Once a month, we feature local small business owners and artists who are using their creativity to make the homes and businesses of Roanoke beautiful.
This month, our spotlight is on artist Toobz Muir. Toobz’ art can be described as a blend of contemporary, abstract, and impressionistic, inspired by his former days as a graffiti artist.
It’s in the Details: Toobz’ Style & Inspiration
Toobz, who describes himself as “a hopeless romantic and overly observant,” is inspired by the details. “I like the small things in life, because I love how the small things make the important impact of what you’re trying to express,” he said.
He defines his artwork style as a fusion of styles such as surreal, abstract, and impressionistic. “I’m reinventing, putting my individuality in it,” he said. “I’m painting the 1% of me that makes it unique.”
For Toobz, his artwork is emotional, an outlet for telling his story and sharing both the joys and pains of life. He gathers inspiration from nature, music, and his own experiences.
“I’ve always painted what I felt instead of what I’ve seen,” Toobz said. “If I’m struggling with something, I mash that into a feeling and create it through my art. There’s a lot of layers involved. I’m telling my story through my artwork, and a lot of people can relate to my story.”
Seeking to capture the small details that he picks up on day-to-day, his artwork blends his emotions and experiences. “I paint my subconscious. There’s no premeditation about it,” Toobz said. “I have a somewhat photographic memory, so I frankenstein ideas together from the things I’ve seen.”
Toobz says his goal is to depict the pureness and rawness of what he experiences in the world around him, whether good or bad. “I love everything that I see, even the ugly things,” he said. “Because sometimes the distorted things help you understand the difference between right and wrong.”
Perhaps it’s this incredible eye for the detail that makes him able to overcome one of his biggest challenges as an artist – being colorblind.
“For a long time I was intimidated by color,” he said. “I stuck to grayscale, and I was complimented on my use of shading. I think because I’m colorblind, I see the monochromatic scales of colors better.”
As he has evolved as an artist, he now uses that challenge as a strength and finds creative ways to incorporate color. “I started throwing in colors to highlight and add depth, and people loved the colors I used,” Toobz said. “Now I create my own color palette for projects. I use a color dot scale from light to mid to dark and write down the names of colors. When I use the paint, I go by whether it’s light, mid, or dark.”
Two of Toobz’ paintings featured on his website
A former amateur skateboarder and street artist, Toobz had been drawing his whole life. After giving up skateboarding because of how hard it was on his body, he started realizing that art could be his new calling.
“I started posting some of my work online, and it got attention,” he said. “Other artists would follow me back. I started to realize, ‘I might have something here.’”
While working a full-time job, he studied art techniques and spent every spare minute he had on his artwork. “I would work on my drawings, I would post them, and they would sell.”
When he got laid off from that job and transitioned into being a stay-at-home dad with his two kids, he began painting more, and seeing success with that as well. He decided that it was time to take the risk and jump in to doing his art full time.
The risk paid off. Now 12 years into his art career, Toobz is well known for his unique artwork throughout Roanoke and beyond. His paintings and drawings have been featured in galleries around the country, and his murals can be found throughout the Roanoke area, including at the Wilson Hughes gallery, Wasena City Tap Room, and Greenway Self Storage. Toobz also has an agent in LA that promotes and sells his prints.
Two of Toobz’ murals in the Roanoke area
Roanoke has been Toobz’ home for about 20 years. Although he never expected to be in the area long-term, he believes his artwork fills a niche. “In a small place like Roanoke, I think my work is more unique than it would be in a bigger city like New York or LA.”
Despite his success, Toobz remains humble, keeping the mindset to always be improving. When asked about his favorite piece, he said, “I haven’t created it yet. I don’t think that’s possible. I’m always learning and trying to get better at it. I’ll always be working to create my favorite piece.”
While he doesn’t have a favorite piece, he definitely relishes the details, and clearly cares about every stroke of his artwork. “Sometimes it’s not even the whole painting, it’s that one mark that I love. Like if I could crop it and just look at that one spot, I would be happy.”
For Toobz, the most rewarding part of his work as an artist is bringing others into emotion of the details he captures.
“I want my painting to hit home, to hit your heart,” he said. “One special thing is having a show, and having people want to know why I did what I did. It’s very emotional and vulnerable, and I’ve seen moments where I’ve touched people. What I do touches me, and when I see it touch other people – that’s magnificent.”