the same thing and were of the same mind. It's hard to find that sitting at home painting in my room.”
Now, Candy and Wade are collaborators in both art and in life. They live together, work on murals together, and parent their adorable little girl together.
While Candy and Wade collaborate often, their individual styles are surprisingly different. Candy’s art style is fluid and detailed. Often focusing on women, her pieces play with light, color, and shadow for a hint of realism. As a product of both Taiwan and Texas, Candy works to draw from that multicultural upbringing in her work. Wade’s style is more surreal, with bright, neon colors. He combines skateboarding culture with a dose of old-school cartoons for some whimsical weirdness.
The pair doesn’t have to look far to find inspiration. A major source is the tight-knit artistic community that they work with in Austin. They also find that spending time in nature helps to fuel their creativity. And as parents, they want their little girl to see them working hard and pushing their boundaries as they pursue their dreams.
Living and working together makes brainstorming easy. The hard part is turning off the “work mode” and getting into “life mode.”
“When we have a wall [to paint], we often start with a loose sketch and pass it back and forth until we see something we like. Then we argue over color until one of us wins. We also draw a lot from pop culture and cartoons, as well as the moods we feel from music.”
Music is a big part of the artistic process. They listen to their favorites while they paint, and they are both musicians themselves. Wade plays the drums, while Candy plays piano, violin, and ukulele.
A big part of the artist’s life is “refilling the tank,” finding new subjects and ideas in the world around you. You have to breathe art in before you can breathe it out. During the pandemic, Candy and Wade found new sources of inspiration, watching people learn new skills during their time sheltering at home. And they were fortunate to be able to return to art full time.
When they’re really stuck, Candy says that the solution is water. “We have stretches of days where we are either painting nonstop or stuck indoors at home working on things, and the fastest way to clear your mind and reset is to dive straight into some cold water.
“We are so blessed to live in an urban city that is SURROUNDED by greenery and swimming holes, and being able to sit in the sun and feel the fresh water running through is a bit of paradise.”
Candy and Wade have done three different projects for GRAV (so far). Back in 2017, they painted the GRAV van and we loved how it turned out. So we knew who to call when it was time to get some new art in our Austin workspaces.
For the warehouse piece, they painted a fist crashing through the wall into an Alice in Wonderland tea party, complete with a rabbit and caterpillar enjoying more than just tea. It’s a collision of realism and fantasy that shows how beautifully their two art styles can come together.
The second mural is in a large open flex space in the office. As Candy explained, “The Find Your Higher Self mural came from the idea of a person who is suspended between the states of creation and destruction. By elevating yourself, you must deconstruct everything you know to kill the ego.”
We are psyched to highlight Candy and Wade as our first Austin-based Featured Artists. An 8” x 4” print of their Higher Self mural will be included in GRAV orders between September and November, while supplies last.