Drop-Tile Dreams: Street artist whips up massive ceiling mural

Eric Christenson

AIN’T NO SISTINE CHAPEL. Altoona street artist Gabriel Fischer was commissioned to do a 3,000 square foot mural on drop ceiling tiles at a new business in Eau Claire called Scrubslove. Fischer used multiple different styles and media to complete in the mural in only one week.
AIN’T NO SISTINE CHAPEL. Altoona street artist Gabriel Fischer was commissioned to do a 3,000 square foot mural on drop ceiling tiles at a new business in Eau Claire called Scrubslove. Fischer used multiple different styles and media to complete in the mural in only one week.

You can find Gabriel Fischer’s artwork all over Eau Claire, but not in any of the normal places – like hung up in traditional galleries or framed on walls. No, Fischer’s paint stretches a bit further.

His street art-influenced works fill the walls of a local DIY venue, he created an enormous floor-to-ceiling mural on a two-story wall at Artisan Forge Studios, he did a piece on the exterior of the forthcoming SHIFT Cyclery & Coffee Bar, and he recently even painted a friend’s kitchen island just because they asked him to. Nothing is off limits. He’ll paint on just about anything 

Fischer, a Wausau native now based in Altoona, struck a fascination with street art near the end of his senior year at Altoona High. The art of making the physical world your medium, breaking the rules, the freeing feeling of complete expression, the subversive nature of the form … it was all thrilling.

“I basically didn’t do any schoolwork, I would just go out and draw, look up street artists and try to combine as many different art forms as I could into one,” Fischer said. “I started figuring out how to put my staple on it, tying it all together in one concrete style.” 

Now after years of creating art in tons of styles – everything from spray-painted walls to wheatpaste posters to paint on canvas to 3D – Fischer just wrapped up his largest endeavor yet: A 3,000 square foot mural on the drop-tile ceiling of an Eau Claire business called Scrubslove, which opened in December and sells nurse’s scrubs.

Ceiling tile was certainly a new medium for Fischer and making a 3,000 square foot anything seemed like a welcome challenge. Plus, having the artistic freedom to essentially do whatever he wanted made for a juicy opportunity. So he started painting panels pretty much non-stop for a week, and the result is a vivid collection of abstract characters and scenes, some taking up their own individual tile, some taking up several. The whole thing is lush with primary colors – glowing yellows, brilliant blues, sharp reds – some of Fischer’s favorites.

“(Using primary colors) makes the most sense in my brain,” he said. “And they’re kind of innocent too. It’s this childlike accessibility that comes from using simple, bold colors. You get a box of markers or crayons, those colors are gonna be in it for sure.”

Cranking out endless ceiling tiles made for a taxing chunk of labor, but Fischer saw it as a chance to breathe life into a whole family of interconnected works. Each tile has its own niche. Some might use different media entirely, some have characters, some are more interpretive – but you get the sense that everything comes from the same universe, from the same central point. And doing it all so quickly led to an organic workflow that couldn’t get bogged down by slight imperfections.

“Some of it is primal and instinctual. It’s raw emotion. I try to keep my head out of it as much as possible,” Fischer said. “I try to surprise myself. I never know quite how things will turn out.”

Now that this considerable undertaking is wrapped up, Fischer is looking forward to making more art than ever this year, leaning into his creativity, and making art in the most unique circumstances he can discover. The young artist has tapped into a truly distinct style that very few artists on the local level have even tried to touch, and that vision can only build and grow stronger in the coming years.

“You just have to keep doing your own handwriting, you know? Keep making your thing without trying to force it into something else,” he said. “The way you do it will always be your own.”

To check out the ceiling mural, stop by Scrubslove at 4060 Commonwealth Ave. To learn more about Gabriel Fischer and to check out more of his work, go to gabethefisch.wixsite.com/gabrielmfischer or follow him on Instagram @gabrielmfischer.

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