Joe Pagac and Fred Tieken on Vermillion Studios

It's about time Phoenix sees some serious mural love. In the interest of giving credit to their artists and because we're losing track of the times we've said, "Woah, when did that go up?", we bring you Mural City, a series on the murals springing up around town -- their artists, their hosts, and their inspirations.

Joe Pagac and Fred Tieken on Vermillion Studios
Photo by Claire Lawton, mural by Joe Pagac, design by Fred Tieken

In five days, Joe Pagac painted 1,950 square feet -- the west-facing wall of Vermillion Studios.

The Tucson-based painter's quick to say it's not "his" mural. When 77-year-old Fred Tieken had a liver transplant this year, his old friend and studio owner Dan Vermillion decided it was time for a little celebration.

Joe Pagac and Fred Tieken on Vermillion Studios
Photo by Claire Lawton, mural by Joe Pagac, design by Fred Tieken

Tieken's a graphic designer by trade, but says he started painting a year or two ago. He recently created a panoramic view of First Fridays in downtown Phoenix. Vermillion liked the scene so much, he wanted it on the side of his building.

But he and Tieken knew they'd have to find someone game for a large-scale project.

He called Pagac, who's known for the huge murals he's painted all over downtown Tucson and for the rotating mural he paints every First Friday on Eye Lounge gallery on Roosevelt Row. Pagac liked the idea of a challenge.

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Armed with a few paint cans, a bucket of brushes, his paint-covered scaffold, and a three-foot print of Tieken's First Friday, Pagac started painting. He worked 9-, 10-, 11-hour days with a few "finish lines" that marked his progress.

"It's interesting to paint someone else's design," Pagac says while taking a break from the scaffold to say hi to Tieken, who occasionally drops by to see the progress. "But I've also been able to see how you paint and how you use color."

Tieken laughs and comments on how cool it is to see his painting large-scale. He tells Pagac to add a few more lines here and there, and he notes how close Pagac replicated his Downtown buildings.

The First Friday scene, he says, was a combination of scenes he'd experienced while walking around the galleries since he started painting. There are cops on motorcycles, teens with mohawks, cats, dogs, the "ArtFink" trolley, and the signature fire breather.

"First Friday's not just about the art scene any more," Tieken says. "It's all these people, all these interactions -- positive and negative."

Joe Pagac and Fred Tieken
Joe Pagac and Fred Tieken
photo by Claire Lawton

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