Adrian Hayles. Photo: Cherryl Bird

Yonge Mural painter gave up his career as a graphic artist to literally paint outside the box

“As I was painting, I really wanted a sense of their presence being here, so I would listen to their music, which is incredible music,” says artist Adrian Hayles, from the balcony of a nearby building overlooking the Yonge Mural. [article/video].

Hayles is the designer and painter behind the giant mural on the side of a 22-storey tower on Yonge St. commissioned by the Yonge Street BIA. The mural took the artist 150 cans of paint, about 285 hours and three months to complete, working from a 30-foot wide swing stage platform while at times 220 feet up in the air.

He worked mainly with the images from his phone, he says, and used a grid system to scale the image instead of projecting it onto the wall and then painting it in. Afterward, he primed the walls with a white latex-based paint. White, for efficiency, to cut down on painting time, to avoid doing a separate base and latex for its durability. He then added in the details with spray paint. All the colours were in his head, says Hayles, and he mixed them as he went along.

The Yonge St. mural is a way of expressing how he feels about music on a grand scale, says Hayles. To get inspiration, he listened to Rush, Dizzy Gillespie, Carol Pope, Levon Helm, and the others whose faces appear on the wall. He regularly listens to Gillespie, he says, “I love painting to instrumentals,” as it helps him to get into a creative headspace. Despite the fact that he enjoys different styles of music, mostly, jazz, funk, soul, rock and is a DJ, Hayles adds, “I’m very much a hip-hop head.”

Yonge Mural. Photo: Cherryl Bird
Yonge Mural. Photo: Cherryl Bird














This is the second painting he’s done on this building. The first was on the north side, featuring only nine artist, as opposed to the 26 artists on this one, consisting of bands too, which take up more space on the wall.

The mural on the north side commemorates the music of the 50s and 60s on Yonge St., venues that were really prominent and prosperous, that brought a lot of recognition to Yonge St. Big name acts came to Toronto to show their talents. This side of the wall represents the 70s and 80s. There is so much talent that it couldn’t fit on just one side, so it had to be split over the two walls, says Hayles.

Hayles is a former graphic artist who spent 10-15 years in the industry doing video games and YTV cartoons. He didn’t want to sit in an office all day, he says, so he decided to take his work outdoors and ended up, literally, “outside the box.”

His murals tell stories of the city’s music culture. This mural features jazz, blues, soul and rock musicians who were at the core of the scene in the 1970s and 80s: The Band, David Clayton-Thomas, Rush, GODDO, Carole Pope, Kim Mitchell, Salome Bey and Lonnie Johnson and venues like the Brown Derby Tavern, Gasworks, Piccadilly Tube and A&A Records.

Hayles also painted a 1,200 sq. ft. horizontal piece, his first music-related mural, to commemorate reggae music and the culture of Little Jamaica’s Reggae Lane at Eglinton and Oakwood in 2015 to showcase the roots and culture of the genre in Toronto.

Hayles is a Canadian-born artist of Guyanese background. He grew up in Guyana from the age of one to about nine, when he moved back to his hometown of Toronto, where he now lives.

Watch the interview with artist Adrian Hayles:

by Cherryl Bird – Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Twitter @ladycbird | Instagram @cherrylbird

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