Wall Dogs – A Tale of Craftsmanship and Loving What You Do

Recently, while in Williamsburg, NY for a KEEN UNEEK footwear event, we caught up with outside billboard painters, Colossal Media and their lead artist, Jason Coatney. Colossal’s motto is to “create art out of advertising” and they believe in not cutting corners, by painting quality art, by real outdoor painters. It felt like a natural fit with us since KEEN’s values are based on craftsmanship, integrity and American built products using quality materials sourced from around the world. Normally when a brand does Marketing, it’s a transactional exchange- we don’t often get to meet the artists involved. But this was different. After watching Coatney paint and then speaking with him and the team at Colossal, it felt more like a partnership. One where our two brand mantras and vibes seemed to fit together.

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The Colossal Media studio itself is a wonder to take in. It’s filled with a collection of hand painted marvels over the past 15 years. Art relics line the walls and ceilings, making sense that their hashtag is #alwayshandpaint. Their clients have included: Vice, HBO, Coke, and many, many others. But at the heart of what they do, is passion in bringing hand painted signs and the sides of buildings to life. Coatney says, “They say it’s a lost or dying art, but we have always been here. And we educate people on what it takes to make a hand painted advertisement. At the end of the day we are still just trying to perfect our craft. We push each other to get the best out of each other.”

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According to Coatney, “the official title of an outdoor advertising painter is, “Wall Dog.” That goes back to the early 1900’s, and I am pretty sure it’s ‘cuz the artists were chained to the wall. They were there working when people got up and went to work and they were still there finishing when they came home from dinner.”

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When we first met up, Coatney and his protégé were painting a wall in Lower Manhattan, up under the sun for the 5th day in a row, under intense summer, city sun. They were both dehydrated and sun burnt from days up on the scaffolding. It was one of many outdoor ads that KEEN had commissioned Colossal to paint throughout New York and featuring the new KEEN UNEEK footwear ad campaign.

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According to Coatney, “I’m on my feet all day, 15 hours a day, sometimes for months without a day off. It’s pretty extreme and you are just blasting through shoes. I started wearing KEEN shoes after my knees started giving me trouble- my back too. They look cool and they weren’t old man shoes. And I’m not ready to wear old man shoes yet.”

He adds, “I went with KEEN and I’ve just been loyal. That’s all I ever buy now.”

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Coatney is originally from Alaska, but lived and worked for a period in Portland, Oregon, KEEN’s headquarters.

He continues, “On a selfish level, I love what I do because it’s never gonna be the same. Everyday It’s gonna be different. Every job is a puzzle, and a new challenge. I never get up and say ‘I have to go to work, I say I want to go to work.’ I always love what I do and I always will.”

Check out the mini film below.