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Big cow, little cow: Young local artist works alongside hero Man One at Cow Parade 

When Just Looking Gallery director Ken McGavin decided to bring something different to the art community in San Luis Obispo about four years ago, he never thought it would change anyone’s life per se.

click to enlarge A COW OF A DIFFERENT COLOR:  Artist Man One stands with a cow he painted for the public art show, COWABUNGA, in Dana Point, Calif. Man One will paint another cow live for the Cow Parade in SLO on Sept. 17. - PHOTO COURTESY OF MAN ONE
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF MAN ONE
  • A COW OF A DIFFERENT COLOR: Artist Man One stands with a cow he painted for the public art show, COWABUNGA, in Dana Point, Calif. Man One will paint another cow live for the Cow Parade in SLO on Sept. 17.

The gallery started carrying the gritty, colorful work of internationally renowned street artist Man One, who has done live spray paint installations for companies like Coca-Cola and bands like The Black Eyed Peas.

“We wanted to introduce something new and cutting edge to the whitest town in America,” McGavin said.

Then, one day a white, blue-eyed, 8-year-old boy with coke-bottle glasses named Dylan Ehmke walked through the gallery doors in downtown SLO and promptly shrieked with excitement.

“He shouts at me, ‘I can’t believe you have Man One’s work here!’” McGavin said.

McGavin couldn’t believe that an 8-year-old from SLO knew who the LA-based street artist was. But Ehmke was super into graffiti work. While the young fan was out of town when Man One came to SLO, McGavin procured an official Man One signed sharpie for Ehmke, who nearly burst into tears upon receiving the gift. 

click to enlarge WHEN THE STUDENT’S READY, THE TEACHER APPEARS:  Local boy and artist Dylan Ehmke has been a fan of the famous street artist Man One for years. - PHOTO COURTESY OF JUST LOOKING GALLERY
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF JUST LOOKING GALLERY
  • WHEN THE STUDENT’S READY, THE TEACHER APPEARS: Local boy and artist Dylan Ehmke has been a fan of the famous street artist Man One for years.

So when Man One agreed to paint a cow during the upcoming Cow Parade—a public art project that moves from city to city around the world each year—on Sept. 17, McGavin knew Ehmke (now 11 years old) had to be involved. So, together, mentor and mentee will spray paint fiberglass cows live. Man One’s will be life-sized and Ehmke’s will be roughly the size of a baby cow.

“I am so excited to meet Man One; I have been looking forward to this for so long and I cannot believe I get to paint right next to him,” Ehmke told McGavin. 

All the pretty cows from the event will then be auctioned off, and net proceeds will benefit local charities such as the Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo, Arts Obispo, and the Heritage Foundation. The cows will be on display for eight months.

Man One is used to kids being interested in his art when they see him creating it, but having such a young fan who had really studied his art came as a surprise.

“It turns out I had a huge fan out there, and it was this little kid who was all about what I had done,” Man One told New Times. “I’ll be able to show him some techniques and tips on the spot [at the Cow Parade].”

click to enlarge STREET ART :  In addition to painting outdoor murals in urban spaces, artist Man One also paints live at concerts and has even led workshops abroad to help foster self-esteem and respect in young artists. - PHOTO COURTESY OF MAN ONE
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF MAN ONE
  • STREET ART : In addition to painting outdoor murals in urban spaces, artist Man One also paints live at concerts and has even led workshops abroad to help foster self-esteem and respect in young artists.

While Ehmke might spray paint words like “Share SLO” or “Share Art” or “Share Love,” Man One’s design concept for his cow will come to him in the moment, spray bottle in hand.

“It all develops on the spot as I’m painting, that’s part of the fun,” he said.

For other young, aspiring artists like Ehmke, Man One has a few words of advice.

“Work hard, learn as much as you can,” Man One said. “Art could become a career or something meaningful that affects people.” 

Ryah Cooley writes live every week at rcooley@newtimesslo.com.

CASH FOR COWS:  Cows painted by local artists for the Cow Parade will be unveiled on Sept. 17 at Madonna Inn Meadows from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Artists Man One and Dylan Ehmke will paint cows side by side on site that day. Admission is free. Food, beer, and ice cream will be available for sale. Visit cowparadeslo.com for more information.
  • CASH FOR COWS: Cows painted by local artists for the Cow Parade will be unveiled on Sept. 17 at Madonna Inn Meadows from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Artists Man One and Dylan Ehmke will paint cows side by side on site that day. Admission is free. Food, beer, and ice cream will be available for sale. Visit cowparadeslo.com for more information.

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