Fresh Paint with Molly Mendoza

In a city known for murals, how do you get your foot (or art) through a door when you’re an emerging artist of color? Fresh Paint, a partnership between RACC’s Public Art Murals program and Open Signal, offers that door to have artists work in the public space.

Last May, Molly Mendoza kicked off the Fresh Paint program as the first artist whose mural appeared on Open Signal’s wall. One of three artists in the program’s pilot year, Molly is an illustrator currently living in Portland, Oregon. She is a BFA graduate from the Pacific Northwest College of Art and now communicates visually through editorial and narrative mediums. Editorial clients have included Adobe, The New York Times, Hazlitt, The Atlantic, and more. Beyond editorial illustration Mendoza writes and illustrates comics that center on themes of relationship and turbulent emotion. She finds herself circling back to the use of tone in her work and how to convey intense feeling through the visual rhythms of composition and mark making — all under a narrative structure. Mendoza also enjoys creating portraits via one-on-ones with her viewer using water soluble crayons. The bright colors and haphazard mark making over conversation has been a new exploration in her art practice that she hopes to pursue further.

Molly’s mural was up on Open Signal’s wall between May – September 2017. We caught up with her to talk about her work and experience with Fresh Paint:

Tell us about the mural you created for this program. Can you walk us through your process of conceptualizing a mural and bringing it to life?

Photo of Molly standing on a ladder painting the arm of the girl in her mural. Another individual is painting the bottom of the mural behind her.

Photo by Open Signal

When it was time to conceptualize the mural I knew that I wanted to not only make a mural for Open Signal but I also wanted to create a mural for the community in the area. I loved the fact that Open Signal had programs for the youth and I thought it would be so cool to engage with younger people on MLK and bring them to think, “Broadcasting…Film…I want to do that.”

The two figures are engaging with people on the sidewalk as though they are interviewing them — it is colorful, inviting, and loaded with healthy curiosity. The simplicity of their figures and the geometric nature also allows the mural to be enjoyed from any distance. All in all I wanted to make a piece that brought people inside but also made people happy on the outside.

What was it like to paint your first mural on the Open Signal building?

​It was a challenge! I tried to get away with using the projector ​but there was no way that would work. I used the good old fashioned grid method and found that, once you get through the math part, you can scale up or down any image. I made sure to use simple shapes and a limited color palette because I had a short amount of time and did not want to bite off more than I could chew. I am glad that I did! I also brought friends to help me apply extra coats to be sure the color popped. Murals really can be a group effort and a community experience — it was fun to engage with people on their commute and it made me really happy that they enjoyed the mural. It was a real show for the three days I worked on it.

Molly's illustration depicting two women standing next to each other under the shade. Art courtesy of Molly Mendoza

Artwork by Molly Mendoza

Since your Fresh Paint mural, what have you been up to? What are some lessons you’ve learned along the way since your first mural?

​Since Fresh Paint I have been working on a graphic novel that has now been a couple of years in the making. It’s funny how every new experience makes me stronger and although this graphic novel has some crazy crunch times ahead of it I find myself saying, “Well you painted a mural in less than three days so just do this.” I also have a couple of potential mural projects coming up this summer that I am very excited about! Because the Open Signal mural was my first mural, I think that I need to take all of the positive experiences I had from that process and apply it to the walls of my next projects. Be reasonable, consider the people who will be engaging with the mural the most, and reach out to friends for help.​

As an emerging muralist, what thoughts or words do you want to offer other emerging muralists/artists?

​Please learn about the history of street art and graffiti if you are creating a public mural. Also, consider the community that your mural is in, and the wall of the establishment that it is on. What is your work doing in that context? Who does it serve? Also, ​I know for myself that I am at my best when my work can communicate to most rather than an insular few. And one last thing, be sure to measure correctly and double check your grid.

What are you up to now? Where can we find you and your work?

​I am making stories with pictures at the moment but who knows what it’ll be next month. You can find me at and on Instagram at @msmollym

Did you miss our chat with Alex Chiu, another artist who participated in Fresh Paint program’s pilot year? Read his short interview here.

Artists of color are invited to participate in Fresh Paint program’s second year cohort – get application details and apply here. Deadline to apply is July 16. Interested artist information session: Join us for an artist information session June 19 to get your questions answered.

Fresh Paint is a partnership between Regional Arts & Culture Council’s Public Art Murals program and Open Signal, a community-driven media arts center. To learn more about the program, contact Salvador Mayoral IV (RACC) or Daniela Serna (Open Signal).