This N.B. artist is making playgrounds pop with 3D paintings

A big blue dolphin and a posse of glittering goldfish have taken up residence on the playground on Miramichi’s Nelson Rural School. 

It’s one of the latest murals by local artist Allie Howe, painted in a way that gives the illusion the creatures are just below the “water” in the pavement.

Allie Howe painted this 3D mural on the playground at Nelson Rural school in Miramichi earlier this summer. (Shane Fowler/CBC News)

Howe’s airbrush artwork has been a big hit in the city, specifically for its 3D effect.   

The method adds depth to the work, he said, making it look like “things are floating, or things are lifted, or things drop down,” he said. “It gives the illusion and it’s a bit better than the flat paint.” 

Allie Howe stands next to his snakes and ladders game, a work in progress at King Street Elementary School in Miramichi. (Shane Fowler/CBC News)

For the past few years, Howe has been painting massive murals across Miramichi, on gas stations, crosswalks, and brick walls. 

Painting playgrounds is his newest venture, putting colourful – and often interactive – artwork right under kids’ feet.

“3D hopscotch, snakes and ladders games,” Howe said, rhyming off some of his recent efforts. “Obstacle courses, bean-bag tossing games, some large snakes with letters and numbers in them for educational purposes.” 

Miramichi artist makes playgrounds pop with 3D art

Artist Allie Howe is best known for his towering murals in Miramichi, but now he’s painting the pavement at schools with interactive 3D works just in time for the return of students. 1:32

Not long after he’d wrapped up his underwater scene at Nelson Rural, Howe was contacted by another school across town and commissioned to do some similar playground artwork, as well as a 32-foot mural. 

Jacqueline Petrie, vice-principal at King Street Elementary School, said Howe’s handiwork is educational as well as attractive.

“I think it’s good for kids to see the process of what it takes to make something 3D, how it looks from different perspectives,” Petrie said. “It’s an interesting angle, literally and figuratively.” 

King Street Elementary School vice-principal Jacqueline Petrie says when her school saw what Allie Howe did for artwork at a school across town, they knew they had to get him to do the same for their school. (Shane Fowler/CBC News)

Howe holds down a day job as a sprinkler fitter.

But he admits that if demand for his art ever reached a point that he could just paint full-time, it’d be a dream come true.

In the meantime, he said, just having it underfoot, and appreciated by its intended young audience, is gratifying enough.

“I love it,” he said. “The more the merrier.”