Neymar Muralist Made Hair The Unifying Factor In His Commissioned Soccer Paintings

Jul 3, 2018

After beating Mexico in Monday ‘s World Cup match, Brazil is now advancing to the quarterfinals. That has plenty of fans happy in South Florida.

Now they have another place to celebrate. In Brickell City Center a massive mural of the Brazilian star Neymar da Silva Santos Jr. -- who goes by Neymar -- is located on the corner of SW 8th Street and SW First Avenue. This mural was commissioned by the sports website Bleacher Report as part of the #Largerthanlife campaign to coincide with the World Cup.

Miami is one of three cities across the United States with a mural. The other two are a mural of Egyptian star Mohammed Salah -- or MoSalah -- in Times Square and the French star Paul Pogba in New Orleans.

On Sundial, the man behind the murals, Brandan Odums, told us how he almost spelled Neymar's name wrong. 

WLRN: Tell me about the three paintings.

Odums: I think I was able to tap into all of these individuals and their stories of how they got there. That's what I pulled from the most-- that moment of trying to find the right image, trying to find the right look on their face. For each of them I saw that their hair had this unique characteristic about them. For each of them their hair told the story on its own and I wanted to use their hair in each of those portraits . I used the hair as a way to talk about what they did on the field and also talk about what their country represents. Their hair was the unifying factor in all three of the paintings.

Their hair was the unifying factor in all three of the paintings.

What's been the reaction -- especially on social media -- from fans in Miami?

I think as an artist my job is to try to figure out how to make these static surfaces, these static images, into stuff there has energy and light. And I think the people brought that out. I think the fanfare around the World Cup definitely adds to the excitement around these paintings. So it's exciting! I'm pretty sure if I go on my Instagram right now I could find something in my [messages] that's a reflection of that painting or someone responding their painting.

Do you feel any pressure when you're trying to properly encapsulate the image of a person, especially like Neymar with Brazilian fans?

I don't think the pressure hit me until I was actually painting in Miami. It was a rainy weekend and I remember writing his name on the wall-- the portion that says, "Neymar Jr. is larger than life." And I was tired and I'm writing it --not paying attention that I had misspelled Neymar's name. When I misspelled his name there were screams from all directions at once! "You misspelled it! You forgot the Y." It was at that moment that it struck me. Like wow, people paying attention and people are watching to make sure I'm doing this right.  That type of pressure made it more exciting for me.

When did it all start for you and how? Was it a paint brush? Was it a piece of chalk? Was it a spray can?

It wasn't until after Hurricane Katrina. That's when I started to look at graffiti and street art. I started to understand that this was a medium that was communicating in these spaces that were forgotten. And you know imitation is the highest form of flattery so I started going into these spaces with spray cans and thinking "OK. I'm a communicator as well" and I didn't know or expect that people would pay attention but people did. The first space that I painted in, the whole city started to pay attention and people started to respond to the work. I've only been doing spray paint art for the past five years and it's been a crazy wild ride.