The Making of a Mural

By Drew Smith, former front desk manager of the Austin Motel

For years, the area around our famous kidney-shaped pool—particularly one bright white curved wall—has been begging for an explosion of life and color. What should go there has been the subject of plenty of spirited debate and consideration. It wasn’t until Bunkhouse’s resident genius Mishka Westell floated the idea of a psychedelic wave in shades of our signature red that we knew we’d struck upon the right idea.

We’re great fans of Austin muralist Jason Archer, and this turned out to be the perfect opportunity for an artistic collaboration. The result brings the Austin Motel’s already unbeatable poolside ambiance to a whole new level. Jason even had the presence of mind to make a time lapse video of the installation that shows every step of the process. It’s well worth the watch.

After the video, check out our interview with Archer, who answered some questions about his process.


Everyone who sees it loves that you used the song “Wave Nugget” by The Avocados, on the video. Greg Rhoades, their lead guitarist, has worked at Jo’s for years, so he has a special connection to Bunkhouse. What made you choose that song?

We loved it because it had a great summer poolside vibe. It seemed a perfect fit.

Your process is amazing to witness. Can you talk a little about how you created the Austin Motel mural?

The curved surface of the Austin Motel mural required a preparation plan. We created a pounce to scale in order to outline the artwork. We enjoy large scale and diverse canvases not only because it means each job is unique, but because it inspires innovation in our portfolio.

It was fun seeing a variety of faces—including a dog—out there working on the piece. How many people contributed?

We are consistently a group of three. Typically I take the lead on production, Josh on design, and Erin can paint almost anything. We’re fortunate to be inspired by, and execute visions of other artists; Mishka Wistell is responsible for crafting this piece. And we welcome friends to stop by and cheer us on while we work.

The process seemed to go very quickly. How long did it take you to paint the mural from start to finish?

This took approximately 16 hours to complete, including creating the pounce. We work fast, and prefer to see the work become a cultural landmark versus a flash advertisement or temporary design.

Could you say a little about your other notable favorites among your other works around town?

Many of my favorites have come and gone. Mural work in Austin can be ephemeral, but I really loved 1) The Conservatorium of Infinite Wisdom, Sustenance and Guidance 2) Dario’s Last Rodeo 3) all the Frank Public Art murals 4) and the murals at Hotel Indigo and Hyatt House on Red River.

Did the design of the Austin Motel’s mural pose any particular challenges you had to address?

It’s easy to overlook the challenges of a curved wall when working in an inspiring atmosphere.  I’m always happy painting poolside on a Bunkhouse property.

We are so glad to have Jason’s work here, and we look forward to sharing it with more and more guests.

Incidentally, two fun notes about the Austin Motel mural:

  • It inspired a one-of-a-kind line of Austin Motel rolling papers available only at the Austin Motel shop – online soon.
  • At the end of the time lapse video, a man and his dog can be seen aiding in the effort. That’s the great Johnny Hardwick, comedian and voice actor famous as the voice of Dale Gribble from King of the Hill.