KENNEWICK -- When Chase Lundgren picks up an artist's brush, he creates vines winding across walls and ceilings, windows opening onto unending vistas and stonework that looks rough and real but that's flat to the touch.
Lundgren, who calls himself a site-specific artist, has specialized in architectural trompe l'oeil (a French term meaning it fools the eye into thinking it's real), fresco paintings and custom faux and specialty finishes for more than 10 years.
Lundgren lives in Kennewick but his artwork can be seen nationwide. It's on walls in an Alaskan home and Bechtel's corporate headquarters,and on ceilings of multimillion-dollar mansions and residential bathrooms.
His most recent work, a mural of arches framing a timeless, rolling countryside, can be seen at Espresso World in Kennewick.
It's actually the second one he's painted there.
"The first one was going to be a kind of ongoing project, but when he began traveling he simply didn't get back to it," said Vonda Smith, who with her husband, Greg, owns Espresso World and Z Place Salon and Spa in Kennewick.
They originally chose to have a mural in the coffee shop to give it a more urban feel, she said. In warm weather, they open a glass garage door on one side of the building to extend the indoor seating outside onto a patio.
"The mural along one wall inside gave you the feeling you were sitting on the patio of a coffee shop in a big city," Smith said.
"A mural adds an upbeat, fun touch," Lundgren said. "There's excitement to it. When you walk into a room it's the unexpected that catches your attention."
Lundgren said his art also is good for camouflaging problem or awkward areas in a residence or business. "They become a focal point, not something to hide," he said.
Lundgren works with interior designers in the Tri-Cities, Alaska and Hawaii and maintains space in their offices. But his "studio" is as mobile as his paints and brushes.
"I'll go anywhere, do any size project," he said.
He often works alone but has six artists he hires on an as-needed basis for large projects.
Lundgren's talent for art, especially murals, was expressed at an early age.
"My mom said I'm just one of those kids who used to get in trouble for drawing on the walls, and now I get paid for it," he said.
He said his mother fostered his talent with lessons and encouraged him to enter art contests.
He began painting in oils on canvas and was selling his work while still in high school. He didn't start painting murals until attending California State University, Chico, and then word spread.
"In a few years there was so much demand that I had to make a choice -- continue going to school, studying what I was doing, or quit school and try to make a living doing my art. I took a chance and decided to focus on my art," he said.
He also had to learn business skills like marketing, money management, communication and organization. He said those skills are "totally against an artistic personality," but added, "Without those skills you really are a starving artist, literally."
There were some very lean years," he said, and he still has to keep an eye on his bank account, but his style of art is becoming more popular.
He said the cost of his pieces, which he paints with acrylics, depends on the size and scope. "It can range from as little as $500 to in excess of $100,000."
He explained, "Even a large mural can be made more affordable by making it more impressionistic with fewer details."
Each design is unique and matched to the business or residence. Lundgren talks to his customers to determine what their needs are.
"Then I tailor my design to them and the site without compromising my own artistic freedoms. I have the final word but we trade ideas until we agree," he said.
Lundgren said art allows him to fulfill his mission in life. "My intention is to make the world a more beautiful place, to make everyone's environment more beautiful and to enrich people's lives with art," he said.
He also helps more tangibly.
Once a year, he donates a mural to a nonprofit organization, usually one that supports his two causes, children and animals. He also donates a mural at a fundraiser once a year to raise money for the organization.
Lundgren can be contacted via his website, www.chaselundgren.com; on Facebook search for Chase Lundgren Fine Arts; e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org; and by phone at 541-912-3593.
-- Loretto J. Hulse: 509-582-1513; email@example.com.