Spray paint artist making his mark on the Gila Valley

San Carlos artist gathers attention with Bull Pen mural

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: San Carlos spray paint artist Joe Roan Eagle has completed his large mural on the western side of the Bull Pen bar in Safford using only spray paint to do so.

By Jon Johnson


SAFFORD – Over the past few weeks, travelers along U.S. Highway 70 in Safford have seen a beautiful work of art come to life alongside the western wall of the Bull Pen bar. 

The mural stands 66 feet wide by 12 feet high and consists of the U.S. and Arizona flags, Mount Graham, and the business itself. Oh, and it was all painted using only spray paint. 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Joe Roan Eagle

The artist, Joe Roan Eagle, 28, of San Carlos, told the Gila Herald that he has been drawing all his life and learned to do so from his father, who also picked up the habit from his father as well. 

“My dad was the one who was always drawing around me, so I learned from him and he learned from his dad,” Roan Eagle said.

To cover the entire space, Roan Eagle spent numerous days going up and down ladders and also hanging over the top of the roof to paint features such as the bullhorns upside down. While sometimes only having a couple of hours of light to work on the project after completing his day-job as a plumber, Roan Eagle even painted at night with his source of illumination being a lone street light.

“Coming back during the day I’d see some spots that I missed but at least I got the majority of it done,” he said. He would then complete the project in the daylight. 

Roan Eagle used various nozzles on the project with specialized spray paint from Spain which features both high-pressure and low-pressure cans. He said he likes the paint because of the quality and its adhesion.

“Once you spray it, it stays solid and you don’t have to worry about it coming out in blobs or anything,” Roan Eagle said. “It’s probably the best one I’ve used so far.” 

Roan Eagle got into the spray paint medium while growing up after realizing his talent for creating “graffiti type” of art. He previously won a “Smoky Bear” painting contest on the San Carlos Apache Reservation, where he used white spray paint on a white canvass in which viewers could see the object only if they looked at a certain angle. 

Jon Johnson Video/Gila Herald

While still at San Carlos High School in 2010, Roan Eagle met a substitute teacher named Carol O’Conner, which later led him to join her Rhyme-N-Reason Foundation, which brings “rap and graffiti artists, dancers, educators, and students together in a creative application of the elements of hip hop culture.” 

With the foundation, Roan Eagle has traveled internationally, including a trip to Ethiopia for the organization’s “Off the Wall” graffiti art event. The foundation also publishes a magazine “Telling Our Own Stories”, which Roan Eagle has been featured in as well. Roan Eagle says he enjoys working with the foundation because he likes the notion of his work inspiring youth around the world.

While the mural on the Bull Pen is complete, Roan Eagle will still be around town as the work has generated interest from other entities wishing him to spray paint a mural on their buildings as well. Roan Eagle told the Gila Herald that he has four other commissions lined up in Safford alone, and two others in Gila County. 

If you would like to contact Roan Eagle about creating a mural, message him through his Facebook account here.  

Joe Roan Eagle stands in front of his finished mural at the Bull Pen in Safford.