Payton is no stranger to the art of spray-paint murals. UT football fans may recognize her style; she spent three years painting the university’s iconic Rock before every home football game. The Rock, a giant hunk of dolomite weighing in at almost a thousand tons, has served for more than 50 years as a canvas for student art, opinions, and other messages.
Payton was a sophomore when she first painted the Rock. Her first painting was done with friends, fulfilling a decades-old student tradition. Payton, who has always had a passion for art, just kept painting.
“I started small,” she said from a six-foot scaffold as she lined the edges of the mural with black paint. “They started small and just got bigger and bigger.”
By the time she graduated with a biochemistry degree in 2017, Payton had painted the rock 30 times. She now attends Virginia Commonwealth University’s medical school, and finds art wherever she goes.
“They sort of go hand in hand,” she said of art and the medical sciences. “Biology is artistic; you just have to pay attention.”
With the time she spends on each of her murals, Payton is no stranger to paying attention. Her murals at the Knoxville university took about 12 hours each: “I worked from sundown to sunrise.”
Her Ocean Quest mural, a much more permanent piece, will not appear overnight. The detailed underwater scene has taken several days under the blistering summer sun. She expects to finish the mural today.
The mural showcases the property’s upcoming addition of a scuba shop, which will be moving from Colonial Heights to Ocean Quest’s building at Stonebrook Place, just off East Stone Drive, at the end of the month. Payton’s other murals include the giraffe at downtown Kingsport’s High Voltage, some tables painted in Nicaragua as part of a mission trip, and a possible future piece at Kingsport’s First Baptist Church.