Demetris “BAMR” Washington discovered his passion for drawing by completing unfinished comic strips sketched by his uncles. In high school, an art teacher recognized his natural talent and gave him art supplies. Soon, he was commissioned to paint his first mural, a lion, in the gym locker room. Washington was hooked.
Washington grew up in the Bay Area and in his teens moved to Stockton, where he expressed himself through tagging and graffiti. Following the birth of his first son while Washington was still a senior in high school, he decided to get serious about his art and pursued a graphic design degree at The Art Institute of California in Sacramento. Drawing inspiration from graffiti, the comics of his youth and the cartoon characters he created at The Art Institute, Washington came up with a style that’s a mash-up of pop art, abstraction and street art, expressed in bright colors and bold strokes.
“Most of my style and techniques are self-taught,” he says. “I try to keep it as much me as possible.”
Washington creates freestyle paintings with spray paint and acrylic on canvas, and he paints on walls (legally) by commission or as his own donations. His murals, some as large as 120 feet long, reflect the history and current events of the surrounding neighborhood.
“I love doing murals more than I do canvas paintings simply because it’s out in the public,” says Washington. “Every mural location is different. The walls are different. The public response is different.”
And his name? BAMR, at first a random acronym, gained its meaning at the suggestion of children he mentored at church: Becoming a Man Righteously.
Check out some of Washington’s murals at the California Endowment building at 1414 K St.; The Copenhagen at J and 10th streets; and Warehouse Artist Lofts at 1108 R St. For more information, visit theartofbamr.com.