Making Chapel Hill Beautiful One Mural At a Time

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Photo by Briana Brough

As part of our series “The Creatives,” we spoke with Scott Nurkin, owner of The Mural Shop.

Growing up, were you particularly artistic?

I was lucky enough to have a mom who was very encouraging and put me in private lessons very early on. I knew it was something I enjoyed and wanted to pursue since forever.

How did you get started with murals?

Immediately after graduating [from UNC with a BFA in Painting and Drawing] I took an internship with local master muralist Michael Brown. It eventually morphed into more of an apprenticeship. I worked under his guidance for three years before striking out on my own. Michael taught me more about art instruction in three years than I learned in the previous 18. He has this great line: “I taught him everything he knows. But I didn’t teach him everything I know,” which is no doubt accurate. I have extremely fond memories of working for that man.

Time spent planning each mural?

It is usually determined by how large or detailed the mural may be. Also, if the mural has historic reference, it may require a bit of research.

Where do you go to get things done?

Most of my work is done on-site and I travel all over for work but I do have my beloved studio which is located in an old bombed out building at the Starpoint intersection in Chapel Hill. I painted a portrait of Dean Smith nearby. If you ever see my white truck parked outside, please stop in and say hello!

What was it like when you received your first mural commission?

My first commissioned mural was for one of my favorite people (and biggest clients), Tyler Huntington, who was then opening Tyler’s in Durham. The subject was an old tobacco warehouse scene with tobacco leaves hanging from the rafters. It was painted directly behind the bar. I labored over it obsessively and even gave him a small oil painting maquette of the concept.

Your inspiration is?

Autumn, my 5-year old, the Miles Davis “E.S.P.” album, early-20th-century Dutch poster art, [the band] Spooky Tooth … it changes daily.

Coolest location for a mural?

I’ve been fortunate enough to paint murals at the Fort Fisher Aquarium, the NC Zoo and the SC Zoo. I’m a super nerd when it comes to animals so for me painting in those environments was pretty over the top. If I needed a break, I would go and check out what the giraffes or giant tortoises were doing.

If you couldn’t do murals, what medium of art would you prefer?

Oils. In my studio every day at 8 a.m. like Norman Rockwell.

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Jessica Stringer

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