Erik Wahl

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Erik Wahl
Erik Wahl in 2013
Residence San Diego
Nationality American
Alma mater University of San Diego
Occupation Speaker, author, artist, entrepreneur
Spouse(s) Tasha Wahl

Erik C. Wahl is an American graffiti artist,[1] speed-painter,[2][3] author, motivational speaker[4] and entrepreneur[5] based in San Diego.[6] He owns The Wahl Group, a consultancy firm, and has spoken at conventions by Microsoft, Disney, NBC and Honda.[7] Wahl makes paintings of thinkers, leaders and cultural icons such as Michael Jordan, Steve Jobs, and Bono during his presentations.[8][9]

In 2011, Wahl created a 10,000 square-foot Mona Lisa in a desert near Los Angeles.[10] The following year, he was selected by TED as a speaker for the TED2012: Full Spectrum series.[11] Wahl wrote the book Unthink: Rediscover Your Creative Genius in 2013.[12] Unthink was named CEO Reads book of the year in 2013.[13] In 2014, Wahl was a featured speaker at the World Entrepreneur Of The Year event hosted by Ernst & Young,[14][15] as well as Entrepreneur's 2014 Growth Conference.[5]


After graduating from University of San Diego with a bachelor's degree in business,[16][17] Wahl became a partner at a corporate firm. He was there for eight years before losing his job during the dot-com bubble burst in the early 2000s.[7][18] At the age of 30, Wahl decided to change his focus to art. He later founded his own company, The Wahl Group, with his wife Tasha Wahl.[19]

Wahl began working as a motivational speaker and graffiti artist rather than returning to the corporate world.[19][20] After a few years of painting and selling his work to buyers, Wahl decided to stop selling his art and instead only auction off his paintings for charities.[21]

Presentations and speed-painting[edit]

As a public speaker, Wahl has performed his speed-art presentation called "The Art of Vision" for audiences including schools and universities,[21] conferences,[22] and large companies. Some of his clients include AT&T, London School of Business, Ernst & Young,[14] and XPrize[23]

During his presentation, Wahl speaks about personal creativity while painting stylized portraits of iconic figures, leaders and cultural icons such as the Statue of Liberty and Albert Einstein.[5]

In 2010, he performed at an IRS employee convention in Anaheim, California where he painted portraits of Michael Jordan and U2 singer Bono as a part of The Art of Vision.[6] Three Wahl paintings were donated to the Combined Federal Campaign, a workplace charity program.[24]

In 2011, Wahl created a 10,000 square-foot Mona Lisa in a desert near Los Angeles[10] in three days[7] using dirt and rocks.[25]

Wahl was featured in a TED presentation for the TED2012: Full Spectrum series after being selected as a finalist for the program in 2011.[11] Also in 2012, he delivered a live art performance to pay tribute to director Gus Van Sant at the 11th Annual San Diego Film Festival in La Jolla, California.[26][27][28]

Wahl was the keynote speaker at the Lectora User Conference in 2012 in Chicago and again in 2013 in San Antonio.[22] In 2014, he presented at Entrepreneur's Growth Conference in New Orleans.[5] He created a graffiti-style painting of Magic Johnson and was a keynote speaker at the UltiConnect Conference in March 2015.[29] Wahl also spoke at the LEAD2015 Global Leadership Conference on World Leadership Day.[30] In April 2015, Wahl was a keynote speaker at RIMS2015.[31] Wahl was the Opening General Session speaker at the 2015 National Association of Elementary School Principals.[32]

Unthink: Rediscover Your Creative Genius[edit]

In 2013, Wahl wrote Unthink: Rediscover Your Creative Genius, a book about using creativity to achieve better performance.[33] The book was published by Random House.[34] Wahl, came up with the word "unthink" when he saw that business executives wanted to be creative, but did not know how. According to Wahl, the word "unthink" means to "unleash and unlock the mind to come up with boundless, innovative solutions."[10] Unthink released in June 2013 was ranked as the number one Business Best-seller on CEO Reads and stayed in top ten in July, 2013.[13]

Fast Company writer Ekaterina Walter agreed with his message that it is more important for a business to be creative than to be stable.[35] Paul B. Brown in Forbes noted that it was part of a trend for books on creativity in business.[33] Publishers Weekly called it "thought-provoking" calling it a "strong work" and praising the originality of its message about the importance of "goofing off" in the business environment.[36] Economic Times called it "a good read."[37]


Wahl stopped displaying his paintings in galleries and no longer sells them to individual buyers.[5] His art is done for public speaking conferences and charitable events where they are auctioned off. In 2012, Wahl painted a portrait of Marilyn Monroe in three minutes at a graffiti art auction in front of an audience. His painting was bought by Pink and her husband Carey Hart for $10,000.[1] The proceeds were donated to Linda's Voice, a non-profit that raises awareness for ending domestic abuse globally.[38] Similarly, Wahl presented at the Influence Affair event thrown by Ian Somerhalder in 2012 for environmental awareness that also included performances by DJ Josh LeCash and Capital Cities.[39]

In May 2013, he donated his painting of Lady Liberty in a live auction to benefit One Fund Boston, an organization founded by Governor Deval Patrick and Mayor Tom Menino for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. The painting was sold for $10,500.[40] At the launch event of his book in West Hollywood in 2013, he created a painting of Albert Einstein in front of the audience. The painting was auctioned at Charitybuzz and the proceeds of the painting were donated to After-School All-Stars.[41] In 2014, Wahl donated three paintings to the Miracle-Ear Foundation and raised $21,000.[42]

Art Drop[edit]

In 2012, Wahl started a treasure hunt-based game called, Art Drop. As a part of the treasure hunt, he places his original paintings at undisclosed locations and provides his social media followers with a photograph of the location. The first to spot and claim the work wins the painting. Paintings of icons such as Audrey Hepburn, Steve Jobs and Martin Luther King Jr. have been given to people as a part of Art Drop.[25] His wife does a similar activity in which she “drops” hand-crafted butterflies every Sunday and then donates between $100 to $500 to the finder's chosen charity.[43]

Personal life[edit]

Wahl lives in San Diego near Tierra Santa elementary school with his wife Tasha and their three sons.[44]



  1. ^ a b Simpson, Leah (1 May 2012). "Pink splashes the cash on $10,000 Marilyn Monroe painting created in three minutes". Daily Mail. London. 
  2. ^ Galer, Susan (August 17, 2015). "Unleashing Every Worker's Inner Graffiti Artist". Forbes. Retrieved September 4, 2015. 
  3. ^ "Pink Buys Speed-Painted Marilyn Monroe Painting". Retrieved 13 October 2013. 
  4. ^ Robertiello, Jack (3 February 2014). "Asked & Answered With VIBE Keynote Erik Wahl". Vibe. Retrieved 23 November 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Huspeni, Andrea (23 January 2014). "This Entrepreneur Shows How to Paint a Picture of Success". Entrepreneur Magazine. Retrieved 23 November 2014. 
  6. ^ a b Ng, David (6 June 2013). "IRS scandal touches on Southern California artist Erik Wahl". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 13 October 2013. 
  7. ^ a b c Laabs, Ashley. "Erik Wahl speaks from the art". Smart Tan Magazine. Retrieved 13 October 2013. 
  8. ^ "Renowned On-Stage Artist Erik Wahl to Perform at Lectora User Conference". Lectora. Archived from the original on 19 August 2013. Retrieved 13 October 2013. 
  9. ^ "Artist, Erik Wahl in Las Vegas". PBase. Retrieved 13 October 2013. 
  10. ^ a b c Crawford, Jaclyn. "Business Lessons from a Graffiti Artist". Fore Front Magazine. Retrieved 13 October 2013. 
  11. ^ a b McManus, Emily (9 May 2011). "Announcing the finalists in TED’s Full Spectrum auditions". TED. Retrieved 23 November 2014. 
  12. ^ Wahl, Erik (4 June 2013). Unthink: Rediscover Your Creative Genius Hardcover. Crown Business. ISBN 978-0-7704-3400-7. 
  13. ^ a b "2013 800-CEO-READ Business Book Awards: Innovation & Creativity". CEO Reads. 16 December 2013. Retrieved 23 November 2014. 
  14. ^ a b "World Entrepreneur Of The Year Speakers and contributors". Ernst & Young. 2014. Retrieved 23 November 2014. 
  15. ^ "Erik Wahl performs at World Entrepreneur Of The Year 2014". Ernst & Young. 2014. Retrieved 23 November 2014. 
  16. ^ Kumar, Akhil (29 January 2014). "How Erik Wahl Artist Painted Successful Journey Of Entrepreneurship". 21 Entrepreneurs. Archived from the original on 21 November 2014. Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  17. ^ "Erik Wahl". Worldwide Speakers Group. Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  18. ^ "About Erik Wahl – Visual Artist and Motivational Speaker". The Sweeney Agency. Retrieved 13 October 2013. 
  19. ^ a b Younger, Sandra Millers; Snyder, Julene (Summer 2012). "In Living Color". University of San Diego Magazine. Archived from the original on 29 November 2014. Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  20. ^ Morrison, David (17 September 2014). "Entrepreneur Artist Paints Path to Innovation: Onsite Coverage". CreditUnion Times. Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  21. ^ a b Mitchell, Murphy (25 February 2013). "Celebrity artist appears in Stillwater". OColly. Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  22. ^ a b Wroten, Christie (29 November 2012). "Renowned Artist Erik Wahl Opens the Lectora User Conference". Lectora. Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  23. ^ DiGrigoli, Denise (2 May 2014). "The Cultural Icons by Erik Wahl Fine "Art Inspiring Thought Leadership" An evening of art to benefit The Bridgeport Hospital Foundation". Westport Patch. Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  24. ^ Miller, Kathleen; Rubin, Richard. "IRS Paid Speaker $17,000 to Paint Michael Jordan at Event". Bloomberg. Retrieved 13 October 2013. 
  25. ^ a b Isaad, Virginia. "Erik Wahl Drops Art Like it’s Hot". Los Angeles Magazine. Retrieved 13 October 2013. 
  26. ^ "San Diego Film Festival Day 2: Tribute to Gus Van Sant". Culture Mob. 28 September 2012. Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  27. ^ "Film lovers turn out for San Diego Film Festival salute to director Gus Van Sant in La Jolla". La Jolla Light. 3 September 2012. Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  28. ^ "Hollywood stars pay tribute to Gus Van Sant". LGBT Weekly. 11 October 2012. Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  29. ^ "Graffiti Artist Hides Original Painting of Magic Johnson in Las Vegas for a Lucky Treasure Hunter". Yahoo! Finance. 27 March 2015. Archived from the original on 10 June 2015. Retrieved 10 June 2015. 
  30. ^ "Interactive Artist Shares Secrets of How Creativity Leads to Business Success". Yahoo! Finance. 29 March 2015. Archived from the original on 10 June 2015. Retrieved 10 June 2015. 
  31. ^ Pontoriero, Caterina (27 April 2015). "What you're missing at RIMS 2015: Day One". Property Casualty 360. Retrieved 10 June 2015. 
  32. ^ Beck, Catherine (1 July 2015). "Erik Wahl: The Art Of Vision For Educators". NAESP. Retrieved 7 July 2015. 
  33. ^ a b Brown, Paul B. "How To Discover Your Inner Genius: Unthink". Forbes. Retrieved 13 October 2013. 
  34. ^ "Unthink". Random House. Retrieved 13 October 2013. 
  35. ^ "Unlock Your Creative Genius: 4 Steps To Being Provocative With A Purpose". Fast Company. Retrieved 21 October 2013. 
  36. ^ "Unthink: Rediscover Your Creative Genius". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 4 November 2013. 
  37. ^ "Book Review: Unthink: Rediscover Your Creative Genius". Economic Times (India Times). 2 August 2013. Retrieved 4 November 2013. 
  38. ^ "Pink Pays $10,000 for Marilyn Monroe Painting". People. 30 April 2012. Retrieved 23 November 2014. 
  39. ^ Mitchell, Kate (23 April 2012). "Ian Somerhalder Hosts THE INFLUENCE AFFAIR". ScreenSlam. Retrieved 23 November 2014. [permanent dead link]
  40. ^ "Internationally Recognized Graffiti Artist Erik Wahl Live Auctions "Lady Liberty" Painting to Benefit One Fund Boston and Victims of Boston Marathon Tragedy". The Wall Street Journal. 1 May 2013. Retrieved 13 October 2013. 
  41. ^ "Famed Artist Erik Wahl Auctions Painting For Charity". Look To The Stars – The World of Celebrity. Retrieved 13 October 2013. 
  42. ^ "Erik Wahl Painting Raises $21,000 for Miracle-Ear Foundation". Benzinga. 23 June 2014. Retrieved 10 June 2015. 
  43. ^ Garin, Nina (11 April 2014). "Changing the world one butterfly at a time". UT San Diego. Retrieved 23 November 2014. 
  44. ^ "About Erik Wahl". Everyday eBook. Retrieved 13 October 2013. 

External links[edit]