Willie Nelson Mural Artist: Wiley Ross

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photo:  Steve Hopson

He is Rosie Troutman’s grandson.

An artist making big headlines in Austin, Texas, has some strong family ties to Buffalo. Wiley Ross, who recently finished a 60-foot-by-20-foot mural of singer Willie Nelson on the side of a building in downtown Austin, is the son of Jody (Troutman) Noennig and the grandson of Rosie and the late Herb Troutman.

Ross painted the giant mural of the beloved country and western, rock crossover icon after being approached by Adam Brewer, founder of the Heart of Texas Rockfest.

“He came to me and he’s like, ‘Dude, I’ve got this huge wall available. Let’s paint it. Let’s make it happen. Let’s do it,’” Ross said.

The building that displays Ross’ masterpiece faces the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless at the corner of 7th and Neches streets. On March 15-18, the mural was the new backdrop for the 17th annual Heart of Texas Rockfest outdoor theater.

“All the homeless cats down here really dig it. Haven’t had any problems with them at all. They’ve been real cool,” Ross said. “Then there are the people driving by and taking pictures. It’s been an overwhelmingly positive response.”

Ross said this was definitely the biggest project he’s taken on in the shortest amount of time. He spent six 13-hour days in the hot sun to complete the mural by hand.

Murals aren’t the only aspect of Ross’ artistic talents. He also paints famous faces on a smaller scale using canvas or T-shirts. What’s unusual about his T-shirt art is that he uses different dilutions of bleach to determine the shades and tones of the realistic hand-painted portraits on a black shirt.

Although Ross always has created works in the visual arts, his other talent was what originally made him decide to move to Austin.

Joseph Wiley Ross was born and raised in Springfield. He graduated from Kickapoo High School in 2001. Throughout most of his life, his focus was art. He entered college on an art scholarship but soon found another new love — music. He felt a strong pull to this new expression of his artistic talents in the form of performance art. Believing it to be his destiny, he picked up a guitar, loaded up his Scooby Doo van and moved to Austin in 2004.

The self-taught guitarist and pianist formed the hard hitting rock trio Street Light Suzie in 2008 with bassist Joe “Oso” Morales and drummer Rob Williamson. The group has recorded two CDs, “Red River Revival” and “Red Album,” and is now a foursome with the addition of guitarist and backup vocalist Nikkoli Kade Kubena. Ross fronts as lead singer and has written several songs. The group has been successful at placing their songs in such television shows as “CSI,” “Nikita” and “Ringer,” and on E! and VH1.

Creating music and art are two of Ross’ great passions, but his 4-year-old daughter, Veda Moon, is the love of his life. They spend a lot of time together, each creating their own artworks. Ross incorporated Veda’s image in one of his popular Austin murals.

With so much art and music still lurking inside of him, Ross plans to share his talent with the world for a long time to come. Check out his art at wileyross.com orfacebook.com/wiley.ross, and his music atstreelightsuzie.com.

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