If you've taken a stroll down the intersection of Eighth and Main streets downtown, you may have noticed a new arrival: Fiona the Hippo.
Clad in a bubblegum-pink tutu and flower crown, she leaps across the side of Algin Retro Furniture's building, backdropped in a vibrant blue. It's whimsical and downright adorable — much like artist Joshua Stout's other work.
"(I like) anything bright," Stout says. "I think lots of people go toward gray and muted tones when they're designing buildings and things like that — lots of brick and industrial feels — so anytime I can add a pop of color, I'm all for it."
On his way to work, Stout says he would walk past a wall near the now-closed Garfield Suites Hotel downtown. To him, it felt out of place and like an eyesore. And so he reached out to Downtown Cincinnati, Inc. (DCI) to see if they'd allow him to place a mural there. Through that, he was connected instead to Alan Weiss, owner of Algin Retro. Just a short four-minute walk from the hotel, Weiss had wanted a mural placed on his wall instead.
The new downtown piece is likely inspired by Cincinnati Ballet's recent production of The Nutcracker, in which the Cincinnati Zoo resident and worldwide celeb's likeness snagged a spot via a costumed character. Honestly: We love a body-posi hippo that can dance.
Stout's no stranger to work that dabbles in pop culture. Scroll through his instagram @joshuastoutart and you'll see depictions of Tina Belcher from Bob's Burgers, the cartoon crew ofDoug, a minimalistic LEGO take on theSimpson's fam and more. Fiona even appears as Samantha from '80s teen rom-com Sixteen Candles. In case you don't keep up-to-date on our city's growing Fiona mythos, in the artwork she sits across from San Antonio Zoo's Timothy — also a young hippo and apparently a suitor of Fiona. Seriously.
Recently, he also completed another mural for Algin: A 1920s-style and greyscale Superman standing tall as sunset hues encircle him. Like the Fiona mural, blue stretches across the wall.
Stout's work is marked by 3D shading and outlined in bold black. As a kid, he says he was "babysat by television." He'd watch Bruce Blitz's Cartooning With Blitz — which came on after Bob Ross' The Joy of Painting — whose style influenced him. Also an event manager at Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, he's worked as an illustrator and artist for 15 years.
Once given permission, the mural came together within a matter of two days. "I'm a proponent of this city, so anytime it can get attention that's good attention is good to me," Stout says of contributing Fiona art to Cincy's cityscape.