Wylie Caudill is everywhere.
He doesn't miss a show at the Lexington Opera House. He sets the scene for a night out at The Grove. He keeps kids entertained as they enjoy their ice cream at Crank and Boom.
Exactly how does he pull this off? Through his murals. In bringing color and life to Lexington's mundane brick walls, Caudill has changed the aura of the city.
His everyday outfit offers one or more pieces of clothing doused in paint, indicating that he spends most of his time with a paintbrush in hand. Caudill does not shy from self-expression.
Caudill was raised by creatives. His mother and four of his aunts are involved in the arts. One is a musician, another an actor, one a writer and another a sewer and quilter.
"They never pushed art upon me, but they were always doing it and I thought it was very cool," Caudill said. "I was always surrounded by art, therefore, I was influenced by it."
Caudill said he never planned for art to be his career. In high school, he took Advanced Placement art classes and knew he enjoyed it but never labeled himself as an artist. He then went on to study broadcasting and electronic media with an emphasis in film technique at Eastern Kentucky University.
One day on campus, Caudill decided to pick up a box of chalk and began doodling on the sidewalk for fun. His chalk work did not entail tic-tac-toe boards and hopscotch. He concocted life-size masterpieces of anime characters and animals that looked like they could sit up from laying on the sidewalk.
The dreaded walk to class became an art show and Eastern Kentucky University students reveled in it. The rain became everyone's enemy as it turned the chalk cartoons into a puddle of mixed colors. Yet, once the sun returned, it offered Caudill a clean to create another showpiece.
The chalk creations kept appearing in different spots around campus — everywhere from an Egyptian sphinx on the side of a pillar to a kaleidoscope-colored chameleon on the concrete. Caudill even created various sets of wings students could stand in front of for an Instagram opportunity.
Even at that point, he said he saw his art as more of a hobby.
"I wish I called myself an artist sooner. I didn't really call myself an artist until I was making money, but that was stupid," Caudill said. "If you are making art anywhere, you should call yourself an artist, no matter the money of whether or not it is your career."
Graduation came and Caudill did not pursue art as his full-time career. He became a salesman at Kentucky for Kentucky, a local T-shirt company. After starting to work there, Caudill said he piddled with chalk work on rare occasion. He thought nothing more of his chalk art than a recreational activity.
When Caudill's fellow employees at Kentucky for Kentucky found out he was an artist, they requested he paint a mural for the company. They saw a marketing incentive in painting their logo in a few different places, so Caudill agreed. This kick-started his career as an artist, he said.
People began asking for commissions, ranging from pet portraits and canvas paintings of castles. He did a lot of theater set designs and even painted wall art in the interior renovations of the Rohs Opera House.
Through these commissions, Caudill saved enough money to pay the next month's rent. With this, Caudill said he decided to quit his job at Kentucky for Kentucky to pursue art full time.
Caudill said he never had a five-year plan, he just took it day by day.
He encourages all emerging artists to take the leap despite how scary it is.
"Once you start doing something full time, you start to get really good at it," Caudill said. "When the pressure is on, it just happens."
It truly did "just happen" for Caudill. His assertive, daring confidence has taken his artwork all over Kentucky. It appears on multiple restaurant and bar facades, on the walls of professional interior design work, inside business workspaces and schools, conversation pieces at weddings and soon to be on fiberglass horses.
Caudill said he hopes to expand his work even further.
"I consider myself to be a goldfish, in that I can get as big as the fish tank I am in. I took over [EKU's] campus and once that was conquered, I moved onto Lexington," Caudill said. "Hopefully, I can move to bigger cities, then something
national and across the USA."