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The Yellow Brick Wall

David Joel and his hypnotic mural

Showing new paintings at Darby’s Cafe as part of Art Walk. Photo courtesy Robertsen Ashman

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Darby's Cafe in Olympia has always been a spot filled with quirky things to look at - sarcastically funny posters and signs, Wizard of Oz memorabilia and a huge mural on the back wall of the dining room.

If you're picturing an African drum circle and a tree frog, then you haven't been to the popular breakfast and lunch spot in a while. It's high time you went and checked out the current mural, the 1-year-old The Yellow Brick Wall.

Wall, a hypnotic mix of swirls, dots and Easter eggs in brilliant colors, is the work of Seattle artist David Joel, who'll be showing new paintings at the cafe for Arts Walk XLII, happening Friday, April 22, and Saturday, April 23.

"All of my work is spontaneous," says Joel, who lived in Olympia when he did the mural. He likens his technique to the work of Jackson Pollock and other action painters.

"Those guys just painted impulsively, and then they would work with what they had already put down and work off that and work off that until they felt it was finished," he explains. "I do the same thing especially with murals. I try not to have any idea of what I'm going to do."

Among the other signatures to his work are color (as much as possible) and size. The paintings he'll show for Arts Walk, including one called Five Alive that mixes the number five into an abstract design, measure 4 feet by 6 feet.

"I want to have the biggest space I can to stretch out and really make this stuff magical," Joel says. "That's why the Darby's mural was fantastic. I just walked up to the center of that wall and just started playing."

The mural's title was inspired by the restaurant's Oz memorabilia. "The first piece he did was a big yellow swirl, which is like the Yellow Brick Road," says Sara Reilly, who owns Darby's with husband Nate Reilly.

The Reillys had been friends with Joel for a while, and he'd been asking them if he could paint a new mural.

"When we finally saw his artwork, I was so blown away," Sara Reilly says. "We decided to forego our plans of having an art contest and just have him do it."

And the finished piece has been pleasing Darby's customers. "They love it so much," she says. "Some people find it really busy, but I think that's what's perfect about it, because we are so busy there and it's so chaotic."

Joel says the mural was his start as a professional artist. "Since then, I've sold numerous paintings, and I'm just more business-minded about it," he says. "I have my own studio. I have studio hours and I go there and I work."

Paintings by David Joel

Arts Walk XLII
Friday, April 22 and Saturday, April 23, free
Darby’s Cafe, 211 Fifth Ave. SE, Olympia
360.357.6229 or

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kris crews said on May. 13, 2011 at 12:43pm


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