OPELIKA, Ala. — On a sweltering Tuesday morning, R.C. Hagans takes off his sunglasses and squints, surveying a giant fox, Hellenic statues and rapper Notorious BIG stenciled onto the walls of a downtown Opelika building.
"I can't pick a favorite," he says. "It's like picking a favorite child."
The son of a minister, Hagans grew up doodling on the inside of offering envelopes during church services and hiding them in hymnals for other worshippers to find.
Now, he uses Opelika's blank walls as his canvas.
"I love street art. I could list off a thousand names," Hagans said over an iced latte at Overall Company, near a collection of his outdoor murals. "You can't buy or sell it. It's out there; it just exists. . It's absolutely limitless."
Growing up, Hagans was fascinated by graffiti-thanks in large part, he said, to "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles"-and was drawn to a piece of graffiti on the side of a downtown Opelika building.
"It was the most awful, worst, one-color gang tag," he remembered. "And I was just fascinated by it."
In high school, Hagans took his first art class and experimented with every medium his teacher would put in front of him. After high school, Hagans worked at area restaurants creating signature cocktails and spent a stint as a mixed martial arts fighter and submission wrestler before pursuing art full-time.
"It's fun just taking the step and putting it out there," he said. "Why not be successful now? . It's really easy to get self-conscious about putting something on a wall and calling it art."
To create his giant masterpieces, the self-taught artist hand cuts a piece of paper to use as a stencil. Just to create the stencil for his fox piece took 26 hours.
"You just kind of piece it together," he explained. "It's just one piece of paper that you're spraying paint through. .I really like trying to get as much detail and saying as much as I can simply by getting a piece of paper and cutting holes in it."
The fox and Biggie pieces adjacent to Overall Company were live installations. Hagans is planning another live painting during the Aug. 9 Southern Revelry.
Hagans also enjoys painting portraits, and often receives requests for commissioned pieces.
"You can say so many things with the human face," he explained.
Hagan also makes his art available to the community. Every so often, he will leave a piece of art around town and post a picture of its location to his Instagram account, @dickcecil, which he updates regularly.
"It's kind of like an art scavenger hunt. Most of the pieces are picked up within an hour," he said.
Hagan's in-your-face street art and his signature-style portraits on canvas are part of a bigger movement going on in Opelika.
"There's something really awesome going on down here," he said, adding for years, it seemed like the city's creative residents moved away. "I feel like Opelika has the potential and already is something really special."
But Hagans' work is expanding beyond the Opelika/Auburn area. He's collaborated with Butch Anthony for his drive-thru museum in Seale, and the pair is working with a team of artists from the Netherlands.
Hagans has also created innovative edible plate art for Montgomery-based restaurant True, which have been commended by actor Teri Hatcher and Oprah.
"It's all about work. I don't like the word talent. I feel like it's a word that lazy people use for those with dedication," Hagans said. ". I kind of want to make my own scene and have other people notice."
Information from: Opelika-Auburn News, http://www.oanow.com/