Steve Arflin, 37, is a Jacksonville Beach native who, after playing football at Louisiana State University, made his way back home to teach at his alma mater, Fletcher High School. Having been an art major (the first in the LSU football program’s history), his passions have led him to vast opportunities, and large canvases.
While teaching at Fletcher High School, a fellow teacher introduced Arflin to her husband, Matt Carson, manager of all V Pizza bars, and a beautiful relationship was formed. Later, co-owner Paul Scott asked Arflin to become the chain’s go-to freelance artist, which ultimately became a salaried position.
Arflin has been at work beautifying all seven locations for the past four years.
“These guys are amazing. They give me creative freedom and let me do my thing, you know?” Arflin said. “My style is very surrealistic and that’s translated into my artwork.”
Arflin’s work has included wooden signs and tiki cups at Flask and Cannon, the mural outside of the San Marco V Pizza location, a carving and mural at Julep and others. He was tasked with creating a three-sided mural outside of the Jacksonville Beach V Pizza/Flask and Cannon location. With innovative tools, one eight-legged request and a lot of artistic freedom: two lizards and a kraken now grace the bar and restaurant’s exterior walls.
“Once everything really started shutting down because of the Coronavirus, we figured it was the perfect time to add to the beauty of some of our restaurants,” Director of Operations David Villmow added. “Our number one goal was to keep our staff employed as much as possible, so while we were closed during the shutdown, we were able to find ways for them to help with the project.”
What makes this mural especially interesting is the fact that it glows in the dark. Achieving this result was no simple feat, as a standard glow-in-the-dark paint for exterior surfaces has yet to hit the market. Instead, Arflin used a trial-by-error approach which led to a new technique he’s developed to create the black-light effect. Utilizing materials sourced from Canada, he was able to blow sand through an airgun to obtain the mystical glow on the walls.
“I wanted there to be a contrast between the [V Pizza] side and the [Flask and Cannon] side of the business. The V pizza exterior has a white background and is extremely colorful, and the Flask and Cannon side is black and white,” Arflin said. “The one on the Flask and Cannon side is really a gift for Matt because he said he wanted a kraken on his wall.”
Arflin elaborated that the different wall murals at this particular location are like “venus and mars.” He said that while the paintings depict the same images at night, they are meant to take on a whole different vibe.
“If you look at the wall during the day you notice the stark white background, and people wonder if it’s finished or not. I like that quirkiness of it,” Arflin explained. “That lends itself to the surprise that at night all of that white turns into sky and stars and all kinds of fun stuff.”
As for the giant pink and purple lizard on V Pizza’s south wall, Arflin says he chose to paint it strictly based on a desired composition. He wanted something elongated and stretched, and something that would represent his ode to the power of feminism.
“I wanted to make this creature really pretty and really sexy because she was strong and fierce,” Arflin said. “Doing that with a lizard sounded challenging, but I was like, ‘I can do that.’ I think I did, she’s damn pretty.”
Now unveiled and on display for everyone who passes by on First Street to see, both Arflin and Villmow hope that the new mural brings a little bit of beauty and happiness to all who take it in. After all, during the dark times of the coronavirus pandemic, everyone needs a bit of light.
“This has been one of the coolest experiences. I’m from the beach, this is my stomping grounds and this is my first big public artwork at the beach,” Arflin said. “Honestly, at the end of the day I just do this to try to impress my wife.”