Dream Job | Paul Kuhn
Naperville Artist Paul Kuhn always knew he wanted to be an artist. His most recent work, “Tragedy to Triumph,” was selected by the Naperville Century Walk to be displayed at the Naperville Metra train station. From his newly created artwork to his Twelve Limbs Art Studio, Kuhn finds art in everyday life.
How did you become interested in creating art?
I started at a young age and knew I always wanted to do it. My parents always pushed me to draw, color and paint. I really enjoyed it. When I was a freshman in high school, I started to take drawing and painting more seriously. My high school teacher was an inspiration and said that I was talented enough to go to school at the Art Institute of Chicago. So, I spent my years in high school creating an art portfolio that eventually got me into the school at the Art Institute of Chicago where I graduated with a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree.
As an artist, where do you find inspiration for your work?
Everything inspires me. I turn everything into an art project. I look around and I see beauty in a lot of little things. I view the world through the lens of imagination. It’s important to think about things critically and with imagination, and knowing that you can build something, or paint something, from your imagination and be able to translate it into something that is important.
Everything inspires me. I look around and I see beauty in a lot of little things. I view the world through the lens of imagination.
Tell us about the “Tragedy to Triumph” memorial you created for the 5th Avenue train station.
It was a project that changed my life and put me on a path to become a full-time artist. I always worked blue-collar jobs, so when I was working in the railroad yard, I had access to railroad salvage material. I had access to a lot of steel and started putting the steel back together. I was invited to submit a proposal to Century Walk for the memorial project. It took me six months from the proposal stage to the memorial completion. It took nearly 2,000 hours to make—I was working 15 hours a day for seven days a week near the end of the project welding and creating the memorial which contains 5,000 railroad spikes that make up the three people. The project changed who I was and what it meant to be an artist. I was honored and humbled to be part of the project.
What other projects are you working on?
I am currently working with another artist (Luke) at my art studio, Twelve Limbs Art Studio, on a new project. We were hired to do an installation for the Electric Forest Music Festival in Michigan in June. It’s a large kinetic piece—the largest item I’ve ever worked on—powered by the wind. It’s been one year in the making.
Do you have a favorite project?
It’s normally whatever project I’m currently working on. However, I would have to say that the giant 17-foot tall warrior sculpture “Hemlock” that I built in my backyard garden made out of recycled railroad salvage parts, made me the most proud and drew the most attention to my artwork.
What advice do you have for someone who is starting out as an artist?
It’s a tough occupation. If you’re younger and into creating art, I would say you need to have thick skin and be ready to handle all types of things. Go at it with everything you have and have a day job that’s not art related. I’ve always had a side job that was not art related—it pumps me up as an artist and it helps to support my artwork. Don’t be scared to have a day job and work hard at art after work.