Welcome to Create A World You Love! CAWYL is more than just a tag line; it's our compass for how we approach life, business and brewing. In this series we will be spotlighting the people we believe are doing just that... creating a world they love! We couldn't think of a better way to kick this off than with one of our favorite local artists and musicians, Paul Wilm!
If you've been a regular in our Tasting Gallery you have probably seen a good bit of Paul's vibrant creations. Paul has had numerous in-house art exhibits over the years that are always customer and employee favorites. For this episode we are digging a little deeper into who Paul is, his outlook on art, music and Birmingham, and how it all started with pizza boxes!
First off, could you give us an introduction of who you are and what you do.
My name is Paul Cordes Wilm and I’m a painter and musician. My art has been dubbed Folk Pop because I paint on found wood, using house paint and the style combines Pop Art with Folk Art. I prefer to use bright colors when I work because I’m red / green color blind and that helps me differentiate the colors better.
Where were you born and raised?
When did you move to Bham?
I was born and went to school in Mobile, Alabama but lived in the small, rural town of Theodore, Alabama. I moved to Montevallo, Alabama in the ’90s and graduated with an English degree, then moved to Birmingham when I got a job through AmeriCorps working with people living with HIV at Birmingham AIDS Outreach, which I did for 2 years.
Do you work any other jobs?
I’ve delivered papers once a week for over 10 years. the papers have changed, but the route has pretty much been the same. I started out with Black & White, then moved on to WELD and I currently deliver the Birmingham Times. It’s good extra money and I love doing it because of the dashing around, speaking to people at teach drop-off and the whole routine. Where painting is a private ritual, this one is very much the opposite!
What's the first moment you remember that attracted you to the arts?
Well, when I was little, my mother used to separate my twin brother Peter and I in church by handing us pads of paper and pens, so I feel like I’ve been drawing nearly my entire life! I remember admiring Leonardi Da Vinci’s work in a coffee table book when I was around 5 years old and immediately announcing to my family that I wanted to be an artist just like him!
In your opinion, what makes Bham unique?
What do you love about Bham?
In the last 5 - 10 years, I’d say that what really makes Birmingham unique is the city and its people’s concentrated effort to upgrade it and improve it. That involves uniting and working together for one great purpose and I applaud Birmingham for that! This city has really grown and evolved into something special and something to be proud of.
How has living in Birmingham influenced your art?
Having said that, I find myself creating some paintings that actually reflect the city and the state, be it a smiling Alabama or an image of Vulcan, Electra, Sloss or the Birmingham’s skyline. The growth and evolution of the city has been an inspiration in itself!
What does the term "artistic expression" mean to you?
I guess it would say that "artistic expression" is how each artist allows the outside world to glimpse their soul. It’s a chance to invite others to witness and see or hear (or both) one’s very own unique take on this life and world.
When did you first begin playing music?
When my twin brother Peter and I were 7 years old, we formed a band with our neighbor Ronnie called The Termites! Peter was on drums, Ronnie played guitar and I played organ. We played a few “shows” in the front yard and mostly played instrumentals, both covers and originals, but I sang on our “hit” which was called “Oh, Medusa”!
Which came first, love for music or love for art?
I’d have to say, love for music. My parents had many Beatles albums and I recall the awe, amazement and wonderment I felt each time I’d hear their tunes and especially their harmonies, sitting open-mouthed in front of the record player. Listening to certain music for me was and still a sort of religious and holy experience.
How does music influence your art and vice versa?
I don’t know if this answers your question, but I think my art is sub / unconsciously influenced by old Jazz. I constantly listen to it while I’m working and when I have a show opening, I play Duke Ellington albums because I consider that my “good luck music”! Music has filled my life ever since i can remember. I live and breathe it! When I was growing up, I was always making mixes for my friends and getting them to make them for me. Then I moved on to making online playlists and these days I’ve even been lucky enough to have my own weekly show (called Psychic Tuesday Radio) on Birmingham’s own Substrate Radio! To me, music is quite a magical thing.
You've got a blank canvas... how does the creative process start?
When I start a painting, the beginning is the most “free” and the most abstract part. I was always call it the “foundation”. I should take photos of how each painting starts out, because it always ends up looking incredibly different from the finished product! Starting the painting is always fun, because I don’t really have a concrete plan. I play with the paint and slap on and collage randomly, not caring if it makes any kind of sense.
When did you sell your first piece of art?
It’s funny remembering when I first started seriously painting. I was still in college at Montevallo and I really wanted to be a folk art painter. My style was purposefully primitive and I painted on cardboard, specifically pizza boxes! There was a cool gallery in the town at the time called the Four Winds Gallery and the owners, Wes Cunningham and Keith Dickerson let me show some paintings there. I sold my first painting to Danny Gamble, who occasional sat at the gallery and it blew my mind that someone actually wanted to pay me money for one of my pieces!
When and where was your first art show?
My first official solo show was in 2001 and it was a Naked Art Gallery here in town, back when it was a larger space on 1st Avenue North. I had just started painting in what is now dubbed my Folk Pop style. The show was called I Remember the Future and think I showed 50 or so paintings. It was exciting!
When and where was your first band performance?
If you’re referring to The Termites, it was in my family’s front yard in Theodore, AL! My punk band, Nowhere Squares’ first show was Valentine’s Day, 1996 at the now defunct Barnstormer Pizza in Montevallo. That place was really the heart of the town when it existed. It was so cool that they had band shows there, and what wild and crazy shows they were!
Where do you draw inspiration?
Any specific influences?
Well, I love the folk art of the great Mose Tolliver (Mose T) from Montgomery, AL. I had the pleasure of meeting him in 1999 and he taught me a few things including painting a “frame” around found wood pieces, using house paint and adding dashes around the painting’s image. I’ve been a fan of Pop Art Andy Warhol since high school and even had a band back then called The Warhols! I also love and appreciate the abstract expressionism and collage sensibility of Robert Rauschenberg. I collect tons of vintage advertisements and illustrations for image inspiration from old magazines and books that I find at thrift stores. Reed Books on 3rd Avenue is also a virtual treasure trove in this sense!
What local bands and artists influenced you growing up?
Mobile, AL had a thriving band scene when i was growing up. There was this Godsend of a pirate alternative radio station that was broadcast from the campus of Springhill College called WTOH (Top of the Hill) and what I loved most about it was the fact that they not only played cool, indy music, they would also intersperse local Mobile bands here and there so you listened with no bias and enjoyed all the music on the same level. They would also announce live local shows, so I started to see live local music as early as 16 years old. My favorites were Vomit Spots, The Aboriginals, and Buffalo Rome, all of which were startlingly original and very entertaining. Seeing live local bands at such a young age and hearing them on a radio station really encouraged me to take the music that my brother and I were making more seriously and want to do something with it.
What does your art say about you?
That’s a difficult question. Does my art say much about me as a person? I’ve been told that there is mischief and humor in my art and there is definitely much color in my paintings. I feel like most of my work speaks for itself, regardless of whether there is any sort of message or meaning. Like a mother constantly having children and putting them up for adoption, I’d have to say that my paintings grow up quickly and have independent lives of their own, regardless of their creator!
How do you believe the Birmingham Arts community can grow?
It’s doing fine, so far! The scene isn’t really a competitive one, which helps a lot. Artists here seem to go out of their way to gather and support each other, which is a very healthy thing.
Aside from this interview :), what's your proudest accomplishment?
I have two. First of all, I’m very proud of the Vulcan statue I painted that stands in front of the BJCC. I’m also very proud of the “Love Is Blind” mural I painted in the Birmingham Museum of Art.
And finally, any words of encouragement for up and coming artists?
Don’t be afraid to show your art anywhere, whether it’s a restaurant at a yard sale or any place. Make your art visible, no matter what and price your pieces sensibly, making them affordable to most. People will thank you for that! Also, stay in one place. If you’re discouraged as an artist, moving around from place to place will only keep you discouraged! Embrace the area you are showing in and get an idea of the community there. Meeting people half-way always helps!
You can find more of Paul's available work at PaulCordesWilm.com