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Artist got start at Chico

John Pugh always drew while he was growing up in Walnut Creek and his parents encouraged him – that is until he decided to pursue a college art degree.

“My dad was hesitant for me to major in art in college,” he said.

But Pugh persevered and soon found himself creating murals while he was in college at Chico State. The first was done at the entrance to the college from downtown Chico, and he’s been doing them ever since.



“I painted the town red in more ways than one,” said Pugh, 51, from his home-studio in Truckee.

After returning to the Bay Area and starting his art career, Pugh embraced the “trompe l’oeil” style, a 3-D effect that means “trick of the eye” in French. He began painting murals in the San Jose and Los Gatos areas and later started entering national mural competitions.




Now “80 percent of my commissions come from the competitions,” Pugh said. “That’s also how I became recognized in the public art network.”

While living in the Bay Area, Pugh used to come to Truckee “14 to 15 times a year” to backpack and ski. He decided to move to Truckee in recent years for the quality of life.

These days Pugh performs the bulk of his work in his Nevada County studio on strips of canvas and applies them to the wall of a building. He finishes the murals on-site, as he will do later this summer for the Del Oro Mural project in Grass Valley.

The artist said he realized when he was young that he could not play it safe if he was going to be an artist who made a difference. He also had a little advice for recent graduates.

“I think if you follow your passion, take risks and show up, there’s a lot of careers to be created,” Pugh said. “Choose a path and get out there and get good at something. Don’t just sit in the parking lot and do nothing.”


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