Giant pink and orange blossoms, Mexican doe-eyed senoritas, sassy waitresses, green-haired wild childs – these are just some of the startling, lush murals by Amanda Valdes that grace West Palm Beach walls. Since starting her painting career in 2009 with a few small shows and a mural at Respectable Street, Valdes is one of the few muralist/artists from here to truly go international.
After earning degrees from The Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale in Illustration & Graphic Design, and from Florida Atlantic University in Communications & Graphic Design, she was ready to take her vision public.
Once she nailed down her signature style of doll-like dames with blank maxi lashed eyes, flowing colored hair and wild colors that tell stories through flora, fauna, high fashion/punk/grunge clothing, and other iconographic objects, she was ready to blow it all up and out.
I first saw her work where the Fern Street Wine Bar & Kitchen now is, a Day of the Dead Mexican style senorita that oozed confidence and cultural flair in powerful primary colors. It held its own with other courtyard work that was darker and more macho.
Just back from an extended painting stay in Australia and New Zealand, Valdes has been working on a gorgeous mural at 219 Clematis Street, site of the Pawnshop Lounge.
On an inky black background—a daring choice—she is creating huge blooming hothouse flowers that are based on the floral street names of downtown – Clematis, Hibiscus, Datura – that find their way up and over the ceiling with some glowing green moths for fun.
“It’s good to be back after being away 3 months,” she says. “I came back home in March right as the shutdown started, and it’s been a good time to self-isolate as an artist. The current mural project has expanded, I did a red-haired girl on the big wall first, then the exterior part of the place, basing the flowers on the local downtown street names. I developed a way to hold the spray can at an angle to get a 3D effect on the flowers, just a few sprays and it forms the petals, then I add more colors on top. It’s a technique I’ve been working on for a few years now. The mural has expanded into the inside lobby area, hallways, floor, and ceiling. It’s also done with fluorescent colors inside so it will really pop and glow in the dark under black lights.”
The flower power imagery has been so successful she plans to turn the mural into wallpaper and fabric to make tops, bathing suits, pillows, and more.
“How much fun would that be!” she exclaims.
While she finishes up the Clematis Street mural, she is making plans to return to Australia and New Zealand, also to California and Ireland, though the out of the country plans are up in the air with so many travel restrictions. The far-flung projects happen in several ways, either through commissions, mural festival invitations, or applications she submits.
“I’m spending time back in my studio, painting on canvas again and working on some other projects,” she says. “This downtime is actually good for me and for street art in general as people can walk around outside and see art since the galleries and museums are closed. There is new political art that can help people feel involved and see the creativity it brings to the masses.”
Valdes has won many accolades. Right here in West Palm Beach, she won a mural competition sponsored by CANVAS in Northwood with a painting on a warehouse bay door, had a sweet show with some smaller works at a defunct gallery there, and painted a swishy green-tailed mermaid on a large wall that is still welcoming strollers.
From there she blasted off to such far-flung locales as the UK, Oregon, Korea, Vancouver, and more recently, Australia and New Zealand, bringing her charming/alarming girls to enormous sides of buildings the world over.
In a major score, she was tapped to paint a mural in Wynwood of the character based on actress Margot Robbie’s blue and pink pigtailed hottie Harley Quinn from the blockbuster film Suicide Squad. The mobbed blowout premiere was attended by stars of the movie including Will Smith and sponsored by Warner Brothers Pictures. Amanda posed with Robbie and the cast alongside her frequent partner in mural-painting crime Diana Contreras, aka Didi Rok, who also contributed to the block-long wall piece along NW 2nd Ave, Wynwood’s main painted drag.
“Didi and I work together well,” she says. “We complement each other and try and help other women painters. She painted that big mural 6 months pregnant! It’s tough to get started so we try and do what we can to help other women.”
Street artist Amanda Valdes paints her way from local to global