CHAPEL HILL — Scott Nurkin learned at the ladder of Michael Brown.
So perhaps it’s fitting that the newest mural in downtown Chapel Hill is being painted not by hometown artist Brown – the brush behind the “Blue Mural,” “Sea Turtles” and big “Pencil” – but by his former apprentice.
“He basically taught me more in four years than I learned anywhere else,” Nurkin said.
Nurkin is recreating a classic postcard, Greetings from Chapel Hill, on the back wall of college hangout He’s Not Here on West Rosemary Street. Big, bold letters will outline iconic town scenes against a field of Carolina blue dotted with white dogwood blossoms.
The 37-year-old painter and drummer in two bands stepped off the ladder last weekend to show the model for his canvas, a 1941 postcard by German printer Curt Teich.
Teich (pronounced tyke) created the “Greetings from ...” series, and 365,000 of his company’s postcards now reside in the Curt Teich Postcard Archives in the Lake County Discovery Museum in Wauconda, Ill. Nurkin got permission from the archives to use the postcard.
“They were the largest producers of postcards in the world,” said Chris Pyle, the museum’s manager of historical resources. “We get hundreds and hundreds of people a year that use (the archives). We’ve had several researchers in this week.”
Nurkin, a Charlotte native, may be best-known locally for 19 paintings of music pioneers – Nina Simone, John Coltrane, Charlie Daniels – that once lined the walls of Pepper’s Pizza, now closed.
Those paintings, which he framed in thrift-shop finds and drilled into the wall to keep from getting stolen, will be going on display at the UNC music department sometime later this month.
Chapel Hill leaders want to see Rosemary Street attract a bohemian, start-up crowd as the town grows. The town got about a dozen proposals for the mural and paid a $2,500 commission.
“I think it’s a beautiful piece,” public and cultural arts administrator Jeffrey York said. “I think it’s going to be a nice addition to Rosemary Street.”
Brown, who is now finishing a mural in Elkin and competing for a major project in Washington, D.C., said Nurkin has done excellent work and learned from his example of continually embracing new styles and subjects.
“I’m glad he’s keeping a Chapel Hill tradition alive,” Brown said Wednesday. “I’d even like to do a few more myself.”
Nurkin, still working on the letter A mid-week, estimates he needs four full days to finish the mural, which with family obligations could stretch out the timeline a few more weeks.
“It’s like the slowest mural of all time,” he said. “I can only paint nights and weekends.”
Not that he minds.
“I wanted to do a mural because this is what I do.”