Todd Altschuler had just become the owner of The Barkley Ballroom in Frisco this winter when he met Crystal Shannon. Though he didn’t know the Summit County-based artist, he was intrigued by the tattoo on her arm. When he learned that it was her own artwork, he had an idea.
At the time, Barkley’s interior walls were a mix of yellows, oranges and lime greens, not exactly the look that Altschuler was going for. He wanted something darker, more visually interesting, more twisted — something like Shannon’s tattoo.
“It’s very physical, very playful, but it was like, very adult and a little scary at the same time,” Altschuler said of the tattoo, likening it to a darker version of Dr. Seuss.
Shannon said she often has her work compared to “dark Dr. Seuss” or gothic director Tim Burton, although they aren’t direct influences.
“A lot of my work is colorful and somewhat cartoonish, but it also has a dark twist to it,” she said. “I look at my work and I don’t necessarily plan it that way. It’s just my style.”
Shannon’s tattoo inspired Altschuler, who asked her if she had ever painted a mural before. She hadn’t, but she was willing to give it a try.
The mural wall is about 20 feet long and reaches from floor to ceiling, directly facing the doors at the Barkley’s lower entrance. It features a landscape of four houses, with a background that fades from fiery sunset on the left to dark starry sky on the right. The dimensions of the houses bulge in eerie, cartoonish ways, seeming to want to pop out of the wall. The middle house represents the Barkley itself, with music notes coming out of the windows and Grateful Dead figures on the porch, an homage to one of Altschuler’s favorite bands.
“What we were playing off of was using the style of the haunted houses that I had previously captured in my (artwork),” said Shannon. “We were really trying to capture almost like a Frisco Main Street feel, but with a dark twist to it.”
She started work in December, coming in to paint every day before work, and finished in about a month. It was hard getting used to a big paintbrush, she said, and for much of it she actually used a smaller brush that she normally uses for canvas paintings.
“I love it; it was so awesome,” she said of the experience. “After doing that I was like, wow, I actually prefer doing big pieces now, you know? It was cool.”
Altschuler has been pleased with the result.
“People take photos in front of the mural. People have been standing outside in the courtyard having a drink at Ollie’s and they see that mural and they come in and say, ‘that’s really cool,’” he said. “It’s definitely a center piece and focal point of the venue.”