Chris Chappell Brings Beauty to the Area Through Mural Art
Writer / Renee Larr
Artist Chris Chappell beautifies Louisville and the surrounding areas one mural at a time. Chappell took to drawing at a young age, recreating Disney and cartoon characters by hand. As he progressed through high school, his art started taking on a more serious role. It wasn’t until a class at Jefferson Community College (JCC) in 1998 that he was introduced to mural artwork.
“I was in a program at JCC and I finished a painting for it, and the teacher suggested we do a mural of the painting in the hallway on the elevators,” Chappell says. “The entire class helped me. It was the first mural that wasn’t me as a kid messing around with spray paint.”
Chappell says his first creative job was at Architectural Glass Art (AGA) in the Louisville Glassworks building. He worked there from 2007 to 2013. He says it was the best job he’d ever had because of the creative environment, great people and atmosphere.
“When AGA went under in 2013, I didn’t want to go back to anything less than what I had experienced there,” Chappell says. “That’s when I was forced to take a leap of faith with my mural artwork. So that’s when I really chose to make it a career.”
Since then, Chappell has designed and painted over 100 murals throughout Louisville and the surrounding suburbs, on homes, businesses and public spaces. Mural artwork is at the height of popularity right now, Chappell says. He says he’s honored to help beautiful local areas.
“Mural artwork is very hot right now and there is a huge demand for it,” Chappell says. “More and more businesses want mural artwork on their buildings to draw attention to their business. When it comes to mural artwork in public spaces, I’m creating public art, which makes the community more vibrant and it makes members of the community proud of where they live. That’s super important to me.”
Chappell’s medium is spray paint and whatever blank space he can find, including garage doors, concrete, brick or any other porous surface. He says spray paint can cover just about anything, and the technology behind it has improved tremendously in the last few years.
“Spray paint is the go-to for mural artwork for a few different reasons,” Chappell says. “It covers quickly, allowing me to create a large piece rapidly. It’s affordable, which is important to the clients. I do work within my client’s budget, and I can get the mural done promptly.”
When a potential client approaches Chappell about investing in a mural, he says they sit together to discuss ideas. Sometimes the client comes with an idea in mind, and sometimes they allow Chappell full creative reign.
“A lot of times the client will come to me with an idea already in mind, but I do have a huge portfolio or sketchbook full of my own ideas,” Chappell says. “I just listen to each individual and then put my own twist on it. I try to incorporate my style but still aim to please the customer.”
One such mural in Jeffersontown is a combined effort of three local businesses. Pet Wants, Sweet Savannah’s Frozen Yogurt and WTR Computer Sales approached Chappell, wanting a mural depicting all three companies on a blank wall on the side of WTR Computer Sales.
“For that mural, I went back and forth with all three owners making sure each one was represented equally,” Chappell says. “I also wanted to include some J-town landmarks, if you will, and a beautiful sky. The result was a colorful mural, visible from the street, that brought attention to these businesses. It also brings some credibility to J-town with the younger crowd. J-town has some great businesses without having to go all the way downtown.”
JoAnn Wakeland, the owner of Sweet Savannah’s Frozen Yogurt, says the three businesses chose Chappell because of his extensive work throughout Louisville. According to Wakeland they received three proposals, and Chappell’s was by far the best. She says they were impressed by the fact that Chappell does his mural artwork freehand.
“Customers take selfies and then share, so in turn we get exposure,” Wakeland says. “We wanted it to be fun. We get many positive comments from people. Our thoughts were if other businesses saw this, they would join the mural train and make J-town a bit more hip. The finished product is very pleasing.”
Bill Reeves, owner of WTR Computer Sales, says the mural has attracted a lot of attention and comments from his customers. “It has greatly enhanced our building appearance and has caused people to be aware that three small businesses in the heart of J-own want to invest to make our community look good. It brings our 60-year-old building back to life again.”
Chappell mostly does the work himself but sometimes employs friends to help, depending on the mural size. He created a 3,000-square-foot mural in Doc’s Cantina, painting about 15 walls inside the restaurant.
“That was definitely the largest mural I’ve done so far,” Chappell says. “I worked with an interior designer in New York to develop an idea with a street vibe, but adding in some nature aspects. We ended up with something we all loved.”
Chappell has even collaborated with the Portland Investment Initiative to reinterpret local band My Morning Jacket’s album cover into a mural. They employed five different artists throughout the country to create five murals. He says he wanted to go big – over 80’ high. He says it was scary, and was the biggest of the four other murals.
Chappell says he loves when his clients trust him and let him do his own thing. Those types of murals are his favorite. He says the mural on Artist & Craftsman Supply Louisville is an excellent example of him having creative control. However, he says the public’s favorite mural seems to be the one at Hilltop Tavern.
Mount Saint Francis Center for Spirituality is a spiritual retreat center in Floyd County, Indiana. Chappell worked with Friar Vincent Peterson, who is also an artist, to bring a sketch of his idea to life on the side of the art building.
“Mount Saint Francis is such a beautiful place and embraces the arts, so on the side of the art studios they wanted a mural,” Chappell says. “I met with Friar Vince. He had a very loose sketch and I had to bring that to life. The Franciscans are really into nature, everything being connected and caring for the planet, so this mural represents all creatures being equal and connected to the one. ‘Laudato Si’ translates to ‘Praise Be.’”
Chappell says he takes inspiration from everything he sees in the world on a daily basis. He says he wants to draw everything, and when doing that, he’s constantly wondering what his sketch would look like on a blank wall. His vision for his future is to continue producing mural art for as long as possible.
“I’d like to keep my artwork a business for as long as possible,” Chappell says. “Every artist’s dream is to create their own art and get paid for it. It’s a true form of self-expression. I just want to keep bringing more color and beautifying neighborhoods all over. It would be awesome to be a traveling artist.”
For more information, visit chappellmurals.com.