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Muralist captures Seattle's past and present using only pencil

Artist Ronnie Hawkins took over six years to draw a mural that honors iconic people and places of Seattle.


In 2017, Seattle artist Ronnie Hawkins decided he wanted to pay tribute to the city he loves.  

He had no idea it would become a six-year project that had him working his fingers to the bone. “Thousands of pencils too!” Hawkins laughed.  

The passion project is an impressive mural featuring much of Seattle’s iconic people and places of the past and present.  

“I remember showing up here in the 90s and fell in love at first sight. I found Seattle to be so romantic and full of amazing culture,” Hawkins said. 

Hawkins graduated from Seattle’s Art Institute and eventually took a job teaching English in Japan.  After more than a decade overseas Hawkins returned to Seattle and fell in love with the city all over again.  He decided to put his artistic spin on the history and heritage of the area with a stack of led pencils and a mountain of ideas.  

“You can’t cheat with pencils and after many layers of details I think it looks rather distinct,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins says this is his most ambitious art project yet and he started with a local graduate.  

“The first person I featured was Clara McCarty, the first Graduate of UW,” he said.  

McCarty graduated in 1876 and became the first woman superintendent of the Pierce County School District.  His mural started with McCarty and spread to feature everything from businesses like Boeing, Starbucks, REI, Eddie Bauer and more. 

Many of the images pay tribute to once-popular brands that have vanished over the years. The Pink Elephant Car Wash sits near a logo for the now-shuttered Seattle Art Institute.  

“I wanted to focus on what Seattle was and not necessarily what it has become,” he said.  

Iconic people like Jimi Hendrix are featured near Bruce Lee.  

“I heard from Bruce Lee’s wife and she gave me her blessing,” says Hawkins.  He said contacting the people and businesses he wanted to draw took him over a year and a half.  

“Canlis was the first business to say yes and then it took some names like REI to say yes before many others started jumping on board,” says Hawkins.  

Ann & Nancy Wilson from Heart are featured near Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Ernestine Andrews and the likes of Mariners Icons Ichiro Suzuki and Felix Hernandez. The music scene is celebrated in many ways, including Nirvana's Kurt Cobain and Chris Cornell from Soundgarden.  Famous Seattle visits by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and Elvis Presley are surrounded by images from Seafair, the Seattle Supersonics and the Fremont Troll.  

Even legendary children's TV show host JP Patches is smiling next to Costco and Pagliacci Pizza.  

“The biggest image is of Chief Seattle and that’s the way it should be,” he said. 

After six years Hawkins has finally put the finishing touches on his incredibly detailed mural and is working with Darryl Schmidt from Art Capture to digitize the mural piece by piece.  

“I went to Garfield High School and spent my whole life here so I recognize all of these people and places. Sadly, many of them are gone now so it does feel like important work to preserve this history,” says Schmidt.  

Once the digitization is complete Hawkins will be making some prints for some of the businesses he featured.  His ultimate goal is to have the master mural hanging in a historic place in Seattle.   

“I’m starting with the Pioneer Square Preservation Board and can’t wait for this mural to find a home in the Emerald City,” says Hawkins.  

The ultimate passion project is complete and after several years of working alone during the pandemic, he’s excited to show people what he created and to remind them how special Seattle is. 


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