Art is a part of everyone’s life. Whether it is just a simple painting, a mural, or street art, we see it all around us. I had the opportunity to talk to Jason Luper, a mural artist who owns his own studio — Stark White Studios. Here’s what he had to say about his murals and what it is like to paint them:
Do you have any hobbies?
I enjoy playing hockey,chess, guitar, and fishing with my two little boys. I have so many other hobbies I enjoy too, though. I tend to rotate through a dozen or so; I put one down and go to the next one, then I come back around in a few months and pick it up again. For instance, I have been writing a graphic novel that is coming out great and I’m pretty proud of for a couple years now. I will have a two week burst and put a bunch of it down and draw some panels and then not touch it for a month or two. It is what it is; I don’t focus well.
How did you get into painting murals?
I was showing my artwork in a gallery in Florida a lot. The owner called me one day and said that a local fitness center was looking for a large mural on the side of their building. I took the job and quickly realized I could make a living in a much more predictable way with murals than the gallery circuit, and I have just kept lining up murals ever since. It started slowly at first, but I have been able to build it into a career.
How many murals have you done?
I’m not totally sure. Definitely a lot; over 30 for sure (Not including paintings, commissions, illustrations, etc.). Art is something I do every day, and as a result I am a much better artist than I would have been if it was just a side hobby.
How long does it take you to design one mural?
That one is difficult to answer. I usually know what I want to do almost immediately. Figuring out what the client wants can take a lot of sketches and back and forth until we agree on a design. I usually try and wow them as much as possible with the mock-up so I can do something more interesting than they had in mind. Most people don’t really know what they want until they see it.
What materials do you use and how much do they cost?
I use mostly Sherwin Williams exterior paints. They hold up well outside, and you can seal them in if you want them to really last forever. The nature of an exterior mural is semi-permanence — like any architecture, they will last a long time, but not indefinitely. I spend about $200-$400 in materials for a large mural.
Where do you paint murals?
Everywhere. I have painted the inside of a broom closet, a cafeteria at a middle school, an Ark-themed restaurant in Winston, Oregon, a parking garage in LA, for some examples.
What sizes are your murals?
The smallest mural I have painted was a breakfast nook that was about 10 sq. ft. The largest mural I have painted to date was in LA. It was roughly 2,400 sq. ft. I personally love to paint big as it allows me to play with the scale of the subject. For instance, I am painting the Ramona Music Center in Ramona, CA, right now, and I get to paint the guitar 35′ long with giant hands playing the instrument. Something about making everyday objects absolutely enormous plays really well with murals.
How much does a mural usually cost?
That depends on many different things. For example, the painting surface, the design, the size of the mural, interior/exterior, and so on. In general, I usually paint commercial murals in the $3,500-$5,000 range and smaller residential murals (bedrooms, dining halls, etc.) from $750-$1,500 range.
Do you work alone, or do other people help you?
I work almost exclusively alone. I have hired assistants in the past and probably will do so in the future as well. Although I get a fair amount of work, I haven’t gotten to the point that I need to hire help to speed things along to get to the next job.
What is your favorite mural you have done so far?
One [of] the latest murals in Los Angeles on the Bunker Hill Towers Plaza wall. It’s about 200 ft long by 12 ft high, and although not exactly completely free of artistic restrictions, they pretty much let me paint at will with only a general concept to guide the project. It seems with every mural, I gain a little more of trust and am able to put a little more “art” in it. Eventually, I hope to be commissioned to just paint wild, fantastic, surrealistic landscapes for no reason other than they need to exist. Like planting a row of palm trees purely for aesthetic purposes.