Artist Naveen Shakil in front of her mural in progress “A Mighty Heart” outside of Splash Coworking. This endeavor marks Shakil’s 16th mural and the 22nd mural installed as part of the San Marcos Mural Arts Program. Daily Record photos by Denise Cathey
San Marcos is home to ‘A Mighty Heart’
Members of the city’s Mural Arts Commission, city staff and members of the community gathered behind Splash Coworking in downtown last Friday to unveil and celebrate the completion of its latest mural arts project.
Pakistan-born and Brooklyn-based artist Naveen Shakil put the finishing touch – or as she calls it the “golden touch,” a final line of metallic gold that sweeps from corner to corner across her works – on her latest mural in front of a excited crowd.
This mural is the 22nd piece to be subsidized by the city’s Mural Arts Program, but the first to bring in an international artist.
Shakil uses her hand to gently blend two colors together on the wall to create a range of tone.
The way Shakil found her way to San Marcos was through Divya Patnaik, the cofounder of Austin-based Craft Hustler. Shakil completed two works in Austin in fall of 2017, one for Craft Hustler. According to Splash Coworking Founder Carina Pinales, it was almost a year in the making. It took over 50 emails, many phone calls and one 45-minute tour of San Marcos, before Shakil was able to put her paint and skill to the wall.
Having visited San Marcos briefly in fall of 2017 and then meeting local residents recently during her opening reception, Shakil was able to incorporate into the design the heart of San Marcos history, culture and pride: The San Marcos River.
Shakil said whenever she arrived in San Marcos, she knew that the mural had to do something with water.
“I’ve never done water before, so that was a challenge, but there is no better place for me to take on this challenge than in San Marcos,” Shakil said.
Shakil has immersed herself in San Marcos culture since she first arrived, jumping in the river during every painting break and taking in the community.
With her reference image in hand Naveen Shakil uses a brush to apply black paint to the outlines of fingers in her mural.
Pinales and Splash Coworking have actively worked to highlight artists, of all media, all ethnic and racial heritage, and all gender and sexual preference – which is one of the reasons that Pinales choose Shakil’s work. But Shakil, doesn’t wear her nationality or cultural background on her sleeve, she wants to transcend those barriers in both her life and work.
“My work and who I am can help facilitate the conversations and breaking down the barriers and preconceived notions of what Pakistan is like or what women are like there or what a female Muslim is like there,” Shakil said. “It’s about transcending cultures and geography and making people see that I am like them and not different, so that they can see beyond those labels and barriers that surround Pakistani females.”
Shakil’s mural plays on the duality of masculine and feminine and the fluidity and purity of water.
“Society needs to allow men to be softer and allow women to be showcase their strength without compromising who they are,” Shakil said. “So the idea was amalgamating those two natures together.”
Shakil’s works all have a monochromatic color scheme – something she came to out of financial necessity, but something she feels is a better expression of her visual language.
“I think it’s harder to work in black and white than it is in color, but if there is one thing I want to remain consistent in my work, it’s that,” Shakil said. “Just using two colors to achieve every tone takes much more awareness of the different shades and the darks and lights and blending them in.”
Shakil hasn’t always been a muralist or even a professional artist; although she picked up her first paintbrush at the age of two. Her teachers always saw artistic promise in her work, but she never studied it formerly and instead studied architecture.
“The thing is that I love painting so much that I deliberately never wanted to make money out of it, because I feared that I would start resenting it, my livelihood would depend on it and I’d get frustrated,” Shakil said. “It would be for money and not for passion.”
Naveen Shakil cheers and pumps her fists in the air as Divya Patnaik finished applying the last spray of gold paint to ceremonially complete the mural during the dedication ceremony.
When she moved to New York in 2014, she quit architecture and became a graphic designer for Estée Lauder Companies Inc., which gave her the time and flexibility to start releasing her creative energy and start painting again. She started working on canvas, exhibiting and selling privately. But the turning point from working on canvas to murals, was when one of her works was stolen.
“I’d been wanting to paint walls since I moved to New York, but I was scared because it was such a big scale,” Shakil said. “But I think my canvas getting stolen was finally the push, because I was like ‘Let’s see if someone will try to steal a wall.’”
She painted her first mural in 2015 while visiting family in Pakistan. Her friend was in the process of designing a restaurant and had a free wall and Shakil worked for three days to design and paint the entire wall.
“I worked on it for three days straight and when I finished it was like ‘Boom, I’m addicted.’ Because there is a rush to it.”
She returned to New York and started to pick up mural work everywhere she could while still maintaining her full-time job as a designer. Now she works freelance for Estée Lauder and pursues mural art as her fulltime career.
Shakil’s latest work – that she entitled “A Mighty Heart” after her stay in San Marcos – can be seen in the alley behind Splash Coworking in downtown.