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Art for the Outcast

By Hailea Boykin | Photos Courtesy of Will Eskridge

Will Eskridge has had a roaring passion for art since a very young age. “I’ve done art since preschool,” said Eskridge. “I always knew what I wanted to do since I was a kid.” Having a veterinarian as a father and an artist as a mother, Eskridge molded both of his upbringings into his passion. With paint always on his hands, Eskridge attended the University of North Carolina School of Arts and later received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting from the San Francisco Art Institute.

In 2008, Eskridge moved to Athens and made the decision to become a full-time artist about six years ago. Since pursuing his passion full-time he has created countless all-inclusive murals, brilliant fine art pieces showing beauty in the animals we stigmatize, and has even created some custom works of art for wonderful collectors around the world.

His love for animals has been meshed into his art, creating stunning pieces that unleash the hidden beauty in creatures that are under the harsh public eye.

In some of his fine art collections, Confectionary Outcasts and Pärty Animals, Eskridge wanted to showcase the beauty of animals that are often ill-favored. “I initially started with bats a few years ago, they go along with the outsider theme,” said Eskridge. “When I paint animals I also research them, bats are so important to the environment but they’re also stigmatized. I wanted to paint them in a brighter light.”

Aside from bats, Eskridge has painted snakes, raccoons, opossums, and alligators, all to bring out the beauty in these unconventional and eccentric animals, hoping to give the public a unique view on what we believe to be rebarbative.

One of Eskridge’s most recent murals titled We Are All Gladiators made its mark on Clarke Central High School, forever reminding students that they are valued. Last February, he started asking schools if they were interested in adding a mural to their school spirit arsenal. “Clarke Central High School just so happened to have had some renovations done and ended up with a lot of blank wall space,” said Eskridge. They wanted a mural, but the struggle came in finding funding. Luckily Eskridge knew of many art grants and began applying, he received his funding from the Athens Arts and Community Award.

From there, Eskridge began his meticulous process in order to create the perfect mural. He worked closely with art teacher Amanda Price and Associate Principal Reginald Thomas to create something that encompassed a lot of underrepresented activities and communities within their school.

“They wanted to do something that celebrated extracurricular activities that were kind of to the side but still important,” said Eskridge. “I drew up a sketch and showed them and they were over the moon about it.”

This was one of his favorite murals of 2020 that took an immense amount of meticulous planning and executing. The mural, Eskridge states in his blog post, is meant to “elevate and celebrate academics, elective courses, extra-curricular activities in a multi-cultural, and gender-neutral setting.” In a town mostly inclined to sports, this mural was created to give light to the kids that may have a hard time feeling like their passion matters. This mural resonated with Eskridge, who stated, “I used to feel like the outcast too. I know all too well what they might be feeling.”

As for the future, Eskridge has a new collection in the works called Beach Punx that will make its debut sometime soon.

“It continues the theme of stigmatized creatures but this time they move the party to the beach,” said Eskridge.