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Painting the Sky (Valley)

Not many artists can say they’ve painted the sky.

Muralist David Hose has not only painted it, but he has also captured its very essence and infused it into some of the most cantankerous old walls in the Skykomish/Snohomish River Valleys.

One of Snohomish County’s most prolific muralists, David Hose not only specializes in indoor and outdoor murals, but he also excels at portraiture, animal portraits, and landscapes -- on canvas or walls -- and calligraphy. Through his business, American Light Studio, David has built a spectacular portfolio of work, much of it located in Monroe and its surrounding communities. He is well known for his unmistakable brand of sweeping colors and stunning realism, along with his unique ability to tell a story without using a single word. His paintings have illuminated Sky Valley history with depth and accuracy, each mural is artfully woven together with countless details, anecdotes, and little bits of local treasure.

His tools are uncomplicated. He prefers Ticonderoga No. 2 pencils, acrylic paint, and sometimes a Genie lift, if a mural exceeds the capacity of his 5-foot 10-inch frame.

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He has tamed some of the most stubborn, unyielding old walls in Monroe, transforming their craggy, pitted surfaces into one-of-a-kind works of art. “It all starts with a conversation ,” David said. When someone hires him for a mural, he meets with them face to face to better understand their vision for the work and how to best bring it to life.

It’s about building a connection, right from the beginning.  

“I start with a client and end with a good friend,” David said.

Once he understands the vision, he spends some time at the wall. As the overall design begins to emerge in his mind, he sketches it out, working with his client to ensure a “win-win.” If his client wants family members or historical references, they provide him with photos to work from. Other aspects come from his imagination, or from his own life.

The visual story that forms is a pastiche of true, make-believe, and a little bit of fantasy.

Hose’s ingenuity with a paintbrush is informed by his own ability to overcome hardship, his deep connection to his clients and subject matter, and his distinctly gentle aura that instantly puts people at ease. Hose has never met a stranger and treats everyone he encounters with kindness and respect. People are naturally drawn to him, especially when he has a brush in hand.  

His tools are uncomplicated. He prefers Ticonderoga No. 2 pencils, acrylic paint, and sometimes a Genie lift.

His natural talent has been nourished by his lifelong passion for art.

“I started drawing on my mother's bedroom walls when I was three,” David said. “I'm addicted to art. It's always been something that took me to a different place.”

When David and his wife Takeko discovered Monroe in 2004, it was like coming home. They moved into the Fryelands neighborhood with their five kids on Takeko’s birthday, March 15, 2004.

Monroe was ready for David Hose. His first job was commissioned almost right away by the Monroe Arts Council, which wanted a mural on the wall of what was then Haight Carpet, now Bliss Yoga Studio, on North Lewis Street. David had to compete assertively for the job -– not normally his nature –- but he was ready to make his mark. When told that the art was almost as good as promised to another artist, he met with the MAC and asked to see the existing proposal. 

“I looked at it and said, ‘I can beat that,’” David said.

The work, still stunning today, features an above and below cross-section of the Skykomish River and measures 79 feet in length.

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His artistic journey took him to Sultan next, which celebrated its centennial in 2005 with a commissioned mural on the side of the Visitors Information Center. The mural’s location was marred by a tangled web of electrical panels and piping, but David masterfully incorporated them into the art. Key Sultan community members are immortalized in both the centennial mural and his nearby three-panel mural series at the original Sultan Fire Station, which he painted in 2008. Recently, the fire station murals were replicated in digital form after David’s original work became faded from the weather.

The murals showcase noted fire department leadership, staff, and supporters over generations.   

David loves honoring bellwether community members in his work.

“They become icons,” David said. “These are people who are full of love and care for their community and I want to represent that as much as I can.”

Each of his murals tells a thousand stories, richly filled with the best that the Sky Valley has to offer. Like with the fire station murals, connections between the past, present, and future are intertwined throughout David’s work, enhancing its relatability. Rivers, mountains, trains, wildlife, farmlands, and local streetscapes all come to life so vividly, it’s almost as though you could step into the walls and become part of the worlds he’s created.

His largest mural to date is located in downtown Snohomish, on the home of Earl Winehart Post No. 96 of the American Legion. Painted from 2012 to 2013, the stunning token of gratitude to our United States veterans stretches nearly seventy feet across, reaches thirty-five feet in height, and took David thirteen months to complete. It is both a memorial and a tribute, paying homage to not only those veterans who paid the ultimate sacrifice, but also to modern-day veterans in service today.

The mural offers windows into six armed conflicts in which the United States fought -- World War I, World War II, Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, and Afghanistan -- each portrayed with powerful authenticity. The soldier in the image of World War I is American Legion Post No. 96 namesake, Earl Winehart, who was killed in action in 1918 just two short weeks after arriving in France. As always with Hose’s work, his passion for his subject matter is reflected in the details. Winehart’s gaze is piercing and brave. He grips his gun tightly, while a letter meant for his mother shyly peeps from his coat pocket.

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While all of David’s murals are special to him, the Snohomish mural has particular meaning because of what it represents, and because of a young Marine from Snohomish named Cpl. Jeffrey Starr, who was killed in Iraq on May 30, 2005. Jeffrey is featured in the upper portion of the mural, the only veteran without a hat. His smile is infectious.

David got a photo from Jeffrey’s father to use as a guide to capture his likeness.

“It was the day of his graduation from basic training,” David said. “His parents took it and he insisted he didn't want a hat because he liked his hair that day.”

David visited Jeffrey’s grave before he started to paint, to build that connection so integral to his work. The bond he formed is clearly reflected in the portrait, as is the vow he made to Jeffrey that he would “give it his whole heart.” The Snohomish mural stops passerby in mid-step, spellbound as they take it in. Jeffrey’s portrait is his mirror image. Hatless, face filled with joy at becoming a Marine.  

David is far from finished, as there are many more stubborn surfaces he’d love to transform, many more snippets of the sky that he’d love to commemorate. He awaits the next big thing and hopes to someday complete a mural larger than anything he’s done to date.  

“I'm ready to work,” David said. “My dedication is stronger than it was ten years ago.”

For more information about David Hose, please email him at davidhose.777@gmail.com. Legion Post No. 96 is located at 1201 1st Street, Snohomish, Washington. For a complete list of Hose murals available for public viewing, see our complete list of David Hose murals.    

Christine Hendrickson
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