Street Artist Behind Baby Yoda Mural Remembered By His Collaborator
Chris Veal met Nelson "Nels" Guzman met by accident at an Atlanta paint store six years ago.
That meeting would lead to a collaborative partnership that would later make waves in the Atlanta street art community.
The two hit it off talking about a particular paint they both had an interest in using and decided to stay in touch.
"He came here from L.A. and I found out he did murals and stuff, too. He painted graffiti," he said. "I was like 'Oh, alright. I need to call him.'"
Guzman passed away two weeks ago after being struck and killed during a hit a run accident in Oakland, California. A GoFundMe page set up by his brother has raised $37,000 through 310 donors. He has three daughters.
At the time they met, both men were street artists with an impressive background of work to their names. Veal said that working with Guzman came unusually easy.
"A lot of the times when you talk about painting with someone else, you'll butt heads a lot," he said. "There was literally no arguing or bickering. Everything with him always went smoothly."
Guzman was also known for his kindness and warmth towards his friends and family. When his sister passed away several years ago, he took in her kids. Veal said he could make the room light up with his sense of humor.
"If you were around him, you were probably laughing," he said. "He was such a standup guy."
Veal and Guzman would go on to make national headlines earlier this year for their graffiti mural depiction on the Belt Line of "Baby Yoda" from the Star Wars television show The Mandalorian.
True to their friendship, the project came about when they realized they both had the same idea and had both already bought green paint.
"It was nice to have something new with Star Wars that I could enjoy again," Veal said. "Plus, I really love painting stuff from pop culture.”
The character, known officially as "The Child", became a pop culture phenomenon after the show's debut. Veal said Guzman thought the attention around the mural was funny, but also flattering.
"I'll miss those times of just laughing about things," he said. "Just those moments after you finish painting and you're sitting with someone afterwards, planning what to do next."
Earlier this year, city officials said they had no plans to remove the Baby Yoda mural from the Belt Line.