Graduate Paints Very Big Art Career

"Bright Underbelly"  brightens the underside a Sacramento freeway.
"Bright Underbelly" brightens the underside a Sacramento freeway.

Small Project Led to Big Ones

Just before completing her undergraduate degree in studio art and Italian in 2008, Sofia Lacin was hired to paint a mural at the Davis Crepeville restaurant where she worked. It was a big wall so she recruited her high school friend Hennessy Christophel to help.

“It was difficult, but we had fun,” said Lacin, who grew up in Sacramento. “I found out I liked painting out in the open and solving the problems involved.” 

That restaurant painting led the two women to form an art-making partnership specializing in murals. After a few years that included some commercial jobs, the duo—dubbed LC Studio Tutto—began concentrating solely on large, fine art projects.

The two recently did their first out-of-state project (in Knoxville, Tennessee), painted a mural in the underpass leading into the Napa Valley town of Yountville this fall, and are working out details for two Los Angeles projects. 

Months beneath a freeway 

Their biggest and most high-profile artwork so far is Bright Underbelly, a 70,000-square-foot mural on a portion of the underside of Highway 50 in Sacramentoknown as the W-X Freeway, completed in March. 

The job that really launched LC Studio Tutto can be seen in Davis at Mace Boulevardand Interstate 80, a mural on a 4 million-gallon water storage tank that was selected from a nationwide call. 

Painting murals is physically demanding, exhausting work.

For Bright Underbelly, theduo spent many cold winter weeks lying on their backs painting as the highway abovethem shook with the passing of thousands of cars and trucks. 

“That’s the easy part,” Lacin said with a laugh.

Balancing the art and business

Half their time is spent on job proposals, meetings, making calls and organizingfinances. Another 35 percent is art research and design. About 15 percent is brush-in hand time. 

When it comes to making a living making art, Lacin had the benefit of growing up in ahousehold that blended art and commerce. Her parents, Kent and Greta Lacin, own along-running Sacramento photography and media business. (Her father earned amaster of fine arts degree from UC Davis in 1974.)

“I didn’t study the market or do a lot of research,” she said. “We were walking a fine line,
inventing a career we didn’t know existed.” 

Her advice for making a creative career work is a mix of idealistic and practical: “Never lose sight of your curiosity and always be willing to do something you don’t know how to do. Take risks, but be smart in how you take risks. Surround yourself with people you think are really talented. And you also really have to treat it as a job—you go to work every day like any other job.”

For her, it has paid off. Recently the partners left Sacramento to seek better connections to the international public art world, with Lacin heading to Los Angeles and Christophel to the Bay Area.

— Jeffrey Day, content strategist in the UC Davis College of Letters and Science