Eric Lee, an artist from Ukrainian Village, painted this mural of Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner, on a building at 1290 N. Clybourn in Old Town in June.

Eric Lee, an artist from Ukrainian Village, painted this mural of Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner, on a building at 1290 N. Clybourn in Old Town in June.

Robert Herguth / Sun-Times

In Old Town mural, artist Eric Lee captures Wile E. Coyote’s futile pursuit of the Road Runner

The Ukrainian Village artist says a lot of people in creative fields can identify with the cartoon villain, “as failure is a fairly large part of creation.”

No, those aren’t really sticks of dynamite. Nor is that a real coyote trying to use them to blow up a bridge while a certain familiar bird, perched above, peers down curiously and unafraid.

It’s just cartoon foes Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner in a mural in Old Town painted by Eric Lee, an artist from Ukrainian Village who’s known for featuring superheroes in various stages of grief or anguish.

The 3-D nature of the piece can make you feel a little like you’re really in a desert and maybe even that Wile E. Coyote might finally succeed this time.

A closeup view of Eric Lee’s take on Wile E. Coyote.

A closeup view of Eric Lee’s take on Wile E. Coyote.

Robert Herguth / Sun-Times

Lee says he’s a big fan of the cartoon villain.

“Wile E. Coyote is one of my favorite characters of all time,” he says. “I see a lot of myself in him: coming up with grand ideas and having those ideas fall short when they encounter reality. I’m sure a lot of people in creative fields can identify with this feeling, as failure is a fairly large part of creation.

“But I think it’s also really important we find humor in the curse and the blessing of this need to create.

A closeup view of Eric Lee’s take on the Road Runner, unfazed even with sticks of dynamite beneath him just waiting to blow.

A closeup view of Eric Lee’s take on the Road Runner, unfazed even with sticks of dynamite beneath him just waiting to blow.

Robert Herguth / Sun-Times

“When I make a mural, I love to try to create an illusion for the viewer and blur the line between reality and make believe,” he says. “To transform a space, I do my best to utilize the elements a wall offers. And this particular building felt like it wanted to be a bridge.”

Eric Lee plays visual tricks, like having a real chain-link fence give way to a painted one.

Eric Lee plays visual tricks, like having a real chain-link fence give way to a painted one.

Robert Herguth / Sun-Times

Lee says he was hired to do the mural at 1290 N. Clybourn Ave. because he’d done a mural last year at Catherine Cook School, 226 W. Schiller St.

“Some of the parents from that school loved what I did and hired me to come up with something for the side of their building,” Lee says.

The school mural shows some green balloons bunched behind a closed window and more escaping from an open window.

The images were so realistic, “We actually had a phone call, ‘Hey, do you know one of your windows is open?’ ” says Stacy Shafer Peterson, the school’s advancement director. “It was so cute.

“All the green balloons — to us, they represent the kids,” says Peterson, floating toward the sky to represent students “rising up to the next journey. That’s how I interpret it.”

Eric Lee’s mural at Catherine Cook School, 226 W. Schiller St.

Eric Lee’s mural at Catherine Cook School, 226 W. Schiller St.

Provided

The Clybourn Avenue building has offices for Atira Hotels and Paramount Lodging Advisors, companies run by Sanjeev Misra, who hired Lee.

Public artwork “engages people,” Misra says. “It builds a sense of pride. We wanted to make people smile.”

While the coyote brings a sense of mischief, “the Road Runner brings out good luck and optimism,” Misra says.

Lee says of those cartoon characters: “To me, they are kind of the opposite of the superhero murals,” some of which he painted in May at the CTA Brown Line L’s Southport station.

Among the paintings of superheroes Eric Lee did in May at the CTA Brown Line L’s Southport station.

Among the paintings of superheroes Eric Lee did in May at the CTA Brown Line L’s Southport station.

Provided

“Where the superheroes are expected to prevail, Wile E. Coyote is expected to fail,” Lee says. “These expectations we have prior to seeing the mural is something that interests me.”

Lee says he grew up in the Bloomington-Normal area and went to Millikin University in Decatur, where he played soccer.

“I took a drawing class as an elective when I was a sophomore, and the art professor of the class took me aside and asked me why I wasn’t an art major,” he says. “He could tell I loved drawing and spent a lot of time on my work. He helped me get into the art department during that semester, and I ended up graduating with a primary in painting and a secondary in printmaking in 2002.

Chicago artist Eric Lee.

Chicago artist Eric Lee.

Peter Hinsdale

“After graduation, I worked as a professional youth soccer coach for over a decade and just painted in my free time,” he says. “I had no idea how to go about being an artist or getting into galleries,” he says. “I eventually showed work in a gallery for the first time in 2013 at Vertical Gallery and began doing street art in 2015.

“I never looked back. I went full time as an artist in 2016.”

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Part of a series on public art in the city and suburbs. Know of a mural or mosaic? Tell us where, and email a photo to murals@suntimes.com. We might do a story on it.

Click on the map below for a selection of Chicago-area murals

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