Artist Alex Proba Isn’t Afraid to Color Outside the Frame
With her mural-painting tips, you don't have to be either.
Published Sep 21, 2019 6:00 AM
When it comes to curating the right mood for a day or night out, ambience is everything. And what better way to liven up the mood than an energizing backdrop? Enter muralist Alex Proba: Her different strokes are taking afternoon coffee and evening drinks to the next level at two of New York’s coolest new hangouts.
At the dog-friendly café Boris & Horton, customers are able to snack, sip coffee, and selfie in wild abandon under Proba’s mural without having to leave their pups tied up outside. And at Moon Rise Studio by Kin Euphorics, guests can enjoy a sober speakeasy environment, thanks to nonalcoholic adult beverages served from a bar featuring another work by Proba. Now that’s something to inspire a happier hour.
Both spaces embrace murals, which are having a moment in design right now. Proba, a veteran of the abstract art, highlights the genre’s openness to interpretation, whereby each person might see something different amid the shapes, lines, colors, and patterns. “It lets them create their own magical stories,” she muses. Ahead, she shares her insights on coloring outside the frame.
Draw Them In
At Boris & Horton, Proba’s murals adorn both the exterior and interior, bringing inside vibes out to attract passersby with a touch of whimsy. “Her work commands attention,” notes interior designer Laura Hur of Lorla Studio, who collaborated with the artist on the space. “It helps draw attention to the walk-up window.” The interior mural also shines through the front windows of the café, inviting pups and people alike to snag a spot on the banquette and enjoy an Instagrammable moment together.
Play With Color and Light
While Proba’s work has a consistently vibrant point of view, she plays with combinations of color and light to suit the mood of each space. At Moon Rise Studio, Kin Euphorics’s signature warm hues welcome guests and follow them inside the bar, with the same shades transitioning from lighter to moodier ambiences. “The space outdoors is sunny, white, and very bright, and the inside warmer and on the darker side,” says the artist. The light difference alone creates two fully different pieces of art.
Aim for Smiles
“What I love most is how murals completely transform an environment—they add life and personality,” explains Proba. “They make you smile when you see them. They are an emotion for me.” That smile factor, in turn, helps turn her artistic, energetic vignettes into destinations that feel equal parts playful and chic. “Boris & Horton is more than just a café; it’s a vibrant community hub that draws people from all over the city,” says Hur.
Grab a Brush and Go for It
Murals may come naturally to Proba, but the process is by no means random. Typically, the artist develops a handful of designs on her computer before executing them. From there, the painting process varies depending on the environment. Sometimes she uses a projector to draw pencil outlines, but if natural light makes that too difficult, she often opts to work freehand. “I feel more connected to my artwork that way…like I don’t have to use anything other than a brush and paint.”
Proba remembers her first mural project several years back: a 60-foot long piece for Dropbox’s headquarters in New York. Without a clear sense of where to start, she evaluated the risks and ultimately decided to just go for it. “I kept thinking, what is the worst that could happen?” the artist recalls. Her least favorable scenario: Painting over and starting again. Which is ultimately not bad at all.
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