by Eric Ginsburg

The front of Common Grounds coffee shop in Greensboro’s Lindley Park neighborhood isn’t the best place for a mural. Actually, it’s not even a good place.

Crumbled brick rests on top of old window frames. An abundance of weird pieces of jagged metal protrude from the external wall and wires cross the uneven surface.

And it’s going to be completely redone in a month or two, wiping out any imperfections or artistic endeavors.

Patch Whisky didn’t care. He just wanted to paint.

It’s fitting that when a street artist with a name like that rolls through town — traveling from Charleston — that he would end up in the city’s unofficial Whisky District, throwing paint on a wall. With more than eight crates of spray paint set before him on a table in Common Grounds’ parking lot, the increasingly popular muralist set to work.

When he arrived in Greensboro there was no plan to paint the front of the café that also houses an art gallery ­— just an urge to be creating while he waited for his opening inside at Menace Inc. Studios that night and time to kill before beginning a planned mural in High Point later in the weekend.

Standing on a ladder in front of his canvas, Patch Whisky worked in broad strokes before meticulously adding layer after layer of dripping detail that popped with color. As the gigantic surreal face of a behemoth took form, people at the corner of Walker and Elam streets stopped to watch or commend the artist.

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He would break, pulling down a respirator to his chin and wiping sweat off his forehead, to talk with a mélange of people. Two women stopped — confused as to whether Common Grounds had closed because the sign had been removed to allow Patch Whisky to paint — before being ushered through the monster’s gaping mouth.

The artist’s distinctive style carries over to his clothing, including baggy green pants with extra pockets large enough for a few spray cans, a patchwork of colorful overspray decorating the top. A large key and a bandana hung around his neck, but more distinctive was a black porkpie hat perched atop his long, bound hair.

A similar hat appears on a number of his pieces inside, part of his solo Sign Language show. A cartoony blue creature with candy-cane limbs and horns adorned variously repurposed street signs: chugging booze on an arrow, rocking out on a “No Parking” sign, fishing from a stop sign and sipping hazardous material with a straw on an “Authorized Personnel Only” sign he brought from Charleston.

Other pieces evoked a similarly bizarre dark humor not uncommon in cartoons, including a surreal being that has sliced off its own face and is carrying it on a platter. It’s insides looked like ham.

Several more complex pieces illustrated Patch Whisky’s dexterity and talent, with expertly blended styles and bold colors that are difficult to look away from. That’s likely why he’s been commissioned for murals and art in other formats in various states, including his native West Virginia.

As visitors streamed in and out of his opening at Menace Inc. Studios inside Common Grounds, several others set up shop on outdoor chairs to watch Patch Whisky add accentuating green lines and other flourishes on the large mural.

He paused to haggle with a nearby building owner who liked Patch Whisky’s work but said he wanted to keep his wall more traditional. A few days later, the artist found a taker, making arrangements to knock out a mural at Mother Tucker’s on Spring Garden Street on Monday.

Maybe it will be a more permanent addition to the city.

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