Foamy seashore waves line the new Carl Black & Gold Cabana — and though the scene isn't real, artist and UCF alum Rob Kaczmarczyk spent three weeks making it look like it is.
The 30-by-90-foot floor mural debuted during Saturday's UCF vs. UConn game.
Kaczmarczyk — Kaz for short, because 11 letters never fit on his childhood Little League baseball shirt — said his piece was originally a 30-by-90-inch oil painting on canvas. Kaz then transformed it by scanning, photographing and augmenting it to render a larger mural that would cover the floor of the cabana, each inch of the canvas translating to a foot of the mural. Hidden in the "sand" and "waves" are little Easter eggs — or surprises that he painted in hopes that those who observe it up close would notice, like phrases that read "charge on" and "black and gold."
Spending nearly 12 years in the art industry, Kaz was formerly with Electronic Arts, but is now a licensed Disney artist and travels the country for galleries and art shows. He wanted to lend his talents to his alma mater, and UCF Athletics recruited him for the floor mural after staff had some of his other artwork plastered on the football field border.
"I like to make art that has a sense of happiness and whimsiness, and yet if an artist looks at it up close or with a discerning manner, they would see the technical side of it," Kaz said about his art style.
Though Kaz majored in criminal justice as a UCF student, the same day he received his last rejection letter from a federal agency he had applied for and within a month of graduating, He had landed himself an art career. An animation director for a boutique studio had visited his family home, saw his paintings — which he'd only done as a hobby — and immediately recruited Kaz as his color key artist, or an artist that creates palettes and backgrounds for animation and production artists.
"I didn't think you could have your job be what you love," Kaz said. "When this happened it forced my hand ... when you first get into something, there's always that trepidation, but in the end it worked out."
When the Future spoke with Kaz, he was still painting, but instead of cerulean scenes like the one in the CBG Cabana, Disney characters and a notorious frog caricature that hides in almost all his paintings, Kaz was recreating a scene from the Return of the Jedi.
"I was raised to express myself with a pencil or a paintbrush — it's a way of communicating," he said. Kaz never professionally studied art, only ending up in two back-to-back art classes in high school to get out of calculus, where an art teacher forced him to paint a still life instead of his usual colored pencil drawings, lest he fail the class.
"You wipe away the tears, but the next opportunity is at the front door," Kaz said, reflecting on how he went from a dead end in a criminal justice path to becoming an artist.
The CBG Cabana is approximately 10,000 square feet and is located between the 30-yard lines, featuring chair-back stadium seating, gold seats and stairways and an open-air sun deck. The beach-themed cabana also offers refreshments, televisions, private restrooms and other amenities.
Carl Black of Orlando landed a multi-year, six-figure contract for the naming rights of the cabana in August. The cabana is the first major change to the Bright House Networks Stadium since its construction in 2007.
Nada Hassanein is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @nhassanein_ or email her at NadaH@CentralFloridaFuture.com.