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The Mural Man

written & photographed by SHERIL BENNETT TURNER artwork photographs courtesy of MARK MULFINGER


“I believe in drawing all the time, as often as you can. I gain my inspiration directly from nature. I think it’s really important to draw what you know—what you see personally—as an artist. That to me is the most authentic and powerful work.” - Mark Mulfinger

he kids at Skyland Elementary School call him the “Mural Man.” Recently commissioned to create a wall mural for the school, local artist Mark Mulfinger has become a familiar and much envied figure as he sketches with black paint on a once barren corridor wall. The mural itself is based on selected sketches by Skyland students and themed around “Why I like Skyland Elementary School.” And the best part? Every student gets the chance to leave their mark on the school—literally— as they fill in the mural outlines with vibrant colored paints. “I started painting murals in schools because of an art teacher at East North Street Academy, which ironically is where I went to 1st grade back in 1967,” Mark explains. “She came out with the concept and we did four murals there. The kids just loved it! I thought it would be a shame not to do this again with a new batch of kids anywhere and everywhere that people can wrap their heads around this concept. Each mural is powered by the little idioms and oddities of every child, but curiously enough,” he laughs, “the surface is always exactly the same at every school—cinder block walls.” The blank bricks come alive in no time, though, with colorful scenes involving favorites like recess, sports, and dinosaurs from science lessons. “The sky is the limit when you’re a child!” Mark says. And Mark should know. From early childhood, he displayed a GreerNow MAY 2009



unique sense of imagination, a huge helping of natural artistic talent—and a sense of humor. Take Mark’s former bedroom door which he painted to look like you were peeking into an absolutely clean boy’s bedroom. Or the “replacement” bust of Verdi Mark made and exchanged for the real thing in his high school library on April Fool’s Day one year. Mark’s childhood talent would eventually blossom into a large repertoire of fine art pieces—serious art with a decidedly unserious feel full of playfulness and movement. Born in Syracuse, New York, Mark’s family relocated to Greenville when he was only four. “My father was a professor at Bob Jones University.” Mark says. “He was what I called a creation scientist. He helped author some of the most important textbooks for home schoolers: science books free of evolution.” Growing up on the campus of Bob Jones, Mark graduated with a BA and an MA in Studio Art and later went on to teach art for a while at the culturally rich university. While teaching, Mark met his wife Leah, who was attending graduate school there. “Like good art,” Mark laughs, “we are a study in contrasts. I had lived at Bob Jones all my life but when I got married to Leah she told me, ‘It’s time to move out and

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start making your own decisions.’” Today Mark lives in the rural community of Blue Ridge with Leah and their four children, Ava (4), Joshua (6), Luke (8), and Lydia (10). He also maintains a studio in the Pendleton Street Arts District known as the Village of West Greenville. “I believe in drawing all the time, as often as you can. I gain my inspiration directly from nature. I think it’s really important to draw what you know—what you see personally—as an artist. That to me is the most authentic and powerful work. Right now I’m doing a variety of things including forest scenes and rural farm scenes that are a little more conceptual. Sometimes I paint in acrylics. I love drawing and the wonderful thing about acrylics is that once you finish your drawing you can paint translucent colors over the dark lines and maintain the drawing underneath without having to destroy the drawing like you would with

similar to woodcut but uses linoleum as the relief surface. “With a typical woodcut,” Mark explains, “you’re cutting away what you want to keep white, rolling black on, and printing it so it’s black and white. With the multiple color reduction method, you cut away from the block then take your first color, say a pastel like a light yellow, and you print the first layer. Then you work from light to medium tones to dark tones, cutting and reducing each layer until you’re left with a skeleton of the original drawing at the end. It reminds me of the old Polaroid film—watching it gradually develop and the colors intensify—that’s what you’re seeing but over a number of days. Every day is just like Christmas when you see that new color and it’s a little more defined.” In addition to his awe-inspiring studio art and his fun-loving school murals, Mark has illustrated several books (including a children’s book, of course), teaches, and keeps fascinating illustrated journals of life through the eyes of a true artist. d

oil painting. Watercolor was one of my first loves, which opened the door to batik and reduction, the idea of working from light to dark.” Multiple color reduction linocut, a favorite of Mark’s, is

Mark Mulfinger’s studio is located in the Triangle Studios at 1269 Pendleton Street in Greenville, SC. For more information, please call his studio at (864) 607-2769, or visit his website at www.markmulfinger. com. Mark’s work is also currently displayed at the Hampton III Gallery in Greenville, SC, the Hatfield II Fine Art Gallery in Charleston, SC and the Morning Star Gallery in Blowing Rock, NC. GreerNow MAY 2009


09-05 The Mural Man  
09-05 The Mural Man  

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