Los Angeles muralist Jonas Never creates custom pieces in Winter Park
Jonas Never recently completed three murals for the Floyd’s 99 Barbershop locations in Winter Park and on Mills Avenue.
| 8:57 a.m. March 8, 2019
Arts + Entertainment
Arts + Culture
The next time you drive past Floyd’s 99 Barbershop in Winter Park, keep an eye out for Mr. Fred Rogers and his signature smile — or for Bob Ross and his happy little trees.
Although Rogers and Ross are no longer here, their spirit lives on in the films and shows they hosted that stole the hearts of millions growing up. And now, their spirit also lives on in the form of two murals on the sides of Floyd’s.
Jonas Never, a Los Angeles-based artist who has created more than 65 murals in Southern California, has been in Orlando since Feb. 25 to paint three murals for two Floyd’s locations on Mills Avenue and in Winter Park.
Floyd’s 99 Barbershop has been described as the old-school barbershop concept, but with a trendy, modern-day twist. The nostalgic barbershop experience is mixed with the appeal of on-trend cuts in a high-energy environment.
Former MLB pitcher Kyle Sleeth and his wife, Sarah, own six Floyd’s 99 locations — with another three soon to come — in Central Florida. Through Floyd’s corporate connections, who have commissioned Never to paint murals at many other Floyd’s locations throughout the country, they were able to bring Never to Orlando to share his artistic abilities.
THE START OF THE ART
“Growing up in Los Angeles, especially the west side around Venice, it had such a big skateboarding and graffiti thing,” Never said. “Before street art was even a phrase it was a thing out there. It’s great, because it’s sunny all year-round and you can paint all year-round.”
Never, a former baseball-player-turned artist, majored in art at the University of California Riverside, where he discovered his future as an artist.
After college, he dabbled in graffiti before transitioning to nostalgic paintings and murals, especially of pinup girls and old cars. One of Floyd’s 99’s founding owners, Bill O’Brien, discovered Never’s work at a gallery show.
“He saw one of the pieces I did for a gallery show and remarked how much he liked it and how it kind of fit the vibe they were going for with their new barbershop they were opening on Santa Monica Boulevard,” Never said. “He asked me to paint a wall there. This was 2006. I did that not really expecting to get paid, just doing it for fun and exposure, and then he and his brother were talking about how they were going to open like 10 more shops that year.”
From there, the partnership blossomed. Never has painted murals at various Floyd’s locations in the 13 years since then. He also does work for Bowlero bowling alleys, sports teams in Los Angeles, Adidas, Red Bull, Delta and various bars and restaurants.
When the Sleeths brought Never out to work on the murals at their Mills Avenue and Winter Park locations, they knew they wanted something that was recognizable but also something that would reflect the fabric and history of their neighborhoods.
“We were looking at local celebrities and heroes, so to speak, and I went and saw the (Mr. Rogers) movie with my mom and just kind of had an epiphany,” Sarah Sleeth said. “I remembered that Fred Rogers went to Rollins and that he had a home here. We wanted to (have) like a ‘Welcome to Winter Park’ kind of feeling, like ‘Won’t you be my neighbor? Come join us in Winter Park’ sort of thing, so that was where we came up with the whole idea.”
For the Mills Avenue location, the Sleeths and Never decided on an image of Freddie Mercury, who is depicted with his hand raised in the air and a look of triumph on his face. It was described as an ode to the neighborhood’s LGBT community.
Additionally, they decided on a mural of Bob Ross to grace the wall facing Fairbanks Avenue at the Winter Park location.
“Some areas you paint with broad strokes, but with areas like Winter Park and Orlando, you can play off celebrities that lived here, like Bob Ross and Mr. Rogers,” Never said. “You can do something that fits with the area. Freddie Mercury felt like he fit the vibe on Mills. If you can embody an area, people run with it.
“(And) even though (Rogers) lived here and went to Rollins, some locals aren’t familiar with the fact that he actually went there,” he said. “If a city like this has those kind of stories they should be told, and art’s an immediate way to tell those stories.”
For his murals, Never starts off by taking a photo of a wall, measuring it and digitally placing the images he wants to emulate onto it. During this step, he ensures the parts of the painting won’t be over a drainpipe or window and that everything fits and is cropped appropriately. Then, the painting begins.
“I normally work with spray paint for the skin tones and clothing, and house paint for the fine details,” he said. “I don’t want teeth or eyes to look blurry or foggy, and I‘ll use brush paint for that.”
Large cityscapes can take up to months to complete, while the Freddie Mercury and Rogers murals took about three days and four days, respectively.
For Never, getting to work with a company such as Floyd’s has been a great opportunity for partnership, practice and exposure.
“Floyd’s has been an amazing company to work for from the top down,” he said. “Franchisees (such as) Kyle and Sarah Sleeth are really great, and it’s great working with people who have the same vision as you.”
Perhaps the best part of the art he does is the interactions it sparks with passersby. While working on his mural of Rogers, people stopped to compliment Never on his artistry or comment on the iconic role Rogers continues to play in the lives of many.
“We’ve had a ton of great feedback, and it’s been put on a lot of social media,” Kyle Sleeth said. “To see people talk about it, everyone says, ‘I’ve got to come out and take a picture with it,’ which brings interest to the business. That was the whole purpose of it.”
And as long as his art elicits reactions from people and continues to act as a conduit for meeting new people and sharing knowledge, Never knows he has done his job.
“Art is whatever people make it, and public art takes it even further,” he said. “When the public interacts, it reaffirms you made the right choice in the mural and it’s succeeding. Getting that sort of interaction and making it more authentic is so much more fun.”