Getting Funky with the Made Fresh Crew

Local urban art extraordinaire Taylor Reinhold shares the story behind his latest mural with MFC standout Erika Rosedale

By Neal Kearney
July 10, 2024
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Ms. Teal painting a mural

Well before I could properly spell my own name, I was in love with art. I found the ability to tell stories using nothing but a few crayons and a scrap of paper intoxicating and it served as a potent catalyst for my burgeoning imagination in those formative years. At ten years old, my crude drawings of ninja turtles had evolved into halfway decent cartoons of snarling monsters and sinister demons, complete with sharp, bulging horns and rivers of blood dripping down their mammoth fangs. By the time I reached Junior High, filling the margins of my homework and notes with assorted cryptids, ghouls, and demons became my go-to while sitting through endlessly boring lectures. 

Years later, around the time I entered High School, I became fascinated with graffiti. No, not the scraggly tags found on the walls of the Burger King bathroom, but the flamboyant and colorful murals I saw hiding underneath freeway overpasses or covering the asphalt at my favorite skate spots such as Derby. I even had a few friends with enough skill and work-ethic to earn themselves quite a reputation in the highly critical local graf scene. For a moment there, I too tried my hand at a few pieces, practicing on plywood while my chums perfected their styles in backyards throughout the East Side.

Alas, I lacked the natural skill for spray painting, as well as the time and patience needed to develop my technique. My aspirations to see my monstrous visions grace urban landmarks fizzled quite quickly but my admiration of those who could do so effectively only grew. Now, I’m not a proponent of vandalism or the aimless destruction of property, but I’m still a fan of the art and envy those who can see their creative visions come alive on bland cement walls.

Little did they know it at the time, but a select few of these artistic night ninjas would find profitable, and legal, applications of their talents as muralists in the years to come. As graffiti evolved in the public eye from dangerous gang propaganda to an appreciated form of urban expression, local businesses, schools, and even the City of Santa Cruz itself would begin to provide regular work for these bad boys of the art world.

Made Fresh Crew, arguably the most prolific and acclaimed collection of graffiti inspired artists in town, have been turning heads for years with their eye catching and colorful creations. These funky spray paint junkies have cemented their place as top-tier local muralists for-hire, who see their contributions not as an advertisements for illegal behavior, but as means for progressive  causes such as art education, environmentalism, community projects, and community engagement. 

Earlier this month, I pinned down prolific MFC founder and ringleader Taylor Reinhold to discuss his latest offering, a beautiful piece celebrating beloved civil rights activists that he whipped up on the UCSC campus with fellow crew member Ms. Teal, aka Erika Rosedale. Enjoy!

Made Fresh Crew's latest mural, located up on the UCSC campus
Made Fresh Crew’s latest mural, located up on the UCSC campus

The theme for this mural was Self and Society. We painted portraits of Rosa Parks and Gloria Anzaldua, with quotes from each activist. We also incorporated some of the local flora and fauna into the design that surrounds the UCSC campus, such as Redwood trees, madrone, Douglass Fir, poppies, wildflowers, turkeys, deer, and butterflies. I have always loved animals and the natural world, having grown up with so much of both in my backyard.

From the pelagic depths of Monterey Bay, to the foggy rich soil in the Santa Cruz mountains, we live in an epicenter with easy access to enjoy these important parts of our ecosystem. I spent a lot of time on a boat growing up. My dad worked with the Pelagic Shark Foundation, tagging great white sharks to track their migration. I think that was one of the coolest parts of my childhood, seeing great white sharks up close and personal.

Now I get to tag great white sharks on walls through art. As an artist, you are constantly trying to recreate a vision from the wild world we live in. The patterns I find in nature are unmatched. Whether it be the veins of leaves when you look closely, or the bark on a tree, everything I find in nature can be blown up on a wall and dissected for people to enjoy.

Taylor takes inspiration from the natural world

We are all just zoomed in to our programs in this rat race, always so absorbed in the constant hustle of surviving in a capitalist society. When you just unplug and look around, or sit back under a redwood and think about how long it’s been on this planet, you see how truly small we really are. Perspective can give you that change, you just need to remember that we are such a small part of the pieces of the natural world.

This was a team effort between myself and Ms. Teal, aka Erika Rosendale. We used hyper-realism mixed with a graphic style to create depth on a textured surface.

I enjoy painting big and bold like this because on the streets that is what inspires me. Big straight letters on billboards and overpasses or big drop shadows that catch your eye when driving 60 miles an hour on a freeway. I was never classically trained in painting so my style is derived from graffiti.

 

Ms. Teal, doin’ her thing

Teal is a master of lighting and can paint anything in her path. She is classically trained and now painting with her with can control means fast and intricate detail. We bounce each element off each other sometimes one will start to fill in the color and subject matter while the other finishes it. We also got to play with color and composition because the wall was in a hallway, and only one side of the mural could be seen from a distance.

This mural was special because we were on campus and got to have really great conversations and insight with students and faculty. Every day, as each part of the wall came to life, we got to internally reflect on our process as students approached us full of excitement and adoration. The influx of student traffic slowed us down and let us enjoy what we were doing… taking breaks—something we never give ourselves enough of.

It was a real treat to give insight and just check in with kids each day. My favorite part of this project was working with Christina Audas, a faculty member, who went above and beyond to make our experience extremely cohesive and welcoming. I also have to give a huge shout out to Psi Padhya who organized this project through the student council and was incredible to work with. Seeing students like Psi overcome challenges and create a monumental mural for generations to come gives me hope for the future.

 

Taylor Reinhold. 2014

The steps for a piece like this usually involve six months to a year of lead time and prep work. This includes meetings, emails, and three to four rounds of illustration revisions. We had the faculty, students, and alumni share input for the mural through a survey, so much input can be overwhelming at times. You have to fight to create the vision you want to see.

It’s important to understand when to meet in the middle and negotiate style and composition. The student council and faculty respected that and listened to our needs and direction making the finishing mural our conceptual aesthetic, I really value that because in most other big projects those values get swept under a board of directors and bureaucracy.

When we get to a wall and actually start to paint, the easy part unfolds. Sketch. Color blocking. Loud music. Details. Final photos. Clear coat. All while remembering to drink lot’s of water (laughs). This part of the process can change based on what is happening around us. Weather can really put a damper on mural time. We had a few days of fog that usually can be good, compared to heat. The hallway we painted in became a wind funnel and chilled us to the bone.

Taylor and Ms. Teal make an epic team

The wind can also really make your day harder when trying to spray a wall. You just learn tricks to get through the hard parts of muraling, Cardboard to hold off the wall to protect the wind, gloves for warmth, sunscreen and excessive amounts of water for skin. The ever-changing world we live in can impact each project so going into that with an open mind makes the hard parts laughable sometimes.

You have to learn to be resilient and also just enjoy the chaos of the process. The chaos makes it all work that’s why we paint and put ourselves through absolute hell trying to make the world a more colorful place.

Our approach to this piece, like with all our murals, revolved around what we felt like painting on every given day. Here, we started with the big pieces of the pie and ended with small details. I did the lettering and background elements, and Teal knocked out the big figures.

I hate painting portraits, especially of humans. There are too many of them on this planet and they are a virus. I personally only want to paint animals and the natural world. Animals are beautiful and we need to save them. So, in instances like this, when portraits are needed, I always call the “super-talented-friend-hotline” (laughs). They always pick up and deliver.

Made Fresh Crew socks by Merge4

The materials we used were exterior latex paint and spray paint, as well as and lots of love. Latex is the best tool for spreading color and knocking out square footage, I love using latex in paint sprayers and just blasting tons of color. Spray paint has become my weapon of choice, I learned to paint with a can before I could paint with a brush so for me it’s just instinctual.

It’s taken me twenty years to master the can control and become one with the spray gods. It’s always a challenge no matter how much you use it. Some days the cans just don’t want to help you and some days they are your best friend.

Temperature and heat are the greatest challenges while spraying, you have to also know when to quit. Sometimes I just get to a wall and feel too much pressure from the world around me and I just tell the team… let’s go paint something else today… for FUN.

The soundtrack that helped birth this collaboration included a lot of RBL Posse, De La Soul, and Green Day. Music like this always fuels the emotions going into a battle that can last for weeks.

Reinhold’s designs will blow your mind

The most challenging part of this piece was scheduling time with my superstar assistant/boss. I think I overcame this by just having the wife/manager/superboss reach out to find the time that we could all be available. That is the hardest part about what we do as a group. Every artist in MFC has a full-time art career and is constantly booked with gigs. Schedules and projects change constantly due to construction and contractual agreements.

When someone builds a new business or storefront they usually wait till the last minute to consider what the art is gonna look like, inside or out. We all get these phone calls monthly where people are like, “Hey can you paint us a mural? Cool! We need it done tomorrow? Does that work?” (Laughs)

The most enjoyable aspect of a job like this is meeting new people, hearing their stories, telling them yours, and feeling excitement from the community in general. When you let yourself be vulnerable you always come back from work with new ideas and a sense of accomplishment after hearing the amount of stoke you just blazed people with.

I am constantly impressed with the Made Fresh Crew and how hard everyone brings it. Every project is an emotional battle, and every time you want to create the best work. I want to improve my skills and learn from the talented friends I get to paint with. I am extremely blessed that people want to pay me to create. I have to remind myself I don’t have to do this…I get to do this.

For more from Taylor and the Made Fresh Crew check out www.madefreshcrew.com!

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