LA’s Jonas Never On His Influences, Inspiration, And Mural Of Joe Kelly

Muralist Jonas Never and Joe Kelly at the mural on Thursday, September 10, 2020. Muralist, Jonas Never, made sure he painted his Silver Lake mural on the Floyd's 99 Barber Shop at Sunset Blvd and Parkman before the Astros came to town on Saturday, September 12. (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Any person who visits Los Angeles can see mural painter Jonas Never’s works from many parts of LA, including Santa Monica and Grand Central Market. The signature style of Never is in his monolithic and realistic paintings, based on notable personalities, sportspeople, and celebrities who inspired LA’s inhabitants. Outlined with a very distinctive blue glow, the portraits of Never include tributes to basketball legends LeBron James and Kobe Bryant as well as travel documentarian Anthony Bourdain.

The latest creative tribute of Never is to the Los Angeles Dodgers’ relief pitcher Joe Kelly at Silver Lake. It is a tangible piece of evidence of this muralist’s admiration for Los Angeles, inspired by the grit of the mocking expression from the pitcher.

The expression happened after he sent a pitch above the head of the Houston Astros player Alex Bregman. It is a baseball pitch that Joe Kelly termed ‘unintentional’, but Major League Baseball found otherwise because he got a 5-game suspension partly for it. The two teams quarreled about the offseason once it was discovered that the Houston Astros was cheating in the 2017 season and 2018 season. Then, Major League Baseball informed teams of its policy of punishing for hitting the players of the Houston Astros last year.

When the inning proceeded, Kelly dismissed Carlos Correa of the Astros with three strikes, and both players instantly quarreled. A yelling competition followed it, in which the pouty look of Kelly produced the first-ever baseball fight during the coronavirus pandemic period.

Never is not just a lifelong Kelly fan, but he has also played the game with him for the University of California alongside Austin Barnes, plus some others. Never said that he followed Kelly’s career to some extent. As Never was a relief pitcher, it is unsurprising that he appreciated Kelly’s style.

Never saw Joe Kelly grimace in an unapologetic way to the shortstop of the Astros, Carlos Correa when he was at Atlanta. The muralist still recalls that instantly heroic moment.

He was painting in the capital city of Georgia back then, albeit from the room of his hotel due to rain in the city. Never still sounds surprised by that moment while saying it was cool to witness Kelly do the right thing in that crappy year. No wonder why the muralist would describe it as a ‘that just happened’ moment.

When Never sat in that hotel room awaiting a rainstorm to clear, he chose to do the thing he performs best – paint.

The manager of the Astros, Dusty Baker, later said that Kelly said “Nice swing bitch” to Correa after dismissing the latter through three strikes. Never added that piece of information as the backdrop of his first Kelly canvas.

It is impossible to paint a Los Angeles Dodgers’ player in what Never described as ‘Braves country’. Therefore, he went to the “Blake’s On The Park” bar amid a storm with heavy rain, purchased a canvas, and worked on it while watching Columbus Blue Jackets play.

To acknowledge the memorable manifestation of character from Kelly, and protest the player’s suspension, the muralist put his Atlanta canvas on Instagram. It grabbed the eye of Justin Turner, the third baseman of the Los Angeles Dodgers. For your information, Jonas Never has 114,000 followers on the social networking website.

After the Instagram post caught his attention, Turner called Never to request one more painting like that for Joe Kelly as the player loved the work. So, Never accepted the request from Turner and painted a different canvas for Joe Kelly. Some time had elapsed after the popular Kelly frown. The muralist said that it seemed to him like Los Angeles had completely embraced the heroism of Kelly, but wished the work to have relevance to the fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

When it comes to Kelly’s pose, diehard Dodger fans can tell the subtle distinctions in Never’s mural and the original painting. While the muralist said that he made the original piece some times, his lone painting of the trendy Kelly frown is on Silver Lake’s wall.

The fans of the Major League Baseball team line up to honor the latest work of Never on the wall behind the local ‘Floyd’s 99’ saloon. It is near the stadium, so the fans can come across it when they go to the venue. Never said that it is good to see all those fans just lining up around the area. His appreciation of the sport also comes from the fact that he played as a pitcher for the basketball team of the University of California, Riverside.

In an uncertain year, the mural signifies the metaphorical comeback of the Dodgers’ game to LA. After the epidemic, there has been a large-scale closure of sports as well as discussions about pay between the Major League Baseball Players Association and MLB. The 2020 Major League Baseball season is one that virtually never took place.

For the fans of the Dodgers, that underlines the pathos of experiencing consecutive World Series losses against teams that utilized electronic devices for sign-stealing. Given the disappointment among the supporters of the Dodgers, the act of Kelly still seems like sweet revenge. That the muralist heard the Dodgers’ battle cry, seems to be the case.

When the Houston Astros came back to LA on September 12, 2020, the Dodgers’ supporters awaited all together outside the Dodger Stadium to insult the former World Series winner.

Inspired by LA’s tattoo and graffiti culture, the many creative contributions of Never to this city reflect the environment that he inhabits. An example is the muralist’s memorial of the ex-pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels namely Tyler Skaggs.

Never and Skaggs played basketball for Santa Monica High School (SAMOHI), and they had identical jersey numbers back then. Therefore, the former talked about the painting he devoted to the latter. The mother of the player, too, taught softball at SAMOHI at the time Never was there.

Skaggs died in the room of his hotel due to narcotics when he was traveling with the Los Angeles Angels back in 2019. The demise of Skaggs had a painful effect on Never, who described it as a situation that could have happened to him. It happened when Never was considering stopping the creation of memorial murals. Never may not have liked the state of being sad, but he realized the powerfulness of those murals and how Skaggs perhaps would not receive one from somebody else. Never described the act of keeping the pitcher’s memory alive as a positive one.

Having devoted many images around Los Angeles, the art and craft of Never have turned into a permanent part of this city’s fabric. Anyhow, when asked which his favorite mural is, Never said that he would need to make a list of those paintings.

Having the opportunity of meeting the heroes of your childhood is successful, said Never while referring to the Cobra Kai painting that he recently made. Never wanted his work to be an element of Los Angeles’s culture for a long time. The painter is elated by the positive response from the audience to his mural of Joe Kelly, especially given the kind of year that 2020 was for every person.