Playful Mural by Layet Johnson Captures Spirit of Artx3 Campus


Jessica Craven

Artist Layet Johnson has freshly completed a mural in the art alley between the Arts & Science Center and ART WORKS on Main. The mural illustrates the programming of the ARTx3 Campus by capturing themes and activities you might see in the ARTx3 space: visual arts, dance, theater, music, and the sciences.

Artist Layet Johnson

Dr. Rachel Miller, executive director of the ARTx3 Campus, describes why Johnson was chosen as the artist to undertake the big 29-feet-wide by 21-feet-tall project. “I was already familiar with Layet’s work through his mural for the Rep, the Thea Foundation, and Loblolly ice cream products,” Miller explains. “He is such a vibrant and imaginative artist. His approach to animation really creates a sense of motion among the characters, giving the viewer the impression that they will jump out of the mural any second. We felt he was the perfect artist to tackle the ARTx3 mural.”

Johnson then set to work on the mural, first drafting seven versions of it before arriving at the final one. To transfer the image onto the wall, he used the same technique Michelangelo used when working on the Sistine Chapel: a pounce pattern. The pounce pattern works like a stencil. “To make it, I set up in a warehouse space some friends and I are renting in Little Rock as an alternative art space,” Johnson describes. “I hung some bond paper on the wall in 4-foot-tall strips and projected the image full-size onto it. I then outlined the artwork with a pen. After tracing the entire mural, I rolled up each section and took it to my friend’s sign shop to pounce it with his electro-pounce, a machine that burns a perforated line in the paper so that when hung on the wall, the image can be transferred with charcoal powder.”

When transferring the image to the wall, Johnson left bare brick in the negative space wherever possible. “I did this because I wanted the figures to feel like they were standing in front of the wall rather than in an image on the wall,” he explains. The mural also features about 33 different colors.

Johnson also faced challenges when working on this mural, especially since it was the biggest project he has undertaken to date. ”When I first transferred the image of the painter to the wall, I thought that he was so tall that he had become distorted,” Johnson admits. “After priming the wall, I had to stand on the ladder and adjust the image using a charcoal stick. All this goes to show the relationship between the artist and the image, and that the image isn't merely a concept, but something physical that's made by the eye and the hand.”

Layet Johnson uses the pounce pattern technique to outline the design.

In the end, Johnson could pridefully unveil his work. “This mural will certainly lead me towards unique new projects,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot from it, especially technically and in terms of working with others to create something community-based. I’m definitely proud of it because I often judge my own artworks on whether or not they pushed me forward, and this one certainly has.”

“Layet did a beautiful job of interpreting the ARTx3 Campus as a convergence of art, creativity, and community,” Miller praised. “Of all the characters, my favorite is the little boy running with a balloon. He represents the simple joy of play. We want to encourage everyone to come ‘play’ at the ARTx3 Campus.”

The mural illustrates the programming of the ARTx3 Campus by capturing themes and activities you might see in the ARTx3 space: visual arts, dance, theater, music, and the sciences. It also incorporates the ARTx3 logo, by Elizabeth Johnson at Zaba.

The mural was made possible by Pine Bluff Downtown Development and funded through a Downtown Revitalization Grant through Main Street Arkansas.

“The mission of Downtown Development is to help in the revitalization of Main Street Pine Bluff, and this mural is a wonderful example of assisting in accomplishing that goal,” said Joy Blankenship, who recently retired as executive director of Pine Bluff Downtown Development.

Johnson has a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Georgia and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hendrix College in Conway. See more of his artwork and projects at