INTERVIEW BY SARAH ODUM, IMAGES BY WILL MILNE
You know when you’re enjoying a taco, or biking/driving/walking around town, and you spot one of the many murals that are sprinkled throughout our fine little neighborhoods? Ever wonder who is behind them? We are here to quench your curiosity with a round of Get-To-Know-Your-Local-Muralist. Trust us, it’s a thing. Today’s featured artist is lifelong Dentonite, Eric Mancini. You may recognize his trademark XO’s and urban graffiti-tag like style from your walks about town. If you don’t—hooray for new art in front of your eyeballs! We asked Mancini a few questions about his story, process, and a few other things. Read up, and then go scope out his murals around town. It’ll be like a really easy scavenger hunt. Read on for more!
How did you get into painting?
I’ve always enjoyed art since I was a little kid. I remember in elementary school while my older brother was taking piano lessons, my mom and I would go to Hastings [bookstore] and I would always ask for the latest Calvin and Hobbes book and a How to Draw Superheroes book. Elementary school is the last formal art class I have ever had. While I was going to UNT to study Finance during the 2008 financial meltdown, which turned me off from Finance, I started getting back into art and painting with some art majors that I had become friends with. I ended up skipping my Finance classes to go paint. Hopefully one day that decision will pay off.
What keeps you in Denton?
I love Denton because of the diverse mix of people, you don’t just find one type of person here. There are all sorts of different characters. This is a town where you’re almost encouraged to be different in some sort of way. I also love our square, I always feel good when I’m around the square. I struggled with some personal problems and hadn’t been going out around town much, but I’ve slowly started emerging again.
What has been your experience working in the arts within the Denton community?
Everyone in the Denton art scene is pretty supportive of each other, I don’t generally run into the “snobby artist” here. We’re all struggling just to get by on what we have, so being dicks to each other wouldn’t help any. I would like to show more work here than I do. I generally hang art up at The Bearded Monk. Ben Esely, the owner of The Bearded Monk, is very supportive of the arts.
Can you explain a little about the type of pieces you do?
My style was influenced by the street art/graffiti scene. It didn’t start out as a pattern, it was more random when I was getting started with it. Then over time it developed into what it is now, an X and O and a little squiggle thing I haven’t made a name for yet. Then I just overlap those in a bunch of different colors. I’ve lately been redoing company logos in my pattern, which people have had a good response to.
Can you give us a little more information about how your Denton murals came to be?
The mural on Locust and Parkway near the square was done to pay homage to the owners of the Denton Discount Vacuum repair shop right behind it. The mural is a hand holding a vacuum cleaner hose, sucking up my pattern. The vacuum repair shop has been there for as long as I’ve been alive so I thought it would be cool to incorporate something to honor them.
The mural on McKinney is on Veronica’s Café. I had driven by her shop countless times and always thought her building would be a perfect building to cover in my pattern. So I went up there one day and just asked if I could paint her building. She was so cool about it, she trusted me with her business which most people probably wouldn’t have done. She even offered to pay me for it when I was willing to do it for free. She’s such a nice woman and a big part of the community as well. Her barbacoa tacos are delicious too.
Where does inspiration come from for you? What are some of your creative influences?
I get most of my inspiration from several local artists right here in Denton and the DFW metroplex. There is so much talent right here that it forces me to keep trying to produce better work. I see some of the things they can do and it really motivates me to keep going.
What keeps you moving forward?
The key thing that keeps me moving forward, is thinking about how I keep improving every day. I’m surprised at some of the things I’ve already done and it keeps me thinking about what I may do next. I surprise even myself and that keeps me moving forward, along with all the inspiration right here in Denton.
What are the specific challenges in your line of work? What’s the hardest thing about doing this type of painting?
The biggest challenge I face when working is room. Because I work with spray paint and can only get the lines of my pattern so small, it forces me to work larger, which isn’t necessarily a problem, but not everyone wants a really big painting. I’ve found it’s much easier to sell smaller works—one, because the price is usually more affordable on smaller works, but also because not a lot of people have a bunch of wall space for a large painting. But because I am so accustomed to working large, I can give better deals on them.
Can you talk a little about art in the public space (i.e. on the sides of buildings) & what importance that holds to you?
The one thing I’ve noticed about murals and what makes them so special is that they draw everyone to them. You don’t have to be the biggest art aficionado to appreciate a mural. Also people that generally wouldn’t bother to look or think about art usually will after seeing a mural. Everyone thinks murals are cool.
What’s up next for you?
I want to have a big solo show, showing work from at least the past five years, even if it’s just one painting from five years ago. I want to show people how my art has evolved. I’ve been painting for a while now and still have yet to put on a solo show. I just wanted to really make sure I’m ready and have work that’s ready. I’ve seen a lot of artists rush into everything and do big solo shows with great expectations, but they haven’t fully proven themselves yet. I think I’m ready for a solo show, I just want to keep building up work. Until then I would love to do something with several other artists here in Denton. It’s easier to put on a show with other artists because the more people involved the easier it is to plan and promote. It’s just hard to get them together and really pull the trigger on anything.