Artist Bren Bataclan teamed up with local students to bring the best of North Carolina to life in a whimsical mural at Lacy Elementary School.
This week, Bataclan taught students at the Raleigh school to draw his signature animated characters with big eyes and smiles. Then the kids created 50 characters of their own that represent North Carolina.
“I’m going to really enjoy painting these,” Bataclan told students Monday.
“This is one of the best suns I’ve ever seen,” he continued. “And these are some very creative veggies.”
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The mural is shaped in the outline of North Carolina and is filled with people, animals, plants and landmarks that make the state unique, including the Biltmore Estate in Asheville and coastal lighthouses.
Bataclan is a Boston artist who has helped paint murals at other schools, including some in North Carolina. He also hosts a YouTube puppet show that features drawing lessons, and he leaves random paintings around cities he visits all over the world.
Some Lacy parents reached out to Bataclan about painting a mural, and the school invited him.
Students eagerly watched throughout the week as Bataclan brought their drawings to life in a painting that stretches across one of the school’s entrance ways. There were many “oohs and aahs” as the kids passed by and pointed to characters they drew.
“These are my clients,” Bataclan said. “I’m inspired by all their work. They are so amazing.”
Lacy Elementary has already asked Bataclan to come back and work with students on two more murals – one of the United States and another of the world and outer space.
“I think it’s very generous that he’s doing this for a public school,” said Lacy fourth-grader Miriam Ragsdale, who hopes to become an author and illustrator. She drew a musician for the mural and said she enjoyed taking part in a project that will stay with the school forever.
“You can tell your younger siblings you helped create it,” she said.
Bataclan, who has been an artist for 13 years, said his work is inspired by the color schemes he saw as a child in the Philippines and the anime he enjoyed watching.
He started painting with children in Boston in the early 2000s when the anti-bullying movement was at its peak. School leaders thought his paintings were a good, yet subtle way to bring more kindness and encouragement into schools.
After painting his first mural, Bataclan decided to incorporate students’ work into his murals to celebrate their talent. He thought students would respect school property they helped contribute to.
“Since then, I’ve included their drawings,” he said. “When I show kids how to draw my characters, they are easy to mimic and the students feel empowered and can easily create their own.”
Bataclan’s motto is “pay it forward.” He said left about 30 paintings around Raleigh with notes that read, “This painting is yours if you promise to smile at random people more often.”
Knopf: 919-829-8955, @tayknopf