A bright splash of colour was added to the St. Jacobs core last month thanks to a mural by Waterloo-based artist Stephanie Boutari. The side of a new boutique hotel is alive with bright pink, orange and yellow colours that spin up the adjoining staircase she painted to match.
“When I design artwork that’s going on a building, I’m always thinking of it as a composition that’s part of the building. When it comes to murals, I never design it just on its own then apply it – I often work with the architectural features in some way, either I incorporate them or try to make them disappear. Even this composition was playing off the lines in the store.”
She created the mural commissioned by Hotel 52 over the course of two weeks, from the design concept to painting the top of the staircase. The mural has already proven to be a popular backdrop for the hotel’s wedding clientele.
“They wanted people to take photos in front of it who are new to St. Jacobs, just visiting or have stayed at this space before, because I guess this building has a long history. Or just people getting married here, so the idea is they take a photo in front of it and that’s part of their memory,” added Boutari. “For people to notice it and to have some kind of engagement with it, take a picture and give me a shout-out, that gives me more eyes on my work and helps me make a living as an artist.”
Her latest work is reminiscent of other murals she’s been creating throughout Waterloo Region. She’s also the talent behind the ‘St. Jacobs’ block-lettered mural beside the pizza place.
“I like this area – the people are so nice and sweet. I feel safe working here; some places I worked in the past I didn’t feel as secure. I was excited about the design and the colours, and the clients are so nice. I really enjoyed it. The stair was a unique challenge – I’ve never done a stair before,” said Boutari, noting the most labour-intensive part was the underside of the staircase.
She has been professionally painting for the last four and a half years. Before that she was an architectural designer. Her architecture background seeps seamlessly into her paintings, as evidenced by the large shapes and flowing colours that scale up the side of buildings she works on. After getting a taste for painting she started getting more and more commissions.
“I just really enjoyed it . I was also getting stressed at my job and not enjoying it anymore, so that was happening at the same time I started getting a few more inquiries for murals and it kind of gave me more courage to give it a go,” she explained.
“Before doing this professionally, I was just always obsessed with art. I used to paint more traditionally on canvas with acrylics and it was more like a realism style, but then I kind of abandoned it when I went to study architecture. When I was in grad school, I was missing art; it had been many years and then I started being interested in murals. I liked the idea of street art or art on architecture. I found this was kind of the in-between that I was craving; I just wanted to work on a large scale, but I wanted to feel more creative than what architectural design was allowing me to.”
The segue from her architectural job was a natural progression.
“My first mural, I was an architecture student still and I just asked the owner of the building if I could paint his building and he agreed to pay for my materials – he saw it as a benefit. That wall no one ever looked at it before, so now it has this new identity. He hired me back to paint another one of his buildings.”
It quickly built up from there, gaining a higher profile as an artist. Boutari has been commissioned by several businesses in Waterloo Region as well as the downtown Kitchener BIA and the St. Jacobs BIA. More of her work can be found on her website.