Artist with fine photography background is live painting all over Lake Tahoe’s South Shore
June 3, 2017
In the backyard of his South Lake Tahoe home, mixed media artist Will Eichelberger is building an art fort of sorts.
"It's a place to display art on — and inside," he says, opening up a door leading to a small closed-in space beneath what he will ultimately use as a stage for live painting at festivals and other events.
It's not the first art structure he's created. Last summer Eichelberger built a 16-by-12-by-16-foot cube for the Lake Tahoe Reggae Festival, which he painted along with the festival's thousands of attendees.
"I learned when I moved to Tahoe that I wasn't going to be able to sell artwork and meet people if I focused strictly on places where I could put my art on the wall," explains Eichelberger, who moved to the area from Boise, Idaho four years ago.
“I learned when I moved to Tahoe that I wasn’t going to be able to sell artwork and meet people if I focused strictly on places where I could put my art on the wall.”
— Will Eichelberger, mixed media artist
Combining his passion for photography and graffiti, Eichelberger typically creates pieces using large cutouts of his pictures superimposed on a painted backdrop made from reclaimed wood.
"I get the wood from old fences or pallets that people are trying to get rid of, and I'll use spray paint and acrylic paint on the background," he says. "Then I'll finish them with a hardened resin to really seal it in and protect it."
His work combines the precision of fine art photography — which he earned his degree in at Boise State — and the "wildstyle" of graffiti and street art, which he encountered through skateboarding.
"This type of freedom, it took me a long time of going through school and years of trying different methods to eventually stop, step away and teach myself to get back to making things that I see in my head or my heart — the things I want to see in the world," explains Eichelberger.
In fact, embracing that freedom is what brought Eichelberger to Tahoe in the first place.
"While finishing the last semester of my degree, my photography teacher showed me this article about a photographer that had turned a box van into a camera. He made an 1850's photo process out of the truck, and I was amazed by it," says Eichelberger.
A few months later, he had the opportunity to meet the man behind the truck, Ian Ruhter — another South Lake Tahoe-based artist. Eventually he was invited to be a part of his crew, traveling around photographing the West and producing five-foot modern tintypes of the landscapes. The work was featured in The New York Times and National Geographic.
"We work as the moving parts of the camera," he explains. "There is a lens on the front and a dark box and whatever is outside projects inside. We literally make raw film, pour it on the world's largest glass plate, dip it in liquid silver, and expose it and then develop it."
When Eichelberger is not working with Ruhter on the delivery-truck-turned-camera, he can be found live painting around town.
"I'm always out and about painting at open mic nights. On Mondays I'm at Himmel Haus, Tuesdays at the Basecamp Hotel, and this summer I'll be at the Tiki Bar at Beach Retreat & Lodge and at Live at Lakeview on Thursdays," says Eichelberger.
Next weekend he will be live painting at the inaugural Lake Tahoe Brewfest on Saturday, June 10, in the parking lot of the Swiss Chalet Village.
Eichelberger's work, along with a slew of other artists, can also be found at the Benko Art Gallery near Stateline.
"It's given me a place to hang my artwork, but every single time I go in there is another local or [regional] artist or someone who is connected to Tahoe somehow. That's inspiring," says Eichelberger.
"It's taking time, but South Lake is making serious strides in becoming more of an art town."
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