Zero Degrees. Interview with Eric Wang and Jianrong Lin

Two new interior murals appeared in Gainesville along with a new place. If you haven’t visited Zero Degrees yet, make sure to stop by and take a picture of the murals and beautiful ice cream rolls. 

The design idea was pretty much detailed and complicated. Two Gainesville local artists were suggested by Iryna Kanishcheva, but both refused to take the challenge. Finally, Eric Wang invited the developer of the idea, an illustrator and muralist Jianrong Lin. Despite a really detailed graphics work,  New Yorker painted it extremely neat without any special equipment! GNV Urban Art took an interview with both – the owner and the artist – while observing the process.

 
Eric, please tell a little bit about yourself? How and why did you decide to open this business and were there any difficulties and struggles?
 
I am a former UF Graduate with major in Finance and worked at an investment bank for a year after graduation. I quickly realize that I don’t like the environment and want to do something different. Therefore, I left the bank and got a job at a seafood wholesale company in Orlando and quickly became the general manager of the company. A friend of mine introduce me to the ice cream roll business while I was in New York one day and I quickly became very interested in the concept and want to bring it down to Florida. I have always love Gainesville since my college years and thought this will be a perfect place to set the new ice cream concept. 
 
Yes, there were a lot of delays along the way to build this store. However, I think this is pretty normal since not everything will go as you plan and this is the first time I’m doing business in Gainesville, so there are regulations and rules I wasn’t aware of at the time. Overall, everything came out pretty good. 
 

 

What about you, Jianrong? Where are you from, what do you do?  How is life in NYC?

 I’m a New York-based freelance illustrator and muralist. My illustration work is represented by Richard Solomon Art Representative. It’s mainly targeted for editorial and advertising markets. I paint murals alongside with my illustration work, using the name Daren. I was born and raised in mainland China and immigrated to the states at age 17. I was living with my family in Port Saint Lucie, Florida, for the first five years of my life in the US. I attended high school and community college there. I moved to New York to pursue illustration in 2012. Compare to all the places I’ve been to, New York is the wildest and richest. On the good side, New York provides me with everything I need for my career and personal life. On the contrary, I have to keep up with its never slowing pace of life. It can be overwhelming sometimes.

How did you come up with the idea to create the mural, Eric?
 
I wanted to create a store that is both fun and relaxing for the customers. Making the Ice Cream Roll is like an art, where we take fresh ingredients and create the ice cream in front of the customer’s eye and then decorate it with varieties of toppings to make the perfect cup. At the beginning, I know customers will be taking multiple pictures of their ice cream and share it on social media. Therefore, I want to enhance that experience by having something artistic and cool on the wall for them to take photos as well.  
 
 
How did you choose the artist?
 
After I realize I want to do some murals. I contacted my friend Jianrong Lin in New York. He is a very talented artist based in New York and has done several designs for me in the past. I told him what I want and my intention for the murals. He quickly came up with a couple of designs for me to choose from and I was very happy with it. Unfortunately, at the time, he is working on a project in New York and wasn’t able to come down to Florida to paint the murals. Therefore, I contacted some local artists with the help of Iryna. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out with them in the end. While I was trying to find someone to paint the mural, Jianrong called me one day and told me his project in New York was on pause and could come down to Florida for a week. We quickly made the arrangement and he came to Gainesville to paint the murals. 
 
 

Tell about your experience working on this project, Jianrong? Did you like Gainesville? 

My mural work for Zero Degrees was pretty intense. I was working overnight for a little more than a week. Because I was on a tight schedule, I didn’t have much to really experience the town; However, Eric and his wife, Jane, are good friends of mine. We went out to eat and drink for few times. Although it was short and brief, I really enjoyed my stay in Gainesville.

What is your method to get such neat lines and perfect clean work? I was really impressed! What are your tools?

 I use projection to make sure my painting on the wall looks exactly like the image I created on my computer. Then I use a pastel pencil to trace the lines onto the wall. Once I have all the line work done, I start using masking tapes and exacto blade to create stencils for the shapes I need to paint. I use a mini roller to keep the colors even and flat. I use acrylic paint markers for thin lines and small areas. My attention for details along with my perfectionism help keeping the mural neat and clean.

Do you have a formal education?

 I studied Fine art and Graphic Design at Indian River State College in Florida. Then I continued my education at Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, where I received degrees in Fashion Illustration and General Illustration. Right before graduation, I landed my first freelance illustration job, working on a couple of medical illustrations for Merck Pharmaceutical. Following a successful first project, I was contacted by Merck again to illustrate a series of medical advertising posters. Shortly after this job I worked on a storyboard campaign for AT&T’s TV commercial with Grey Advertising – these jobs kick-started my illustration career. Within a year after graduation, I had works accepted into Society of Illustrators’ Exhibition and the 3×3 illustration magazine’s annual.

 

How long have you been painting murals? What do you enjoy about the work you do most of all? 

I started painting murals in my Junior year at FIT (2015). My first mural job came to me through a friend. I painted a photorealistic mural for a Korean Seafood restaurant. Since then, I’ve been worked on close to thirty murals.

I love making art. I draw every day and constantly thinking about what’s the next piece I want to create. I care a lot about the messages my art conveys, especially with my illustrations. I like to put a little bit of dark humor into my images. I usually start my illustration with ink and brush on paper, then I scan it to the computer for the coloring. As of now, most of my mural works are for commercial space decoration, so I lost a lot of artistic freedom in the way. When creating a mural, my first step is to design and draw out the image. Then I combine the image with a picture of the wall to create a mock-up for the final look. This way, the client can see exactly what they are getting, no surprises. Once the design is confirmed, I projected it onto the wall and start painting.

What do you think about the result, Eric? 
 
I love the end result of the murals. Jianrong is very very detail with his work and took the time on each stroke. He did not rush a bit and make every little detail as perfect as possible. You could really tell his passion and love for what he does just by watching him paint. Sometime, I would just stand there and admire his work while he paints and lose track of time. The process was amazing and the result was even more astonishing. Again, thank you Iryna for everything and come visit at the store sometimes! 
 
Thank you, guys, for this interview and the new beautiful place in Gainesville! I wish you good luck in your business and future plans! 
 
Time-lapse videos edited by the artist:
 
 
 

Find out more about the artist by visiting darenart.net.

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