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Every reference in BirdO’s 10-storey Deer Park mural

By Nicole Schmidt| Photography by Riley Snelling

Midtown is experiencing a boom in vibrant street art, including Phlegm’s Frankensteined collage of the city’s landmarks, the massive and confounding “condo man” sculpture and, the latest, a 10-storey candy-coloured masterpiece by Toronto’s own Jerry Rugg, a.k.a BirdO, a street artist who conceals his face by wearing a giant Angry Birds–esque cardboard head. Rugg’s fantastical creatures and geometric patterns can be spotted around the world: he’s painted massive bearded dragons in Chicago, elephants in Shanghai, monk seals in Maui and countless other murals in Toronto, among them the hipster owl on the Kimpton Saint George Hotel and the big yellow bird on the Village by the Grange. His Deer Park piece—created alongside comic book wizard Jeff Blackburn—is his biggest piece to date. “I’ve always wanted to paint something to this scale, especially in my home base,” he says. “I only want to go bigger from here. Hell, if I could paint something on the moon that you could see from earth, I would.” Here, Rugg gives us a bird’s-eye view of the sprawling mural.


1. Yellow portal

Rugg tried to colour-coordinate what he calls his “portal to the sky” to match the hue of the sky on a clear summer day. He has a sculpture project in the works for next year and is toying with the idea of mounting a super-sized antler on the building’s roof.

2. Deer

Nature is on-brand for BirdO, so he put an ultra-literal spin on this neighbourhood mural by using its unofficial mascot as the centrepiece.

3. Geometric blocks

Rugg uses a lot of geometric shapes to balance his colour scheme. “My friends always tease me for not signing my pieces, but I think these are just as effective,” he says.

4. Check-pattern orb

Here’s another one of Rugg’s signature geometric patterns. “When I painted it, the orb was meant to look like it was on top of the deer, but halfway through I realized it made the deer look like it has a hole in its neck.”

5. Colour scheme

Rugg’s initial mural proposal had a more muted colour palette, but the building owner encouraged him to crank up the saturation.

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6. Branches

Sticking to all things literal, Rugg used these tree branches to represent Deer Park’s park. “It’s Dr. Seuss meets Tim Burton: a little cartoony and a little creepy,” he says.

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