Tom Trevino: The Bike It! Mural Tour was a collaborative effort between the McNay Art Museum and San Anto Cultural Arts (SACA), a program geared toward fostering community and human development through the arts. I honestly expected to be one of only about a few, but when it was all said and done, there were close to 70 folks taking part in the tour, led by John Medina, a professional artist and SACA’s Public Art Program Manager. Our diverse group took to the streets and visited about six different murals in the westside community, stopping at each one so that John could tell us a little bit more about each creation. It was great to see such a diverse cross section of folks take part in the program, which SACA hopes to make a monthly event starting in January. And don’t sweat it if you’re not a cyclist – the entire tour equates to little more than a short neighborhood ride – so as long as you have a set of wheels, you can keep up.

Rivard Report: Which mural was your favorite (or the most photogenic)?

TT: There were attractive elements to each mural, so I couldn’t really pick a favorite. On the surface, some seemed more fetching than others, but the longer you stood and took in a work, the more you’d discover and appreciate all the little details. Creating work on such a large scale is always impressive to me.

Tour director John Medina in front of "Lisa"
Tour director John Medina in front of “Lisa.” Photo by Tom Trevino.

RR: What do you think is the social value of these murals, or public art in general, to the population of San Antonio?

TT: I’m a huge fan of public art and interactive projects, whether it be murals, musical swings (video here), or Christo’s famous ‘Gates’. They all add a new element to our daily lives, and I would hope more local artist take the lead on this to add yet another dimension to our city.

RR: What’s are the differences between vandalism, graffiti, and mural art?

TT: I guess the major difference is whether or not the work was commissioned by the owner of the property, and complies with local laws and ordinances. Outside of that, the creation is the same, and there are plenty of incredibly talented graffiti artist who have risen to fame after starting out as illegal street artists… Perhaps the other distinction is a matter of perspective: if you like it, it’s art. If not, then its just cheap graffiti.

RR: Your photography usually features vibrant, high-contrasted colors, light and shadows, can you tell us about the theory and process behind your art (they’re almost like paintings)?

TT: My theory is that I must have the mind of a two-year old, as I’m instantly attracted to color and scope above and beyond almost anything else. I’m definitely in awe of some of the complex work out there and absolutely appreciate the expertise it takes to create and capture certain images, but aside from that, I’m simply a sucker for color… Most times the hyper-saturated images I end up with are extensions of my sugar-coated brain – sweet, reminiscent versions of reality that I’d actually like to hang on my own wall.

From Trevino's portfolio, a building near the blue star – just off the reach bike path.
From Trevino’s portfolio, a building near the blue star – just off the reach bike path.

RR: Do you use any photo-editing software?

TT: I use iPhoto pretty much exclusively, which I know is limited, but in some ways it helps me keep the images a little more honest… But I do have ambitions of one day learning Photoshop and other heavy-duty editing programs so that I can explore even more and create work on a completely different level.

RR: What kind of camera did you use for this series? Were there any technical or environmental challenges that you had to compensate for?

TT: Since we were on bikes and on the go, I kept it simple and used my small backup camera – a Canon Powershot SX150 IS. I’m looking to pick up another DSLR, but the majority of my pics and some of my absolute best work has been done with very simple, inexpensive digital point and shoots.

Created with flickr slideshow.

RR: How and when did you start cultivating your photography skills?

TT: My background is primarily writing, but I’ve always been a bit creative and have always appreciated good design and aesthetics. So about a decade ago, I tried painting and using acrylics for the first time. It was a good experiment and release, but not being a talented freehand artist, it was always a bit difficult to translate my vision to the canvas. Right about the same time, I got my first digital camera and have been experimenting ever since, often trying to create and replicate the colors, scenes and textures I could never create by hand.

RR: Can you draw any correlations between fitness training and your photography?

TT: The connection for me is that they are both expressions of energy, and that they both bring about joy in my life. I don’t understand people who don’t like going to the gym, or who drive when it’s feasible to walk, bike, or skate. Movement makes people happy, and creating something in just about any capacity usually does the same thing. The other connection for me is that I always have creative revelations whenever I’m out walking or hiking; concepts for photo pieces, or ideas for short stories, or a great line of poetry. There’s something that happens in the brain with movement that helps foster the creative process, and it’s especially cool to see more and more artists on their bikes in and around downtown, and generally taking an interest in health. It may not in itself make them better artists, but I genuinely think it can help them open doors to concepts and designs they never would have otherwise. Movement is the new gateway drug!

Tom Trevino is a writer, artist and wellness coach based out of San Antonio. He holds a B.A. from the University of Texas, with training and certification from the Cooper Institute. He has a fondness for dogs, the New York Times, and anything on two wheels. When he’s not writing, training, or cooking, you can find him wandering the aisles of Central Market.