When Luke Ramsey moved to Taiwan to teach English, he never imagined it would set him on a completely different path.
It was 2002 when Ramsey, after years of travelling around the world, decided to try his hand teaching English in Taipei. Once there, he stumbled upon a toy store that he quickly fell in love with.
The store specialized in vinyl toys with unique characters, stuff Ramsey was very interested in.
It was here, Ramsey offered to do a mural on the store’s wall, to which to the owner agreed.
Shortly after, Ramsey’s first mural was complete. It included a picture of a rabbit with a blast of bubble-type material coming out of its stomach, forming another rabbit.
“That was the catalyst for me pursuing art, just looking at all the cartoons and imagery that’s prominent in Asia,” Ramsey said. “It just got me thinking about how I really like to draw. I went there with the intention to teach English, but ended up getting more interested in pursing art.”
Since then, the 37-year-old Victoria resident has been pursing art full-time and has completed a number of murals around the world, including ones in Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto and Norway.
Ramsey was recently named the City of Victoria’s artist in residence — something he was excited to accept to represent the city’s artistic community.
As part of the pilot artist in residence program, Ramsey is responsible for working collaboratively with city staff and the community to identify and develop artwork for one or more capital projects over the next year.
Potential projects could include a city park or playground or street and sidewalk upgrade, or opportunities to enhance public spaces in local neighbourhoods.
Doug Jarvis, chair of the city’s art in public places committee, said Ramsey is an established artist with a great reputation in the region, with experience working collaboratively with youth and other artists, as well as institutions.
“Luke has the experience, the patience, the imagination and the ability to be at the table as an artist. That’s one of the things that inspired us,” Jarvis said.
Ramsey’s love for art began when he first picked up a crayon as a child. While most of his work has involved murals in his early years as an artist, he has also expanded to other mediums as well. Ramsey has done illustrations for magazines and newspapers such as the New York Times, designed graphic T-shirts and posters, created a music video for a U.S. band, and most recently began painting with acrylic on canvas.
“I like creating my own entertainment. I like making visuals that I would want to see on my street or in my home. I like engaging with the public and seeing what type of response happens through the work,” Ramsey said, adding he also created the landscape mural with the city between Quadra and Blanshard streets.
“I just like being able the create something that’s within me and then have it come out through a pen onto a piece of paper or through a brush onto a wall. I like that there’s no limitations with art and anything is possible.”
While Ramsey has been at it for the past week as the artist in residence, in the next year he hopes to create a piece of work that is a reflection of the people that live in and enjoy Victoria.
There will also be a meet and greet with Ramsey on Tuesday, Nov. 15 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the city hall antechamber.