Kansas City Mural Artist Paints The Town Red Ahead Of Chiefs Return To The Super Bowl
Artist Phil Shafer, who's known as Sike Style, has created murals and installations featuring Kansas City Chiefs players across the metro.
When it comes to taking a selfie, artist Phil Shafer says there’s not really a right or wrong way to interact with a mural.
His opinion is timely. Shafer, who also goes by the name "Sike Style," works with the Kansas City Chiefs to create colorful murals around the metro. With the Chiefs scheduled to take the field for their second straight Super Bowl on Sunday, lots of fans want to snap photos of themselves in front of those murals featuring Chiefs players in action.
Shafer graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute in photography in 2000. He started painting murals in 2012, and his design company, Sike Style Industries, specializes in mural paintings and installations.
Shafer's work for the Kansas City Royals brought him to the attention of the Chiefs. Since 2018, he's worked with the team to create a handful of projects across the metro, from downtown Overland Park, Kansas, to downtown Kansas City, Missouri.
In one, quarterback Patrick Mahomes readies a pass on the south wall of the Westport Ale House at 4128 Broadway Blvd., in a mural that also highlights 60 years of Chiefs football.
And, since last year's Super Bowl championship, Shafer has designed several "Run It Back" campaign murals — at Zona Rosa, Town Center, and, most recently, in the Crossroads. The 40-by-40-foot work is painted in a flat, graphic style on a large, brick wall at Tom's Town Distilling Co., 1701 Main St.
“We went together through all the Chiefs photo archives and we're like, okay, let's pull out some of the best images and use those,” he describes.
Lines of motion represent, as Shafer puts it, the power of the players on the field. Players such as Travis Kelce dunking over the end zone, Tyreek Hill throwing the deuces, and, of course, Mahomes being Mahomes.
Shafer says he grids out the design to make sure it fits the space and then projects it on the wall.
“We get a large format projector and just shoot it from across the street and trace it out overnight,” he says. “And that's really to make sure we get all the proportions correct. And also for speed.”
Speed is crucial for large-scale works like this, especially in the winter, Shafer says. For the Crossroads mural, a two-person team worked outside during a two-week stretch at the end of December.
Artist John Raux worked low. Shafer, standing in a lift, worked high. And there was a lot of wind.
“You get, like, sea legs as you're in the lift and you just kind of sway with it,” Shafer says. “And after about eight or nine hours of working in that lift, you start to feel that at night. And so you'll be in bed lying asleep, but you can still feel yourself rocking on the lift.”
Shafer paints with a spray can and also by hand. Some of these cans, wrapped with a digital version of the mural, are left behind for fans to pick up.
“This is a fun way to upcycle the cans that I use,” he says. “And also kind of like spread the fun of the 'Run It Back' season with everybody who wants to collect kind of like an art keepsake to go with it.”
He offers a way for fans to return the favor: "What we encourage people to do is tag the artist,” Shafer says. "It's totally just saying, ‘Hey, love your mural.’"
For example, he suggests, "Tag Sike Style on Instagram.”
Client commissions, as well as his own artistic pursuits, keep Shafer busy. His personal work often employs call-to-action phrases, such as the 'Wake Up & Live' mural that stretches along the former Katz Drug store at Westport and Main, or different subject matter "like a giant zebra running around."
Interaction is a common thread that ties his work together.
Shafer was scheduled to be in Tampa, Florida, this week. So far, he has no plans to attend the Super Bowl. But he is there on Chiefs business — to support the release of Mahomes' signature series of sunglasses. Shafer created the mural and poster designs for the Oakley brand.
He says he’s happy to part of the Super Bowl hype.
"Just to be in Tampa and to kind of do what other fans do to our city when they invade," he says. “So, when you know, the Chiefs Kingdom goes to Tampa, I want to be a part of that mission.”