When you spend days or weeks painting a mural on the side of a building, you learn pretty quickly just how many over-the-shoulder art critics there are in the world.
But Sebastian Muralles -- one of the most prolific mural artists in Bakersfield -- doesn't rattle easily, taking the unsolicited advice and comments in stride.
"When you're in the process of doing the mural, they see the beginning and the intermediate process, and people judge it. They can't picture how it's going to look at the end. But at the same time, it's kind of good for people to see me work because they talk about it."
And that talk has led to a mountain of work for Muralles, 33, whose art graces the walls of several Mexican restaurants, including two murals at the newest La Mina, in the southwest.
"I was inspired by the art of (Los Angeles muralist) El Mac. When you enter at the right, there's a face of a girl and one side of the face looks like a sunset and the other side is more like the moon, nighttime. Her hair transitions into horses. It's like modern Mexican art. She's supposed to represent Mother Earth."
Other samples of his vivid, colorful work can be seen at the Kern County Museum, the Allen Road Veterinary Hospital, many city electrical boxes and the stunning three-panel Dali-esque tribute to Bakersfield's guitar makers at Front Porch Music -- not to mention murals at several schools, including his own junior high in Arvin, where his career as an artist began at age 13.
"I was taking some art classes and they asked me to do a mural, a replica of 'Creation of Man,' with God touching Adam's finger. It's like the beginning of everything. And the beginning of my career, too, with murals.
"I was surprised when I found out I was getting paid to do it."
Muralles, who was born in Guatemala City and raised in Lamont, has a son, Alex, with wife Maria. He works 40-plus hours a week as lead machine operator at NuSil Silicone Technology and another four to six hours a day at his art. His murals are so in-demand, clients are put on a two-month waiting list.
"For me, it's more like a hobby and I get paid for it," Muralles said of his art. "I'm looking more for publicity more than the money, but the money helps a lot. I do it more to show people what I can do and to throw messages out there."
Muralles took time away from his busy day to answer more of our questions.
You had the challenge of ending our 10-part Eye Gallery story. Was that tough?
It was a challenge to be able to carry on other artists' point of view in the story. The fact that the character in the story seemed to be in a confused situation made it harder to find a conclusion. However, I knew I needed to bring the positive side to the story, so wrapping it up with a positive ending was a must for me.
The solution to the main character's problem and confusion was always within her. Which is what I think most of the time happens to many people in this real world we live in.
When did you know art would be a lifelong passion?
At only age 5 I was drawing replicas of many cartoon characters and felt the passion for colors.
How do you challenge yourself artistically?
I'm always looking up different artists. That really helped me a lot; you get to see art in a different way. You have to really pay close attention to detail and the meaning of stuff. You start to learn to read the art more.
Besides all the "helpful" advice from people watching you work, are there other drawbacks to painting murals?
Just the fact of being out in the heat here in Bakersfield; that's the other thing that's not that good.
What is the biggest, most ambitious mural you've done to date?
The biggest one of I've ever done in a public place was at the Kern County Museum. I painted it with an artist from LA and some students. It was a timeline of people who came out of Bakersfield: Ming, Lopez, Bonnie Owens, and other stuff like the Clock Tower, oil derricks, oil field workers. Toward the end of the mural, there's a portrait of my son fishing at the canal. That's representing the future.
What does your art say about you?
I like a positive, colorful feeling and somehow I like to incorporate nature in most of my paintings.