I bet you’re familiar with a particular Mario Wall mural in downtown Fargo—and if not, you definitely need to hit up the alley between 3rd and 4th Ave off Broadway! Lauren of Starling Artistry is the painter behind the famous scene along with other large murals that are often interactive—plus pet portraits, classes for pet portraits, and beyond. Meet the multi-talented maker behind the colorful, whimsical fun this month!
Tell us a bit about yourself.
The “where are you from” question is always the hardest for me—my mother was in the military, so I’ve been all over! I was born in Germany, was raised for part of my childhood in South Carolina, and moved to Minnesota as a teen. I moved to the FM area for college in the fall of 2011, and I’ve been here since!
I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminal Justice with a focus in Psychology and an emphasis in Juvenile Justice from Minnesota State University Moorhead. I am interested in furthering my education in Art Therapy. The majority of my work experience is in the mental health/human services/ case management field. I love the intersection where art meets mental health. I currently work at a treatment center for teens and being able to work hands-on alongside them and watch their progress over time is incredibly fulfilling.
Most of my free time is spent drawing, riding bike, taking pictures, listening to nerdy podcasts, crushing high scores in Beat Saber, and walking around town playing Pokemon Go with my friends.
I love writing poetry and spoken word. From 2016 to the start of 2020, I was hosting open mic poetry nights monthly. I haven’t started them up since then, and I really miss the community that was built, so I’m looking for another all-ages venue to host them again.
Tell us how you got started with your business.
To be honest, I had no intention of actually starting a business! At one of my previous jobs, my coworker asked me if I could paint a portrait of her dog. I said sure, and over time, the more that I did, the more my other coworkers wanted work done, too—whether it was a pet portrait or a mural in their own homes. All of these organic referrals over time allowed me to build a diverse portfolio. As time went on, I was getting so much work that I didn’t have enough time to have both a full-time job and keep up with my art. I’ve never paid a single cent on advertising—all of my business has come via word of mouth and referrals, and I’m grateful for the relationships I’ve built along the way.
I painted my first large-scale wall in 2016 titled “Perspective.” This wall was tucked away on a rooftop, so no one could really see me unless they were on the ground way far away. While in the middle of painting the piece, however, they must have seen me—the owners had erected a fence so that the rooftop was no longer accessible. So, I eventually just climbed over the fence and kept painting until I felt it was complete.
The second mural I did was in 2017 titled “Create!” It was, once again, without permission. I received a “Cease and Desist” letter from the property management company, and, once again, I continued to paint until I felt it was finished. Nothing bad ever came of it, thank goodness, but the Fargo Moorhead Visitors Bureau had it on the front page of their website for several months, so that’s got to mean something, right?
The third mural I did (finally with permission!) is the one almost everyone knows me for—the #FargoMarioWall in 2018! Ever since then, the desire for murals in Fargo-Moorhead exploded, and I’m proud of having a hand in sort of creating the second wave of their rise in popularity in the area.
My favorite type to do are the interactive ones, where you can pose and play as if you were in the world of the painting! Seeing families and individuals interacting as if they were truly there is fun and rewarding.
I’ve started getting into creating ZIP code murals that have a similar feel to those ones with the retro postcard-style font. I think it’s a fun way to showcase the unique aspects of the town and area. I’ve researched to see if the concept is prevalent anywhere else, and I’m not seeing any anywhere else, so I’m excited to make my mark in this unique, individual way.
What is your personal favorite item or piece you’ve created so far?
My favorite piece that I’ve done so far is a large canvas piece for a friend of mine of a crown broken into two pieces. It’s messy and splattery, a bit abstract, and has some graffiti aspects, and is very personal for me, as it represents the transition of our friendship and the different ways it takes shape now.
You teach painting classes—tell us more!
I started teaching classes solo in 2019 when my friend Rachel, who organizes “Downtown Dogs Fargo-Moorhead,” a local dog owner meetup group that hosts dog-related events, suggested that I combine peoples’ love of their furry companions and the fun of painting with friends!
So I specifically teach pet portrait painting classes—specifically, on how to paint a picture of your pet! I named the events “Paws, Paint & Pints” as sometimes the events take place in a bar or restaurant; I include a free drink with each ticket.
Where can people find your work?
My StarlingArtistry.com website is still under construction, but keep an eye out for it coming soon!