Alixandra Jade is an artist in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, who paints murals inside restaurants. 

Jade loves it because so many people can enjoy her work. And she enjoys being a 30-year-old who gets to run her own business, Alixandra Jade Art + Design Co. 

Alixandra Jade poses with the mural she painted at a JINYA shop in 2019.Alixandra Jade poses with the mural she painted at a JINYA shop in 2019.

How did you get into painting murals?

AJ: When I was in school, around 2014, I started doing giant in-store chalkboards for Lululemon. I saw the value return of having Lululemon on my resume and ended up doing over 100 chalkboards. Then someone wanted a mural painted in a Calgary show home, so I started targeting homebuilders to paint feature walls for them.

When did you start in restaurants?

AJ: Tiffin India’s Fresh Kitchen was my first restaurant in 2017. That was my first large-scale mural, 22 by 25 feet. The owners of that restaurant were well-connected in a close-knit community, so when you start working for one you get connected with another. Then I started getting more restaurants. My second restaurant was Quickly (a bubble tea shop) in 2018. Then I painted in a JINYA in 2019.

I’ve also created murals for Arcadia Brewing Co., Seoul Fried Chicken, Community Tap + Pizza, and Central Social Hall, all in Edmonton, plus Fiddletree in Lexington, Ky., and Boston Pizza.

Do you design your own murals?

AJ: About 90% of my murals I design, and it’s original. However, with JINYA, they have a geisha girl design and use different artists, so everyone paints it differently. 

Otherwise, I come up with the designs, then submit them to the restaurants for approval. I enjoy coming up with the designs. I find painting murals of logos and provided artwork a bit more stressful, such as with JINYA’s, because it’s supposed to be exactly how they provided it.

What are the restaurants’ goals with murals?

AJ: For Community Taps + Pizza, they wanted to create a vibe that’s eclectic. A lot of the time it’s about creating an atmosphere. 

At Tiffin, the mural is an East Indian woman’s face with bright, bold colors and florals, done in an abstract style. People can see the mural through the large windows when passing by. 

At Social Central Hall, I played off the feel of the sophisticated floral wallpaper in their bathroom and created an Instagrammable mural spot to complement their new pink patio. 

Tiffen Fresh Kitchen in 2017 was Alixandra Jade's first mural. Images courtesy of Alixandra JadeTiffen Fresh Kitchen in 2017 was Alixandra Jade's first mural. Images courtesy of Alixandra Jade

How do you work?

AJ: Before I start, I need to know what will be in the space, because I don’t want to paint an entire wall and find out later that something is being permanently installed in front of it. Sometimes it’s important to know what the lighting’s going to be like, if it’s moody and dark we don’t want too many dark colors and too many small details in a mural.

I often ask if they have a branding package or are working with an interior designer. I like to sometimes run murals past their marketing team to make sure I’m on brand. I like to see the wall early, once I know the client and I are aligned on price points. How big or small the space is dictates what I create.

Usually, I take photos of the space, then I go home and sketch on the computer. I grew up with Pinterest, so I also ask my clients to send any inspo images, to help me get any idea of their vision. Then I start collecting more inspo images to help explain the vibe and direction I can see happening in the space. 

I sketch out the mural then send it to the client, full color. Sometimes I send different variations. Sometimes they might like the colors in one variation and the design in another, but I can take elements of what they like. 

Once they’ve approved the sketch it’s time to paint. The majority of restaurants I’ve painted the mural while they’re under construction. Sometimes, like with JINYA, the restaurant was open, so I did night shifts, 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. 

How long does it take to paint a mural?

AJ: At Community it took two or three weeks and I had helpers. The brick wall was so rough that we couldn’t be too finicky about lines. 

At Central Social Hall the mural features intricate flowers, so I needed smaller brushes. Typically, I have to paint three to five layers on a mural, but with small brushes I might have to paint seven because the smaller the brush the less pigment it carries. Murals can go up fast initially but every layer then slows it down, because I have to stay within the lines.

The Arcadia mural took a week, but one restaurant, Barbacoa, just has a logo and I painted that in a day because they provided the design, and I only did one layer because they wanted a washed look. Overall, my restaurant murals can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

How do you feel about your work?

AJ: My work is a premium product and my clients are investing in me so I bring my “A” game. I value my clients choosing to work with me and investing in art, so I want to make sure they have a great experience. 

One of my main styles is very abstract/trick of the eye. Up front it looks like blocks of color and further away you can see the blocks of colors create an overall image like flowers, for example. From far away your eye naturally blends the color shades to see a color gradient, creating depth and dimension to the mural. 

What are the challenges of your job?

AJ: It’s hard work. My body feels a lot older than it is some days. You have to hold your body in strange positions for long periods of time, sometimes. I try not to do more than a nine-hour day on-site, but I have worked 15-hour days. Right now, I’m painting a mural on the ceiling and side walls of a breezeway tunnel and, surprisingly, my back and arm are the most tender on some days, not my neck like I had anticipated. One arm is typically tense holding the paint bucket and the other has the paint brush in it. 

It can also be challenging sometimes to know what the client wants — to get what’s in their mind on paper and the wall.

Textured walls can also make things tricky. I’ve worked on everything from cinderblock to stucco to brick, and you have to go to a tiny brush to fill in the gaps.