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New mural printed at Hamilton Farmers’ Market

Local artist John Godfrey teamed up with Prints Ink, a Hamilton start-up that offers the services of wallPen, a massive vertical printer. 

A new mural at the Hamilton Farmers’ Market combines the talents of a local artist with a massive inkjet printer that prints on vertical walls.

John Godfrey produced the artwork for Post Card, a 4-metre by 1.5-metre (13-foot by 5-foot) mural that was installed Jan. 10 on a glass wall on the lower level of the York Boulevard market.

Then Prints Ink, owned by Charles Leonio and his wife Aileen Muan, set up their wallPen, which they’ve imported from Germany, to print the mural in about three hours. It can print on virtually any surface inside or outside, using ink that dries instantly after being cured by UV light.

The wallPen prints up to 4 metres in height and unlimited width. The printer weighs about 132 kilograms (290 pounds) and takes about 45 minutes to set up. But other than its massive size, it acts like any other printer, says Leonio. Open a file on a computer and hit print.

Another 10-metre (33-foot) Godfrey mural printed by Prints Ink is already installed at Jackson Square. It was produced in partnership with the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce in honour of Hamilton Day.

Aileen Muan and Charles Leonio, owners of Prints Ink, in front of the Hamilton mural in Jackson Square.

“We want to work with local artists, especially digital artists, because this is another medium to showcase their art,” says Muan. Traditional muralists can also use the Wall Pen to do mixed media work.

The couple launched Prints Ink from their Concession Street area home last summer after Leonio and Muan moved to Hamilton from Toronto in 2021.

When Leonio saw an ad for the printer, he was immediately intrigued. He did a “deep dive” on the Internet and connected with the German manufacturer. He was able to see a wallPen in action in Etobicoke.

“I was blown away. I went back to Aileen and sold her on the idea.”

There are only six such printers in Canada and only four available for customer commissions.

It costs between $15 and 18 a square foot, with a 30 square foot mural running $400 to $500.  

“No one has seen this printer before so we have to reach out to people to show what it can do,” says Muan. They see opportunities to work with new and existing businesses, restaurants, shopping centres and homeowners.

“Anyone with a wall is our customer.”

Leonio realized a college friend – Godfrey’s wife – had also moved to Hamilton and reconnected with her. When he found out Godfrey was a graphic designer and artist, he says the “universe aligned.”

Godfrey says the market mural started with research in the archives at the Hamilton Public Library.

“They have great images of the old postcards from Victorian days and onwards, and they all have a certain aesthetic. That inspired the look of the mural. And in terms of what we're presenting, it's bringing the market to the present day showing the long history in terms of merging the styles of the past and our current architecture.”

Watch time-lapses of the printed murals!

The mural compresses time, says Godfrey, also drawing on what the market means to him. He and his family can walk to the York Boulevard market from their Corktown home. He and his wife moved to the city 10 years ago when they knew they wanted to buy something more than a “shoebox-sized condo in Toronto.”

He had never been to Hamilton before searching out houses in the city. Two weeks into the search, they were homebuyers.

“As an artist, you get inspired all over the place. I feel like when you go to the farmers market, you enjoy food and enjoy cooking and you go there and you get inspired. It's a big experience. I can't go by the cheese shop and not start putting together my dream sandwich. So then I go to the meat place and then go get bread,” he says.

“It’s this cornucopia of produce in the city in the middle of all these big buildings, which is really cool feature of Hamilton that I really enjoy.”

Hamilton artist and graphic designer John Godfrey.

All of that comes together in what Godfrey calls “bigger than life elements” that burst out from the mural.

Godfrey, who also specializes in designing movie posters, also notes how much filming happens in Hamilton, but that the city stands in for other places – New York City, Chicago, Detroit, for instance.

“Hamilton never gets to play Hamilton. With this mural and the one in Jackson Square, I want to inject some of that blockbuster excitement and let Hamilton be Hamilton.”

Godfrey says when he first heard of the Wall Pen printer, he didn’t think it could be real.

It’s perfect for his visual art, which is firmly based in cultural references and a collaging aesthetic, and often involves large-scale installations, such as movie billboards.

He says even from a young age, he noticed how the typography in a movie poster pointed to whether it was a drama, comedy or action flick. He fell in love with the design of movie posters but never thought he could make a career at it. But a friend who went to a California college introduced him to filmmakers needing posters.

He did a bunch of them, while working in traditional graphic design and then decided to compile all his posters into a website. The work started to stream in and now he almost exclusively works on movie posters.

But murals are special, he says, because they are meant to be interacted with, says Godfrey.

“Someone tagged me in a photo recently of their kid holding the globe up in the mural in Jackson Square. It's a level of interaction and like a tactile experience because it’s huge and you can touch it and examine it and look at all the details.”

Godfrey’s art also extends to collectible resin figures inspired by Hamburger Helper’s vintage hand mascot that are being sold out of a Brooklyn’s Bottleneck Gallery. A first run of 300 sold out in 15 minutes.