Recently, a local artist emailed and asked Adam how he got his start creating murals. We thought it would be fun to share the story with all of you. Whether you’re an artist yourself or just art fan, we hope you’ll enjoy it.
What was the first mural gig you got, and how did you get it?
The first mural gig I got was at Creative Lighting in Saint Paul, back in 2010. An artist and type-designer buddy of mine, Chank Diesel, had a connection with Creative Lighting. When he learned that they were looking for a mural, he invited me to collaborate with him on the project.
What did you learn from this project?
This was the first mural I’d ever done, so I learned a ton. It was a collaboration, which is always an interesting process. Chank and I had to figure out how to mesh our work and art styles. He and I had worked together before to create the Turman Grotesk Font, and we used that knowledge of fonts a lot in this piece–one wall of the mural reads “Creative Lighting,” and the other wall “Keep Riding.”
At the time, I was working as an in-house graphic designer for the U of M, so I had to find time for this project outside of a full-time job. It was totally worth it, though. Creative Lighting was so cool for letting us test the waters, so to speak, on their space. The gig wasn’t paid, but since I’d never created a mural before, I was looking to gain experience and try stuff out– and that’s exactly what I got.
Now that you had that experience under your belt, what did you do next?
Next was a mural in the taproom of the old Surly Brewery in Brooklyn Center, which I did with another artist buddy, Josh "Jawsh" Lemke in 2011. This project was also an unpaid gig, but I was really excited to do it because it was a place that had awesome exposure to a wide audience. Plus, I love Surly, and was stoked to work with them.
I was still working full time at the U, so we came in after work to paint. That meant that we had great company, though! While people were grabbing a beer after finishing up their own work day, they’d come and chat with us while we worked. It was a blast.
In this mural, I experimented with aerosol paints. I don’t do that so much anymore–now I stick to brushes and rollers because I think they work better for me, but I’m glad that I had the opportunity to try out aerosols.
So, what came out of the great exposure you got at Surly?
In 2012, got to do a mural for the Butcher and the Boar. The owners had seen my work at Surly, and liked it so much that they commissioned me to create work for their new restaurant. This was my first paid mural gig, and I was stoked about it. With the help of my assistant, Brian Geihl, I created murals for their exterior wall and outdoor kitchen. In the case of the exterior wall, we started with a smaller mural, and then over time, they asked us to expand it to cover the entire wall.
As with the Surly project, an exciting element of this project was the great exposure that came with it. The Butcher and the Boar is at the corner of Hennepin and North 12th Street, and I couldn’t have asked for a better location. There’s a ton of traffic there, and my work is super visible. It’s definitely because of murals at the Butcher and the Boar that my mural work really took off. Clients would come to me saying that they’d seen my work there. 612Brew was one such client. In 2013, their team approached me with a mural project for their new brewery. I had so much fun doing another brewery project–the Twin Cities makes some great beer, and I'm glad to have been a part of it.
In 2015, the Butcher and the Boar asked me to create another mural at their newest restaurant, 4 Bells. The Butcher and the Boar team were a pleasure to work with–I was thrilled to be able to make art with such a great client again.
Any words of wisdom for emerging artists?
I know that this is frustrating for emerging artists to hear, but often, starting out in art means doing some work for free. You need to be able to gain experience and build a portfolio of work if you want to be able to charge for projects in the future.
So, if you’re just starting out as a muralist, try and connect with someone who has a blank wall and a passion for supporting the arts. You might just have found yourself a launch pad. As I learned, it definitely helps if you can find a space with good traffic–that way, you have a built-in audience.
This process can help you build a great network for your art. In my case, the networking I did early on in my career has been key in growing my practice. I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to create art with so many awesome people.
Cover image credit: Catherine Cuddy/Sisyphus Brewing