Last spring, the Kenan-Flagler Business School approached Arts Everywhere about commissioning a new mural for the undergraduate floor of the Kenan-Flagler building. The objective of the project was to create a piece of art with the Undergraduate Business Program students’ experience in mind. The committee selected artist Paul Friedrich and his proposed mural, “Through The Woods.”
We sat down (virtually) with Paul to learn a bit more about his background, art, and process. You can check out more of his work by visiting his socials as listed at the end of the story. Thanks again to Paul for speaking with us and especially for sharing your amazing art!
Getting to Know Paul
Q: Could you describe your background and how you became an artist?
A: Growing up in Raleigh, NC from as early as I could hold crayons I was drawing, creating stories and adventures with my action figures and then drawing comic books of those adventures.
Q: Who or what are your inspirations?
A: Snoopy, Calvin and Hobbes, Bugs Bunny, Road Runner, The Far Side and the Muppets on Sesame Street
Q: Do you have a favorite medium to work in? What materials do you like to use?
A: I like drawing with ballpoint pens on notebook paper. It takes me back to sitting in classes, drawing in the margins while I was supposed to be taking notes.
I paint with acrylics for the brighter colors and ability to paint thick and have it dry quickly. My work is shifting to be all digital using the iPad, iPencil and Procreate or Affinity Designer to create artwork.
Q: What’s your favorite project you’ve worked on? What’s your dream project?
A: Any day that I can spend all day drawing and making stories is a favorite day. I’ve had my work on billboards, busses and bus stops. My goal is to have work on an airplane and blimp. My ultimate goal is to have a Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade balloon of one of my cartoon characters.
Murals are a lot of fun to paint because it’s always great creating extremely large paintings that are a part of the environment.
Q: Do you have a message or advice for aspiring artists?
A: There’s lots of advice for aspiring artists in any field. First, work on it every day. Study your favorites, don’t be afraid to copy them when you’re starting out. Learn why and how they do what they do. Learn what works and why the stuff that doesn’t work doesn’t work. Reach out to your favorite artist with good questions about techniques or materials. No one can tell you a for sure way to success, but most will be happy to share some knowledge. And then get your work out to the public. Do shows, start at coffee shops or restaurants, set up a booth at a local festival or weekend market, go to conventions and meet others in your field. At the conventions go to the seminars or panel discussions. You’ll usually get one or two pieces of important information.
Questions about the mural
A timelapse video of Paul creating the mural, provided by Kenan-Flagler Business School
Q: How long did it take to create the mural from start to finish?
A: It took a few days to develop, sketch and create the original concept for the mural based on the theme that was described in the call for artists. Then it took a few weeks to develop the final image after great back and forth ideas and teamwork with input from students and members of the university.
Q: What was your inspiration behind the mural?
A: My inspiration is the excitement of being in college learning new things every day, surrounded by great friends, inspiring professors, preparing to use everything being absorbed to set your path in the world.
Q: Did you come across any unexpected challenges when creating the mural? How did you overcome those challenges?
A: When painting murals I like to believe that I am completely prepared for any circumstance. If there’s something unexpected I look at it as a puzzle. There’s always an answer. Which is good because there’s always something unexpected with every project.
In this case, the challenge was at the beginning. I use a projector to project the image on the mural wall and trace it before getting to work painting. However, the width of the lobby is narrow and wouldn’t permit the full projection on the wall. The solution was to divide the image into thirds and move the projector each time. The mural has a lot of lines and even more windows in the building silhouettes that need to connect perfectly. It took more time than planned to align the images each time the projector moved. Sometimes it’s nice to have the struggle at the beginning of a mural because after that everything is pure painting.
The only other challenge was, with so many windows, to make sure each was the correct color. It’s not as easy as Control-Alt-Delete when you paint the wrong color and have to repaint it.
Q: Do you have a favorite element in the mural?
A: I am completely happy that the mural turned out exactly as I pictured it when I created the concept. The semi-optical illusion of seeing either the trees or the city when looking at the mural plays with the viewer’s mind as they stare at one element, slowly realizing there’s more in this world than what they originally saw.
Thank you so much again to Paul for speaking with us! You can follow him and check out more of his amazing art here:
Photo credits to Paul Friedrich and Kenan-Flagler Business School