Tucked away on Savannah's west side, down Louisville Road, is Meddin Studios, a former slaughter house turned digital media production atelier. The brick and cinderblock building is pretty basic, nondescript. Unless you're focused on the western facade, marked now with the large scale art of Hebermehl and DrZ.
In case you don't know, artists Matt Hebermehl and "DrZ" James Zdaniewski are a pair of former SCADies who often collaborate on large scale works. Locally recognized for their on-street projections (animations which they spontaneously depict on the sides of Savannah buildings), these two have put on exhibits together, ventured to the Art Basel fair in Miami and often join forces with the other young and happening artists in Savannah. Though Zdaniewski relocated to Charlotte, NC, Hebermehl keeps a studio on Desoto Row, in Starland.
They work close together. Each artists' style is distinct but complimentary; Hebermehl's art is often pattern-influenced and organically drawn, focused on shapes, line and color. Zdaniewski, art director of Whack Media Design, takes a more graphic approach to his work. Their design for the mural is easily broken down: Zdaniewski drew up the clusters of steer head while Hebermehl, drawing upon his looping patterns, designed the "SAV" at the center of the mural. They sketched separately. Hebermehl took Zdaniewski's design and photoshopped a couple of options until they were satisfied with the image.
Though they've assisted famed artist David Ellis on other murals (in Savannah, in Miami), the Meddin Wall is the first official DrZ/Hebermehl collaborative mural. It took them three long days to do it, working 10+ hours each day on the last weekend in February.
On Sunday, February 28, I had the chance to stop by and write while the boys painted. Wind whipped around on the cool, sun-struck lot. The day was pretty and crisp, perfect for painting. I sat on the gravel lawn while Zdaniewski balanced on scaffolding and Hebermehl danced on ground, wielding his paint brush back and forth, face close to the wall. He sang one lyric ahead of whatever music played from a stereo nearby.
For a pair of artists who seem to have so much in common, they executed their designs in a completely different fashion. Zdaniewski rapidly blocked the image, sweeping a section of outlines before moving back to compare the mural with his study. "I'm use to work being vectorized and perfect," he said, stepping back several feet from the wall. Hebermehl, on the other hand, was right up on the mural, concentrating on brushstrokes, his visual reference tucked away in his sketchbook, out of reach.
Mostly, they were reticent. When they spoke, it was playful and encouraging banter. "Well, that looks a lot better," Hebermehl said, finally leaning back against the chain link fence that outlined the lawn, several feet away from the wall. It was mid afternoon on the second day.
Zdaniewski continued painting.
"Lookin' good buddy."
Zdaniewski nodded. "Gettin' there."
"Tight," said Hebermehl.
Zdaniewski painted, Hebermehl watched. They decided not to rush, to extend their work one more day. Hebermehl glanced at me from his post at the fence. He said, "It's a big boy mural," and resumed his brush.
Such a nice and inspiring circumstance, to be out-of-doors observing while these artists carried on. What happens in a studio can be so intimate. It's often important that artists shut out others, shut out themselves and the world while they work. But the requirements of a mural are different--it's larger than the artists themselves and by scale, also physical, the necessity to climb the wall, up and down, all over... The action attracts attention. Hebermehl and Zdaniewski seemed encouraged by the attention of onlookers. I certainly wasn't the only one who hung out while they worked, though I suspect I was the only nerd there with a notebook. I spent about an hour with them, taking copious notes and interrupting with questions.
I won't show you the finished piece. You'll have to venture down Louisville Road and find it. 2233 Louisville Road in Savannah, GA.