Paint Encinitas column: New mural brings a message of unity
As I prepared to meet fine-art painter Micaiah Hardison, I conjured up my version of a highbrow artiste — impeccably dressed and high mannered. But Hardison strolled up to me with a youthful step, sun-tanned skin and a scruffy face – the uniform of a true Encinitas native.
We talked about the mural he gifted to the community on the east wall of the 7-Eleven in downtown Encinitas fifteen years ago. When we met, the mural showed an outdated, fading depiction of Moonlight Beach that even the artist was now uncomfortable with.
That’s why Hardison, with the encouragement of Paint Encinitas, a group I founded to spark more local art, is updating the very same wall with a new mural. Paint Encinitas is holding an unveiling celebration for the mural at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 17 at 105 West D Street in downtown Encinitas.
Hardison’s story begins in Leucadia when his step-dad, a hardworking janitor, scored a sweet spot on Neptune Avenue in the early 1980s for the family to live. As a child he painted and drew, but it wasn’t until the tender age of sixteen that Hardison began to turn his art into a career. He spent hours at Solana Beach’s Rhino Art Company. Jokingly referring to art as his addiction, Hardison laughs, “They were my dealer of choice.”
In his early twenties, Hardison found himself seeking artistic inspiration beyond his hometown. “I was infatuated with beauty that didn’t seem so obvious to me in Encinitas at the time,” he said.
He had already started making progress toward his dream of living in Costa Rica, where he would buy land, design and build a house. Thanks to a motivated friend, he even had a sign-making business in the works there.
“I was super excited to do something big,” Hardison recalls. “I knew I wanted to be something, but I didn’t know what. I was rudderless.”
As he was shipping boxes of possessions down to Costa Rica, he was also painting his first two murals at the 7-Eleven. In his young mind, he was leaving Encinitas permanently and wanted to leave a monumental mark here.
Everything was on track for him to start living his dream in Central America, when he met his now ex-wife. “I felt, well, this is also big, so I’ll just do that.”
Giving up his dream and living in Spain instead seemed like a good compromise. But after a year, the couple moved back to Encinitas, because his ex-wife had health issues. Luckily, he still had the sign-making equipment intended for Costa Rica, and so Refined Signs Company was born, back where it all began.
Nowadays Hardison works at his sign business during daylight hours, paints about thirty hours a week, mostly in the evenings, and is busy being a dad.
Hardison originally taught himself to paint with acrylics, but after ten years enrolled at Encinitas’ Watts Atelier of the Arts, he immersed himself in the discipline of oil painting.
“Oil offered me more—longer drying time to manipulate the pigment, more vibrancy, and the color staying the same dry as wet,” he said.
Jack Quick, owner of the now-Encinitas-based Rhino Art Company is an admirer of Hardison. “Of all the customers we have had in the twenty-two years we have been open, Micaiah is the only one who has continued to be true to the artistic lifestyle,” Quick said.
Today, a seasoned artist sits across from me at the coffee table. One who had chased foreign beauty just to be snapped back to the artistic inspiration that was always all around him in Encinitas.
“I think artists should tell a story about their home before they go into another person’s hometown. Be as authentic as you can, tell the story you know best. I’m not saying I’ll be here forever, but for now I am,” Hardison said. “Over this last year I found my voice. I figured out what I should be painting, even though the ‘why’ still puzzles me.”
Just as his style has matured, so has his message. The new piece is comprised of three images united by a single theme: no matter who we are or where we come from, on the beach we’re all equal.
Visit PaintEncinitas.org for more information about the event and local murals.