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From Sketch to Cafe: Muralist Laura Coppard

a person standing posing for the camera

Laura Coppard has traveled a long way to study art. In fact, the 19-year-old Drexel University sophomore hails from New Zealand — but she’s falling in love with Philadelphia and it’s incredible art scene, especially the hundreds of murals around town.

Now Coppard has painted a mural of her own inside the Saxbys Drexel cafe. It’s her first public art installation and she’s pumped to have people walk in and out of the cafe seeing her work. Let’s learn a bit more about Laura:

What brought you all the way from New Zealand to Philadelphia?

I was originally interested in game design and I was majoring in that my freshman year. Drexel has a really good game design program and I got a scholarship. I ended up changing majors to photography, but I’m still staying here.

What do you think of Philly?

I love Philly. I think it’s such a good city if you’re interested in art. You just walk outside and there’s art everywhere. Especially on South Street at the Magic gardens or on the murals that seem to be everywhere. I think it’s so cool. I love the city.

What inspires you as an artist?

I’ve always took inspiration from my own life and the people in it. Producing art has always been a way for me to cope with different things that have happened in my life — especially when I was little and didn’t know how to talk about things. My mom passed away when I was about 10. My family took me to an art counselor. They thought it would be the most effective way for me to talk about things. That’s the origin about producing art about my own life.

a lady painting a wall
How would you describe your aesthetic?

It’s different across different mediums. When I draw and paint, it’s usually very realistic. I like painting people and nature. My photography is more abstract. It’s interesting because most paintings are abstract and photography is realistic but I switched the two styles around. I’ve always been someone that pushes my artistic boundaries.

What was your inspiration for the mural?

Originally, I went into cafe to have a look around. There’s already some great art there like a graffiti piece underneath the coffee bar — so I took inspiration from that and other areas inside. The graffiti piece was busy and colorful so I wanted to tie into that. And I wanted to paint people, because that’s the thing I paint most. I chose to do an abstract people piece inspired by Keith Haring, one of my favorite artists.

Are you excited about the Saxbys mural?

Of course! This is the first piece I’ve done where someone commissioned me to do a specific thing. People have bought my art before but no one has come to me with idea and told me to make it happen. It’s so different than anything I’ve ever done. This opportunity is absolutely incredible. People walk in and out of that cafe every day and they’re all going to see my work up there. It’s crazy.

What other artists inspire you?

Kehinde Wiley who recently did the portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama. He’s an artist I’ve been studying since high school because I just love his portraiture and how he uses different poses and patterns. It’s the aesthetic I strive to achieve as an artist. I also like classic painters like Monet. Whenever I go to an art museum and see his work I just stare in awe.

What are your career aspirations?

I definitely want to go into a creative field. Right now I’m leaning toward doing journalistic photography. My dream job is to work for National Geographic or a publication like that. Besides my abstract work, I really enjoy photographing different issues I’m interested in like environmental issues or human rights issues. I’d love to produce non-fiction stories.

a group of people in a room