Alberta Avenue is home to many stunning murals, and this past month, two new works of art were added to 118 Avenue. 

Joshua Navis created the mural on the side of Pho King — a rendering of the Vietnamese soup that is guaranteed to make you hungry. The mural reads, “Pho King delicious,” a name meant to make passersby laugh. 

“The owner’s idea was to write the slogan that the normal [passersby] were already making a joke of,” says Navis. “Turning the words from this one meaning to another… and also advertising for a nice, delicious bowl of soup at the same time.”

Joshua Navis stands beside his mural on the side of Pho King. | Supplied

The Pho King mural is Navis’ first mural in Edmonton, “the first of many to come,” he says. He and his girlfriend, Mikylie Shapka, simply walked along 118 Avenue and asked local businesses if they would be interested in having a mural on their building. Pho King was quick to agree. 

“I’ve been itching to get my first mural project in town,” says Navis. “Finally, I’m accomplishing my dreams of painting big walls in public areas.” 

The mural took Navis a day to complete, and he first designed the mural in his sketchbook before transferring it to the wall. 

“I was able to use some spray cans and spend the day painting, and I got a free bowl of soup for lunch,” says Navis. “It was an amazing day.”

Navis became interested in art as a kid. He was always drawing. In high school, while the rest of his friends were picking their career paths, he realized all he wanted to continue doing was draw. Navis is currently in his fifth year at the University of Alberta’s Fine Arts program, and he has steel sculptures on display in the University’s sculpture garden. 

One of Navis’ favourite things about creating public works of art is the people who walk by to offer encouragement, marvel at the mural creation in action, and ask questions. 

“They’ll say, ‘good job’ or ‘nice job’ [and] you always meet people that say nice things about it.”

He also enjoys creating something expressive that he’s proud of. “It just feels good,” says Navis. 

The artist Sowl created the other new mural on 118 Avenue, and it brings the side of the Bissell Thrift Shoppe to life. 

Red, gold, black, and teal explode across the wall in a piece called “Ambrosia”. 

“It’s a mural to generate [the] power of healing for the people who pass by,” says Sowl. “[It’s like] a gas station or like a charging station for people.” 

It took about four days for Sowl to complete the mural, and he created it with spray paint and a bit of acrylic paint. 

Sowl creates a rough draft of the mural before transferring it to the wall. “It’s really hard to copy and paste my work,” says Sowl, “so I let the power [of] freestyle take over…. The rough draft becomes like… a skeleton and then the freestyle over it becomes the organs and the blood and the epidermis and the clothes.”

Sowl has many other murals throughout Edmonton, including the mural, “Sowl Cry,” on the side of The Carrot Coffeehouse. 

“[My murals] are all fire to me,” says Sowl. “It’s like having children…. I love them equally.”

Sowl got involved in artwork at a young age when he saw his friend drawing Pokémon during class. He asked to join and has been addicted ever since. 

“Then all I wanted to do was get my drawing on my Grade 2 teacher’s wall and ever since then, it’s destiny that just took over.”

Sowl’s favourite part about painting a mural is getting to meet neighbours and community members. And also “just having a studio outside is beautiful,” says Sowl. “I love the process. Just going inside my soul and figuring it out. It’s a very big adventure. It’s like a Lord of the Rings trilogy every mural.”

Check out the murals on the side of Pho King on 9103 118 Ave and the Bissell Thrift Shop on 8818 118 Ave.