If you’ve ever spent time with artist/sign painter Chris Opp, you know you need to move fast because the self-styled ‘Old Schooled Sign Painter’ makes every minute count. Opp, the owner of Artistic Shark, is a one-man band of creativity whose goal is to reinvigorate historic signage and paint murals across America.
He and his self-contained & partially solar-powered paint shop/sleeping quarters/truck regularly hit the road, popping in on Chambers of Commerce and Mayor’s Offices across the nation to let them know that he is in the town and is available to ‘make their city and God great again’ by painting American flags, signs or murals of every description. He is nothing if not creative, prolific and fast.
Though you might not know Opp by name, you have definitely seen his local work. In downtown Shreveport, he is the one that was tapped to bring one of the area’s most-loved ‘ghost signs’ back to life, the century-old Uneeda Biscuit mural. His work on Uneeda led to his recent hiring for work on the Williams Music Co. sign.
The signage on the side of the Spring Street Museum in the 500 block of Spring Street is also his work, the Rolie Polie Olie mural in the 100 block of Milam was re-done by him, and the mural on the side of the ‘Shreveport News’ building at 1124 Marshall Street is his, too.
In fact, the chances are better than average that any mural you see in the local area could be an Opp work. Part of the reason is that he truly, madly, deeply loves what he does, even when the temperature is 104 degrees. “I love being outside painting,” Opp told me while maneuvering the lift up to allow me to mark ‘sign painting’ off my bucket list.
He pulled a pencil tin out of his back pocket filled with artist charcoals. “You always outline what you’re looking to repaint with charcoal to give yourself a line to follow,” he told me. “Hold the brush like this and do your edges first. You fill in the holes and gaps afterward by tapping the brush up and down. Don’t worry about drips. I don’t charge extra for those.”
Opp’s background as a painting teacher was coming through, his desire to have his guests on the lift enjoy the life as much as he. The ‘C’ that I was painting was done in 20 minutes, four times slower than he could have completed it- but he was happy to share his joy with a willing ‘student’, even if it meant slowing down- temporarily.
Opp started on the mural on Monday morning. Four gallons of paint and three days later, he was finished with another work. Chris dislikes down time as much as he dislikes social media, so he keeps his schedule full. Next up will be a couple more local works before hitting the road to Iowa for some jobs there, and then onto historic Route 66, where he will stop at towns and cities along the way and offer up his painting services.
Few people in life get the chance to do a job they love for so long. Because he works for himself, he is able to stop and spend weeks on the road with his grandchildren on grand adventures, the most recent one he entitled ‘Running with the Buffalo’ that took him, Liam and Charlee Marie from California to Iowa to South Dakota to Nebraska, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana and back to California via New Mexico. Along the way they camped, met chipmunks, visited museums, walked in rivers, saw the shootout at the OK Corral- 5,035 miles in 20 days- and made memories that will last a lifetime.
We appreciate Chris for his skill and willingness to dangle high above the ground on the hottest and coldest days to create art and signs, and we are pretty sure this won’t be the last Downtown Shreveport sees of his skills. We look forward to what his new projects will bring.
If you are interested in talking to Chris about a mural or sign, you can contact him here.