When I saw the mural going up on the side of The Accordion Club, I was immediately enthused. Turns out that I follow the artist, Tedd Anderson, on his fabulous Instagram account. I reached out and set-up an email interview, as he is out of the country for the next six months. You can still vote for him in the Indy Weekly’s Best of the Triangle contest here.
Anderson told me the story of both The Accordion’s mural and his own journey as an artist.
My first question was how did the gig come about?
Anderson reported, “A good friend of mine, Mike Adamo, is friends with Scott Richie, the owner of The Accordion Club. Mike helped Scott a great deal with building the inside of the bar. Scott mentioned to Mike that he was thinking of commissioning a mural for the bar and Mike said he knew a guy. So Mike set up a meeting with Scott and I. The rest is history.”
As it so often is, our community ties, our networks connect us.
I wanted to know if Anderson had talked with Richie about the concept. How did the idea game plan evolve?
Anderson told me, “When I first met Scott (Richie) I asked about the story behind The Accordion Club moniker. He explained that his grandfather and father were lifelong carnies. He traveled with his grandfather, setting up the stage for him to play the accordion at carnivals. Scott’s services were needed because his grandfather was blind.”
Anderson went on, “After hearing this story, I knew my work would be perfect for the project. I have a very colorful, lowbrow, sideshow kinda vibe to my style. Scott (Richie) stressed that he is a fan of my work and would therefore be very open about the design I created.”
This dovetailed perfectly with what I later learned about Anderson’s own family background. Like The Accordion’s artistic homage to Richie’s father, grandfather, and family heritage, the muralist Anderson was deeply influenced by his own family history and his Dad’s choices.
Anderson stated, “My father was a major creative encouragement. [He] was much older than any of my peers [Dad’s], sixty years-old when I was born, so I grew up with a Dad embracing his later years, bucket list style. At sixty-five he decided he’d finally canoe the entire length of the Mississippi River. [He] wrote a book about it. At seventy-eight, he canoed the Yukon River with his older brother. [He] inspired me throughout my childhood. He lamented that he’d gotten a degree in journalism rather than creative writing, and considering creative writing much more important than applied writing. All [this] combined with my father telling me at every moment that I would be successful at anything I chose to pursue.”
It sounds like a great foundation. Given the nearly fifty hours and design time that went into creating the finished work, it was necessary.
I asked Anderson to tell the Clarion Content a little about the process of creating the mural in conjunction with his client’s vision and memories of his family.
Firstly he noted, “The initial design was just the black line work without a color palette. [I had to make] sure to keep the dimensions translatable to the wall, which measured to 25 ft. x 9 ft., so the line drawing I came up with was 25 in. x 9 in. with an inch grid drawn over it.”
Anderson added that Richie (the bar owner) allowed him to pick his own color palette. He knew from conversation that Richie liked bright colors. Anderson chose to go with a six color combination.
He told me, “I allowed for these six colors to be applied in a step by step process as I painted the mural. I began with a 25ft x 9ft chalk grid applied with a snap line.”
“I then drew out the basic linework of the design in a yellow acrylic paint marker. I then worked step by step, choosing a color from my palette, filling in multiple shapes in the design, then allowing the next color/shapes to be filled in based on my previous choices.”
“I like to work intuitively, allowing for interpretation as I work through a design. This is why I did not choose a color palette with the original design. I wanted to allow for an organic growth of the mural to occur.”
“I also enjoy painting around the shapes of the design, leaving a bit of the original line work (the yellow paint marker) visible throughout the design. There is only one layer of paint on the entire mural. The under-drawing is just as important to me as the finished mural, thus I like the preparatory linework to be visible in the end product.”
Anderson attributes his earliest artistic inklings to his older brother, David, who he looked up to.
Anderson stated that, “He [David] used to draw all these ratchet dudes with one ton earrings tearing their lobes off. I followed suite. As we grew up, I took on these creative pursuits, aping my older brother, eventually taking it further than him. He doesn’t pursue the arts today and I do.”
Anderson went on to add, “I also have an older brother who is a graphic designer. He sent me letters with elaborate, hand drawn scripts throughout the years that I realize now influenced me greatly. He is also a fine art photographer.”
Anderson also gave the Clarion Content the nitty-gritty details on the materials used to create the mural.
“I created the original design on bristol board with a micron pen, using graphite for the inch square grid work. The foot square grid was created with a blue chalk snap line. The linework of the design was done with a 1″ yellow Deco Acrylic paint marker. The paint was Glidden Semi-Gloss Outdoor Paint. I finished the mural with a layer of Acrylic Clear Gloss Coat as a protective layer.” (Links inserted by editor.)
The result is a fantastic, whimsical, enthusiastic piece that seems perfect for the side of a bar owned by the son of a son of a carney.
But it almost didn’t happen.
Anderson related that, “After a frustrating senior year with my high school art teacher, I began my freshman year at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) as an undecided freshman adamant that I’d never major in fine arts.”
His background might have suggested otherwise.
Anderson noted, “My mother raised me with Montessori tenets, which push a child’s creativity with the caveat that said individuality mustn’t infringe upon anyone else’s rights. In grade school I was in a program for artistic kids called Creative Arts. They would pull me out of normal class once a week for an intensive art specific class. I was placed in this special class at my mother’s urging. [Her] encouragement continued through college.”
Even as he was insisting, in prototypical teenage fashion, he wanted to do the opposite.
At college he got nine months of consistent reminders from his mother that he was gifted in the visual arts.
Anderson stated that, “Half my art school friends parents declared they’d rescind financial support once they declared a fine art degree, while I was receiving the opposite from my mom.”
He applied to art school and went on to receive his BFA in Painting from UIUC in 2007.
Anderson has had solo shows everywhere from Chicago, Illinois to Dunedin, New Zealand, including locally at The Carrack, The Block Gallery, Room 100 at Golden Belt, Artspace Raleigh, and CAM Raleigh.
When he gets back from his six month trip with his partner across Northern Europe, Ireland, and the United Kingdom, you will be able to catch him at/in The Patchwork Market, Zine Machine, Supershop, and The Hand to Hand Market in Greensboro selling affordable art (screenprints, t-shirts, pins, stickers, etc.).
Anderson offered that while he does not have any specific mural commissions lined up at the moment, he is “open for business”.
Like the notes the float off the side of The Accordion Club, Anderson says music has always played a role in his visual art.
“I cite music and the art that accompanies it as one or my largest influences. My guitar teacher, Ben Jinapantha, was a huge influence on me. I took lessons from him (after my brother started taking drum lessons, naturally) for six years, starting at twelve years-old. He introduced me to guitar playing, but also opened me up to the idea of curating my own music tastes. He taught me to search out my own music. [Go] to record stores in Chicago and find obscure CDs rather than being fed whatever the radio gave me. I still remember the evening when a Borders opened in Gurnee, Illinois (my home town). Ben brought me with him and excitedly played track after track for me on the headphones in store.”
Anderson added, “My parents also emphasized reading. I was a book worm as soon as I learned to read, graduating to Stephen King and Michael Crichton novels by the time I was twelve. I am always reading some sort of long format book. The written word has a large influence on my artwork.”
“All this to say, I didn’t necessarily receive an upbringing that was specific to visual arts; I was given a platform to pursue whatever I felt was fit for my efforts. Agency was meted out in abundance.”
Durham is the lucky recipient of the creative flowering that yielded. If you haven’t seen Anderson’s mural at The Accordion Club, part of our city’s fantastic and growing collection of murals, you most certainly should.