Some 20-Story Ads Are Still Hand-Painted. With Paintbrushes

Photograph by Bloomberg

Huge advertisements on the sides of buildings are usually the disposable kind: vinyl sheets with computer-printed graphics. But once in a while you’ll see a throwback to Mad Men-style hand-painted murals promoting a product, brand, movie, or TV show. The muralists still working this trade are dubbed “walldogs.”

Sept. 25 (Bloomberg) -- "Walldogs" are artists who hand paint huge, photorealistic advertisements on the sides of buildings. It’s also the name of a Los Angeles-based company that paints larger-than-life ads for movies, cars and sportswear, some over 20-stories tall. Owner Riley Forsythe, a 40-year veteran of the trade, tells Bloomberg how the process works and why this low-tech method is still in demand. (Source: Bloomberg)

Walldogs is also the name of a company, one of a handful keeping the craft alive in the U.S. Artists at the Los Angeles–based outfit routinely jump off the roofs of 20-story buildings fastened to safety harnesses to render large-scale photorealistic advertisements with ordinary paint and brushes.

Walldogs, the company, starts a project by dividing the artwork into a grid. Each section is then blown up using a projector and traced onto 4-by-10-foot sheets of paper. The patterns are burned out using a tool that singes paper with an electrical current. Once on-site, the artists unfurl the banners and transfer the outlines onto the wall in charcoal.

Photograph by Bloomberg

A team of walldogs suspended overhead invariably attracts slack-jawed stares of passersby waiting for the big reveal. And the final artwork invariably delivers a bigger impact than vinyl equivalents. It also, understandably, carries a higher price tag. The owner of Walldogs, Riley Forsythe, declined to say what he charges, but Lamar Advertising in Baton Rouge, La., estimates that in New York City a mesh vinyl banner can cost $4,000 to $10,000, whereas a hand-painted ad runs $30,000 to $90,000.

Photograph by Bloomberg

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.