3.06.2012

Jeff Unthank: Creating a Colorful History

After our last stop at the Rhodes-Hill mural, on the mural bus tour the other week (see my previous post), the group had the privilege of visiting Jeff Unthank and his amazing, spacious studio, to get a sneak peak of what he has been working on with his studio assistant Molly Riggs. Some of you may recognize Jeff as having done the vibrant mural for the North Frayser Community Center, the overall theme being “the essential support the Center provides to local families by offering a wide range of programs and services which nurture the mind, body and spirit,” as he explains on Urban Art Commission’s website. With the support of Urban Art and the Raleigh-Frayser community, Jeff and Molly are a creating another colorful, historically and culturally rich, and, well, massive mural to be placed in the Raleigh-Frayser area, at James Road and Scenic Highway; oh, and by massive I mean a 100-panel mural, all done on weather-resistant, long-lasting polytab (he has rolls of this stuff!). Each of the 100 panels displays a different theme or topic and each one is completely different from the next—however, they are all unified by the style, color and the social and cultural history of the surrounding Raleigh-Frayser area. After heavily researching the history of the community, Jeff designed the panels to be very specific to the area and to unfold a story as they progress, with a southern narrative quality to them. One of the stylistic approaches Jeff is embracing is breaking the myriad images down in to flat, basic shapes and forms, creating a sort of, as he described it, ‘paint-by-numbers’ feel. He hopes that the different panels is to allow people driving by to be able to focus on one or two panels when they drive by, so that each time they go past it, they will notice a new panel or something that they did not previously see.

Before he even began painting the panels, he designed the layout and exact colors for each of the 100 different panels using small-scale studies. These small paintings, which are really works of art in themselves, allowed Jeff to select the exact colors to be used, and was then able to order these colors pre-mixed to save time and energy in the studio when painting the actual panels. Luckily, Jeff and Molly are able to spread out and work in a very large space when working on these large-scale panels. They both seemed very excited about the project and even more excited to share with us their hard work so far. The duo has already completed over 45 panels and they hope to be ready to begin installing around May! Here’s a look at what they have been working on…









All of the paints...









The rolls of polytab just waiting to be painted on...
The mock-ups...




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