The local artist behind The Cup’s alien-like art

<p>Muncie based artist Zorn Crowder poses for a photo in front of his work April 2 at The Cup. Andrew Berger, DN&nbsp;</p>

Muncie based artist Zorn Crowder poses for a photo in front of his work April 2 at The Cup. Andrew Berger, DN 

The Cup’s patrons might take their beverage into the seating area to the tune of an indie-alternative song and like Jessica Wolfe, a 2023 graduate of Ball State University, they might notice new additions to the walls since their last visit.

“I've always liked the National Geographic wall, and then I like that they added the two paintings on top,” Wolfe said. “It's all of them together, they fit so well. They're all so unique.”

Another patron, Meghan Lutes, an English graduate student at Ball State, said her favorite art piece is a black-and-white painting of two figures drawn in the same signature style of multiple eyes and mouths.

“I always noticed that one because it just catches your eye, and I always thought it was very interesting,” Lutes said.

For frequent visitors, there might be a sense of recognition with the style of the artist known as “Sleep Seeker.” Recently, he has been close enough to hand them their coffee under a different name — Zorn Crowder.

“I didn't want to be attached, as an individual, as a person,” Crowder said about his pseudonym. “I wanted it to be more of some type of alter ego, where it wasn't me doing it.”

The name itself is a call back to the mid-’80s and early to late-’90s: what he says was the “cultural boom.” A time of bright colors and art that mixed cultures and styles, especially in street art and graffiti. A starting point for a lot of his art’s style and color, which involves techniques such as layering each color of paint, is reminiscent of screen printing.


Zorn Crowder poses in front of one of his paintings April 2 at The Cup. Crowder said his style developed through his friendships with graffiti artists. Andrew Berger, DN

In his time growing up in downtown Muncie, his style developed through his friendships with graffiti artists and the influence of local shops, including tattoo parlors around town. Another influence was his life experiences, which have not always been as brightly colored as his work.

“I was painting really heavily in my late teens,” Crowder said. “I was unmedicated, struggling super hard with depression, suicide and drug addiction and alcoholism, and the only time I would entertain the idea of painting was when I was just completely wrecked.”

At that time in his life, he said he worked with his hands and tried to illustrate how he felt, but eventually, he lost joy in everything, including the craft he loved.

For nearly 10 years, he did not touch a paintbrush or doodle like he used to. Then, art came back into his life as quickly as it left with the impending arrival of a baby girl.

“Right before my daughter was born, I had gotten sober and cleaned up,” Crowder said. “And when I had that type of time on my hands, I had to figure out what made me, me.”

In his return to painting and drawing, he found himself becoming happier. His style developed into its current state after a mistake on a doodle led to him creating multiple sets of eyes.

“All of a sudden, it kind of branched into what I think we are,” Crowder said. “We have this face that we have to kind of reconcile what we want to say before it comes out of our mouth. That's where the second face comes from. You're looking at something or two different sets of eyes … somebody that struggles with who they are.”

 Around the room, paintings range from Western-style to futuristic motifs each sporting the same added pairs of features.

“I like the cowboy one. Honestly, the piece of straw out of their mouth is just so good,” Lutes said. “And that one definitely has two mouths because there's a cigarette. I love that.”

The colors themselves were less metaphorical and more of an artistic challenge. Crowder said the black-and-white portrait of two figures was a result of only having those two colors available in house paint; A similarity which carries through the set of paintings as he purchased other house paint specifically in colors he did not normally work with.

 Color is less of a challenge for Crowder given his time spent working alongside his father as a painter and finisher.

“My dad is an artist. A master in color theory, very knowledgeable about art and technique and traditional techniques,” Crowder said.

The color theory Crowder learned is exemplified in one of his works at The Cup, a blue alien with six eyes that alternate shades of pink.

“The way they are placed, it's a test in art theory and how your eyes connect to color,” Crowder said. “They're the exact same color, one just has a tiny bit of white. And when your eyes look at it, they can't focus; they'll jump back and forth because of where the pinks are at. Your eyes never stay still when you look at it.”

Much like his relationship with his own father, Crowder’s daughter has also carried on the family’s artistic spirit.

“She is all about her crayons, and I love it,” Crowder said. “I remember the first time she took one of my pens [when] she was itty tiny bitty. I held it, and she pushed it down and started moving it, almost made me cry.”

While there are many years until his near three-year-old can put her own art on the walls, until then, the patrons of The Cup will continue to come and go among the work of “Sleep Seeker.”
Contact Abigail Denault with comments at


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