1 Artist, 500 Cans of Spray Paint, and a 1,700 Square Foot Wall

Rob “Problak” Gibbs is a celebrated youth mentor and one of Boston’s most prolific street artists. Inspired by artists like Gary Rickson, Paul Goodnight (who stopped by the mural site to watch him work and cheer him on!), and Sharon Dunn, all of whom have created murals celebrating blackness in Roxbury, Rob’s work honors tradition while speaking to the present. Full of whimsy, call backs, and details that seem to radiate light, Breathe Life 3 is a heartfelt expression of the artist’s past, present, and future – a true representation of Problak’s full  power as an artist.

As you might imagine, transforming an enormous blank wall into a vibrant, engaging piece of art is, in a word, complex. As Rob puts the finishing touches on Breathe Life 3, we’re giving you a behind-the-scenes look at everything that goes in to creating a three story high mural.


 This is what it takes.



5 gallons of primer, used to prepare the surface of the wall – Rob uses LOXON Concrete and Masonry Primer/Sealer. And 15 gallons of paint: Rob uses Sherwin Williams Emerald Exterior Acrylic Latex Paint.

500 CANS

For a mural this detailed, Rob uses spray paint – a lot of spray paint! – to add vibrant, realistic touches to the artwork.


of application. Rob uses traditional spray paint cans for detail work. For bigger sections, there’s paint rollers and a sprayer: the Magnum ProX19 Cart airless paint sprayer allows Rob to easily spray paint from cans right on the wall.


Anti-graffiti coat.
Another anti-graffiti coat.
More primer.
Those 500 cans of spray paint!
UV protecting top coat (ensuring the mural’s bright colors won’t fade!)
One final anti-graffiti coat.

But a mural is more than just paint! It’s also many, many hours of standing, painting, and greeting the public. And a whole lot of work getting done OFF of the wall.  All told this mural has taken over 200 painting hours and a staff of 15 to make it happen.



of wall to cover: the wall measures 45 feet tall by 38 feet wide, at its longest. During installation, Rob works from a boom lift rented for the project – though he’s usually anywhere up to 40 feet in the air, the lift can extend up to 60 feet. 


From 7 AM to 8 PM – weather permitting! – Rob worked outside over the course of four weeks during May and June 2019 to install the mural.



Breathe Life is expected to be on view through October 2020.


Blue Hill Ave in Grove Hall, the location of first Breathe Life mural, painted by Problak in 2017 – the same year N+T produced Ann Lewis’s See Her at 808 Tremont Street.

“Breathe Life 1” by Problak photo by Robin Lubbock/WBUR

“Breathe Life 1” by Problak photo by Robin Lubbock/WBUR


Have passed since the first installment of the Breathe Life series. And the boy in Breathe Life 3? It’s the same kid as in Breathe Life 1 – now we see him 2 years older, with his little sister sitting joyfully atop his shoulders.

N+T is proud to produce Breathe Life 3, an impressively large artistic gift for the neighborhood of Rob’s youth radiating happiness, hope, and kinship at 808 Tremont Street in Lower Roxbury. Stop by and take in this fresh, uplifting mural, and help spread Problak’s message of positivity by using  #BreatheLifeBOS. Interested in coming to our big launch party? Click here for details.