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Hot Art: Grate Portraits on Stephen Avenue

Local celebrity Dave Kelly fly-fishing. Photo: Adele Brunnhofer.

Thursday, September 20, local artist Mandy Stobo debuts the Grate Walk of Fame, a collection of her portraits of local celebrities. The works will be displayed on the iron grates that decorate the foot of each tree planted along Stephen Avenue Walk in the city’s downtown.

Stobo’s Bad Portraits and Grate Portraits series are impressive in their scope. Over the past year and a half, Stobo has created over 3,000 watercolour Bad Portraits of celebrities and friends. The project began when Stobo, a single mother, considered what sort of projects she could both create and promote from home. Navigating Facebook and Twitter, she pulled friends’ profile pictures and interpreted them in whimsical “bad” watercolour drawings.

As the series’ popularity grew (Stobo promoted her project on Twitter and was profiled last November in Macleans) people began requesting portraits online. The series is delightfully tongue-in-cheek, and Stobo admits her son often encounters some confusion when describing her intentionally bad pictures.

After working on C is For Calgary, a children’s book that commemorates the Calgary Stampede centennial, Stobo became interested in the city’s history, especially the Stephen Avenue historical walk. The Downtown Association commissioned her to paint on the tree grates that run along the avenue. Working tirelessly over the summer, Stobo has created a series of 55 colourful portraits of noted Calgarians, including Mayor Naheed Nenshi, wrestler Brett Hart and local television personalities Dave Kelly and Ron Barge, a.k.a. Buckshot.

Stobo’s Grate artwork displayed along Stephen Avenue. Photo: Adele Brunnhofer.

The launch of the Grate Walk of Fame will take place tomorrow at 11:30 am at the Trolley Stage on Eighth Avenue in front of The Bay, between First Street and Second Street SW.

The Ship and Anchor has also commissioned Stobo to paint portraits Sunday afternoons. Grab a pint, enjoy the pub’s delicious menu and take home a free portrait.

Requests for portraits can be made online at Bad Portrait Project.

– Adele Brunnhofer

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