Adrain ‘Sawtay’ Hales ~ Illustrator ~ Reggae Lane Mural

Adrian Hayles
I spend loads of time ranting and raving about some level of inequality that is self evident yet continue the useless rhetoric about racism in my life.  Truthfully the ranting helps me to organise thought.  It calms my mind to let me know that I was able to express it and somebody read it.  You became my sounding board.  Yet the constant complaining takes me away from seeing and focussing on the positives that stand right in front of me at times.  Focus on the things and the people that uplift my life and the lives of many others.
I hooked up with the Reggae Lane committee over a year ago and have been a part of a positive initiative bringing reggae past to the city of Toronto.  I was a part of that historic moment!  I am grateful for being a part of a moment in history, no matter how obscure reggae may be in this country; it feels nice to have had some contribution to this project.
Reggae Lane
The cultural goldmine or the eye sore?  An eye sore because of the negative energy still surrounding the project coming from the Jamaican businesses and the Italian run, Eglinton BIA whose relationship is viewed, at best, as totally antagonistic.  From day one till now there is a huge divide between the two and a Toronto attraction shrinks into obscurity based on that relationship.  None of the businesses have any joy or respect for the Laneway project which can be and will be an improvement to the businesses that last after the subway expansion is complete.  No one or thing has been able to improve this relationship and I don’t see any opportunity where that will ever happen, yet we do keep trying.

Also, there are a few within the Caribbean community who are not pleased that the Laneway was chosen as the spot.  Some say that they would have preferred the main road of Eglinton Ave to be renamed.  They will also mention the past and current history of addicts, hookers and crime down the lane and the “shame” of that spot being chosen.  “We were given the worst laneway in the city and as usual some of us accept dirt!” is the sentiment of a few others.  Many of these folks are totally ignorant to the ongoing improvement plans slated for the Laneway in the months and years to come.  Many of these improvements are supported by the Eglinton BIA which some are also not aware of their positive role in developing the area.  The Eglinton BIA are totally on board with what the Reggae Lane project can and will stand for and has aided with many of the initiatives to date.  Bridging a gap between them and the businesses would be advantageous to all concerned.

As a cultural goldmine, the Lane becomes like reggae music itself.  It keeps moving forward and finding its niche.  Reaches all people of all ages without discrimination!  The Reggae Lane will find its own way with or without the help of anyone.  Reggae always does!  Reggae knows how to deal with strife, two faced people and degradation!  Its soldiers and freedom fighters push through oppression and negativity to find the light.  Reggae Lane will eventually do exactly the same.  This beautiful, unique mural is one step in that direction.
These many weeks since the Lane was unveiled I am struck by the indelible imprint that mural has on my psyche.   Whenever I see a photograph of it randomly I have this HUGE sense of pride.  “That’s my city!  That’s my reggae mural in Toronto!”
Thank you Adrian ‘Sawtay’ Hales!  The mastermind.  The architect of that amazingly vibrant, indelible piece of work on Eglinton west!  I wish to focus on a man who brings his creative voice to change the world.  That mural could have looked and felt like any old thing…but not his piece!  It is as distinctive as a mother!
My vibe is that there are coincidences and then there are coincidences.  Reggae Lane and Adrain Hales are wonderfully powerful coincidences.  The first ever Reggae Lane on the planet earth is right here in the 6.  We are the first in the world to name a roadway after reggae music.  That is quite the honor to my mind.
Then Adrain comes along and puts up that powerful piece of work.  His work uplifted reggae music in Toronto.  It uplifted me!  I believe that it uplifted and inspired a few of the artists in the genre as well.
So while he and I were riding public transit we started talking.  I realized then that he was a person that the general public needs to know about.  He lives for his art.  He is art.  I would like the opportunity to tell a bunch more people about this amazing artist within our midst, whose work elevates a community.
“At the tender age of nine, Toronto-based illustrator Adrian Hayles discovered the expressive nature of the visual arts. With his continued artistic development, illustration became his deepest passion and talent. His desire to learn and absorb from his surroundings led him on a personal creative journey. As a graduate of the Graphic Design program at Humber College with over 10 years of working experience behind him, Adrian has established his place in Toronto’s modern art community. His style is provocative and inspiring and defies categorization.
Blurring the lines between graffiti and ultra realism, Adrian’s voice and vision is instantly identifiable. His works include countless portraits and illustrations for various magazines and collaborations with the City of Toronto to develop murals for vacant community spaces.

In the past Adrian has painted complete buildings and city blocks, designed award winning video games and animated television shows. He has also successfully developed patented the Stud Horse Foldable Artist Bench and is the Principal and Founder of Behind the Front Visual Arts Studio.


That was the bio.

I was given the opportunity to thank a significant artist of my generation and grateful for that.  One has the impression that he has much more to go.

Blessings Adrian Sawtay Hales

Check out some of his works and life below as well as picks from the Reggae Lane Mural that is his creation.

Various Stages of the Reggae Lane Mural as well as the celebration, Fall of 2015

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