Three years ago, Derek Nemunaitis was doing cancer research and practicing mixed martial arts. But one day, he broke his leg training and decided to try drawing and painting as a hobby. A few years later he was let go from his job and continued creating art instead of finding another gig. Now, he has murals all over Dallas, and locals are taking notice of Nemunaitis’ art.
“Eventually people started hiring me for murals as well as buying my work, so now I’ve been a full-time artist for about a year,” he says.
His latest work includes a series of three murals at Black Swan Yoga in Dallas.
“On the exterior, I was asked to paint some colorful wings for people to take pictures in front of,” Nemunaitis says. “This is a common mural idea, and if you Google ‘wings mural,’ you’ll see that most cities have something like this. Therefore, I put forth an extensive effort to make the wings beautiful, vibrant and unlike any that have been painted before. The third mural design is to be determined and will go in their lobby.”
Inside the studio, Nemunaitis completed a 12-by-33-foot piece featuring a close-up of an elephant and lion facing off. Animals are common in his work.
“Also, there is a strong Asian influence in my art,” Nemunaitis says. “That seed was planted by Godzilla and cultivated with a very early kung fu movie obsession.”
One of his most prized creations is a fictional character named Samurhino.
“The Samurhino is the first thing I drew when I broke my leg,” he says. “It is a samurai rhino who had his horn taken by poachers, and now he is back for revenge. I think it is finally time I work with clay and sculpt my Samurhino statue, then cast it into bronze. I’m in the beginning stages of a comic book about the Samurhino as well.”
Samurhino is also the face of Nemunaitis’ clothing line, Y & O Threads.
“Y and O stands for yield and overcome, from my favorite poem in the Book of Tao,” Nemunaitis says. “I have been turning my artwork into clothing designs, and then I donate 25 percent of profits to various organizations, depending on the shirt design.”
He describes his overall artistic style as playful and whimsical while retaining a deeper message.
“Painting the Pillsbury Doughboy meditating and hovering above a cinnamon roll looks fun, but it will take most viewers quite a bit of time to understand the message is to rise above temptation,” Nemunaitis says. “It is sort of a street art style done in realism. In a way, I think that describes me as an individual as well.”
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You can see several of Nemunaitis’ murals in the Bishop Arts area.
“The first was Rafiki meditating above a big pink donut, but that one seems to have disappeared,” he says. “I have also completed a cradled pineapple at Tribal Café, a huge Stevie Ray Vaughan quote and a large fence for an EXXIR Capital construction area, which is more like five murals that flow together.”
Nemunaitis says murals are great, but oil on canvas is his favorite medium. That is why he is planning his first gallery show at Jen Mauldin Gallery in 2019. See more of his work on Instagram @dereknemo.