His work has been collected by the Smithsonian, the Chicago Art Institute, the Long Beach Museum of Art, the Boise Art Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The institutions hold large drawings he creates before embarking on a mural.
“He’s not the first person to do this, but he’s one of the major ones doing museum quality work outside,” says Bjorgum, who is an intellectual property rights attorney. “It’s not spray cans; it’s serious art being done outside.”
Twitchell’s highly visible art has changed the nature of the urban outdoors, imbuing walls with life and meaning. The Los Angeles Times once wrote of Twitchell: “The city shaped him as much as he shaped its urban landscape.”
This reciprocal relationship had its start at Cal State LA. For Twitchell, the University was the perfect incubator—a public university, in the heart of the city, with an art department faculty open to new ways of seeing art.
Back then, the idea of painting museum quality work on the sides of buildings was still unusual.
“This was 1971. This really wasn’t done much,” he says, recalling his days at the University. “It really was that environment that enabled me to do it. The art instructors there were really so amenable to thinking outside of the box.”
Twitchell was born in 1942 and raised on a farm in Michigan. By high school he was earning money as an artist with the lettering skills an uncle taught him. In 1960, at the age of 17, Twitchell enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and served as an illustrator. Of his five years in the military, three and a half were spent in England. The nation’s castles and cathedrals left him awestruck.
“There was something about them that changed me forever,” he recalls. “The spires going up into the sky; something so monumental and uplifting. It was an inspiration. I wanted that to be in my art.”
After his discharge Twitchell moved to Los Angeles. University study was not in his plans; the idea intimidated him.
“But I had the GI bill and I thought, ‘someday I’m going to wish I had done it,’” he told graduates of the College of Arts and Letters in 2016.