Cbabi Bayoc has been working as an artist since the mid 1990s. Some highlights from these 25 years include when Prince chose his painting “Reine Keis Quintet” as the cover art for his 2001 album “The Rainbow Children;” and “365 Days with Dad,” when Bayoc painted a positive image of black fatherhood each day of 2012.
As prolific as Bayoc has been during this time, it’s a recent string of commissions that have taught him how to work efficiently and at high quality. Over the past year, 17 elementary schools have commissioned Cbabi Bayoc to paint murals on their walls. He is currently working on his 14th and will complete three more before the school year is over. His new project rhythm and confidence allow Bayoc to complete the large murals in just a week.
Each school mural starts with a conversation between Bayoc, the principal and several teachers. Recent sites include the Elementary Computer School in Rock Hill and Tillman Elementary in Kirkwood.
Next, Cbabi makes a digital sketch. He creates a theme for the painting, like “Exploration and Innovation” for Tillman, and then places children and phrases into the picture. He describes his work as a collage of words, images and shapes.
When he starts to paint directly on the wall, the image takes on a life of its own. Bayoc insists on working during the school day, so that the kids can see him work and watch the mural take shape. He also draws inspiration from them. One kid will walk by with a distinctive hairstyle, and Bayoc incorporates it into the picture. Another will come by in a shirt with a heart on it. The heart will find its way onto to the wall. At one school, Bayoc patterned background areas with sketches made by the students.
These days, when he isn’t painting school walls, you’ll find Bayoc in his studio at Nebula, a co-working space off Cherokee Street in St. Louis. In the coming years, he plans to expand his mural work to outside, on the city walls.