I recently became of aware of Wylie Caudill’s art after exploring Cynthiana. Seeing his work prompted me to reach out to him to find out more about his current projects, how he’s been affected by COVID-19 and what the future holds for him as an artist. Oh, and I asked him some personal questions to get to know him outside of the art realm as well.
What is your educational background in art?
I majored in Broadcasting and Electronic Media at EKU and minored in studio art.
Were you born and raised in KY or did you move here?
I grew up in Cynthiana, KY. The first 19 years of my life were there until I went to college.
What was your first large mural and where is it located?
The first large scale mural I did was actually done with chalk on EKU’s campus. So it only lasted a few days until the rain came. But I believe my first outdoor, public, permanent mural was a set of wings I painted on the back of a hardware store in Cynthiana. I completed those wings in June of 2018 and you can still see them in person. I spent a couple years creating public art of that scale beforehand, just none of it was permanent until that point
What has been your most challenging art installation?
I get a lot of challenging commissions. I would go as far as to say everything I do has a challenge to it. Some more than others of course. But I think the most challenging part of my profession is dealing with certain environments that I’m in. Sometimes it’s blazing hot and sometimes it’s freezing cold but, I have deadlines, so I paint in these conditions. Sometimes I have to paint a mural very high on a wall and I don’t always have access to the needed equipment to reach such a height. Maybe the equipment is just a tiny ladder that I have to stand on the very top of. So sometimes it’s kind of dangerous, strenuous or downright physically demanding to deal with weather, painting in nooks and crannies, or painting 3 stories off the ground.
What is your favorite medium to work with?
I never get tired of painting with acrylics. I do love to work with chalk, although my hands can really take a beating from all the rubbing and dryness associated with chalk.
How long does the average mural take?
I get this question a lot from followers and clients. And honestly I may never have an accurate answer. Of course it always depends on the size and what you want painted. But it also depends on my skill level. There are a lot of subjects that I love to paint and have been painting for a long time and I’ve really figured them out and I figured out my style and how I’d like to paint certain things. But every day is a new day and people want different things painted so sometimes the client will want something really specific and unique done. And that would take me a lot longer to paint because I would want to Practice a bit before hand and plan. So honestly some murals take me four hours and some take me nearly 2 weeks.
What is the biggest/most surprising lesson you’ve learned since you’ve started your career?
Confidence is absolutely everything. It took me way too long to really start referring to myself as an artist. For a long time, I didn’t believe I was good enough to give myself that title. And that reflected my prices. I didn’t think I was good enough, so I charged next to nothing for my work. But after being on my own for a little while, moving out of my hometown to Lexington, I just slowly started to learn that this is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. I can look at my paintings and say this is quality work. Nobody else can do what I do. And once I fully realized that I am the only person in the world capable of creating what I create, I saw so much growth in my artistry and in myself.
What has been your favorite project?
I recently painted the interior of the historic Rohs Opera House. That was nearly a three week project. I painted the walls, the proscenium, the balcony, the whole theater. And I remember when I would finish painting for the day, I would leave the theater so anxious to come back the next day to keep working. I just really knew that I was doing a good job and I was having fun. And it was so amazing to watch this building completely transform around me, 360 degrees, knowing that I was the lucky guy who got to make this happen.
What would be your dream project/location?
Anywhere downtown of any city. I love to work in public and talk to people and meet people.
Have you ever had a mentor? How did they help shape you as a person?
I can’t say I’ve truly had a mentor. When it comes to painting, I’ve never really had someone guide me or teach me techniques. I’ve had art professors, sure, but my minor in art really just gave me time to practice. I can’t say I took away very much from individuals in school. And when it comes to my business as an artist, I haven’t had anyone show me the best route to get clients or make the most money. So I’m definitely doing everything on my own. But that’s not to say that there haven’t been a handful of people who have given me incredible opportunities which I have learned from and grown.
What’s your no-fail go-for-it motivational song?
Beyoncé’s Homecoming Live Album, specifically Don’t Hurt Yourself.
What’s the one thing in life you’re so glad you did?
I quit my retail job to be a full-time artist. I even really liked my retail job. but there was a point where I was getting a lot of commissions but I didn’t have the time to do them. And I just knew that they were going to be bigger opportunities coming my way that I didn’t wanna pass up so I just sort of took the leap and quit my job.
Who’s the one person who changed your life?
My parents, but they didn’t change my life. It’s the fact that they didn’t change my life and never tried to and don’t want to. Both my parents have fully supported me and cheered me on my entire life. I’m pretty fortunate in that sense. It’s not very common that parents let their kids live out their dream jobs. I was never pressured to go into business or law or the medical world. My parents always knew that I was good enough to be an artist so they never tried to change my life and I can’t thank them enough.
How has COVID impacted you/your career?
I had several jobs lined up for the months of March and April. All Of which were painting sets for plays and musicals. I had just designed my first set and finished painting it. The day the musical was going to open, The show got canceled. Then the three shows I was supposed to paint the following two months got canceled as well. So I was wide open. I’ve really been taking this time, though, to create an inventory of my own. When you paint murals for a living you don’t always have time to just paint canvases to have yourself. So hopefully I can create enough during this time to start looking into gallery spaces.
What projects do you have planned for this year?
I’ve got a few small commissions and interior murals coming up. But right now honestly no one is in the mindset to have a huge painting or mural done. A lot of people are saving money and people don’t know what the next day brings. So right now I’m very passionate about going downstairs to paint in my studio every day and painting exactly what I want. And I’m even more excited when all of this is over to see what kind of art comes out of isolation.
What artist would you most like to work with and why?
I would really like to collaborate with an artist outside of visual arts. I’ve always had this idea of painting a space for musicians to play in and interact with. Or I would love to do the same thing for a dancer. I’m definitely not opposed to collaborating with a fellow visual artist but what really peaks my interest is collaborating with different art forms.
Tell me about your recent work on Rohs Opera House.
What I didn’t mention earlier is that the Rohs Opera House holds such a special place in my heart. I love theatre and I love to act and that building was where I began acting. I have spent so much time in that building growing up and have made so many memories that it was just a huge honor to go into that building as a professional and transform it.
Is your art available for purchase – if so, where/how?
Absolutely! Check out some of my work at WylieCaudill.com. Send me an email at email@example.com or message me on Facebook or Instagram @wyliecaudillart. Hire me for a mural or commission Or if you see something on my website or social media that you really like, message me and see if it’s for sale.