HOUSTON – Roland Saldana has lost count of the number of times he’s tagged the No. 99 with a can of spray paint.
“I’ve done quite a few, over a dozen,” Saldana said.
Saldana is the artist behind Artistic Misfists Murals. His work has become well known throughout the Houston area, primarily for murals showcasing the likes of Jose Altuve, James Harden, and most of all, J.J. Watt.
That’s where his road to fame began six years ago when a friend asked him to paint a mural in his garage. The only request was that it be sports themed.
“We ended up going with a J.J. Watt theme. He’s kinda busting through the wall,” Saldana described.
Saldana said once he completed the job, his friend posted a picture of the work on social media.
“People were sharing it. I was getting a lot of calls and emails, and I wound up painting a lot of murals after that,” he said.
Sports-themed murals from man caves to children’s bedrooms became a common request from clients. His commissioned work has covered all Houston sports, but he said he’s painted walls of Watt more than others.
Saldana said there’s a reason for that.
“He’s just all-around a dope player, you know.”
J.J. Watt’s time in the Bayou City had him everywhere. From starring in advertisements, pitching yogurt, tossing pizza dough and surprising fans by delivering them, Watt’s brand is one that’s worth tens of millions.
It’s also one that stretches far beyond the football field, according to Dr. Billy Hawkins, interim chair and professor, department of health and human performance at the University of Houston.
“It’s shocking to see him leaving,” Hawkins said, who added when you’ve dedicated so much to Houston as did J.J. Watt, it becomes an expectation to stay.
Fans sure feel that way.
“His footprint is huge not only because of sports but the philanthropic things he’s done in the city, so it means a lot,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins said Watt’s brand is a unique one and un-branding him across Houston will rely heavily on who replaces him. Even more, he said Watt’s personality is what endeared him to so many.
Count Roland Saldana among them, but as brands come – they go. Saldana said clients have called him already asking to update their walls, as Houston says goodbye to J.J. Watt.
“I spoke with a few clients already [who say] I have to rework [their mural], so I’m going to have change a few elements,” Saldana said.