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Oil painter goes viral with stunning food still lifes, one in “Girls Club – Be careful, they bite!” (exclusive)

Noah Verrier has always been drawn to art, even before he knew what it meant to him.

The painter, who rose to fame with his oil still lifes of everyday objects from flower vases to McDonald's Happy Meals, tells PEOPLE that his love of art began at a young age.

“I was always doing art as a kid. I didn't really have an artistic family, but I remember every time I saw a painting I was interested. My mom took painting classes in college and I saw that or stuff like that on TV and was interested. And I felt like maybe I could do it and be good at it. So I started practicing from a young age and just got really excited.”

Noah took art classes in high school and enjoyed his free time more with art than socializing or other hobbies.

“Bob Ross was on TV at the time. I don't paint landscapes, but I certainly watched it. I actually copied one from the show, just to learn as much as you could from anyone you could at that time.”

For many years, Noah's interest in art was about “exploring and having fun” using different mediums. It wasn't until college that Noah began to explore oil painting.

“I tried to figure it out for myself at first. In college, they put a lot of emphasis on finding a major and creating a portfolio. It's about consistency, like in other fields, and proving your skills to get a job,” he recalls, eventually settling on “street scenes.”

Noah later devoted himself to landscape and still life painting. He then became acquainted with the work of Édouard Manet, a 19th-century French modernist painter known for his still lifes.

“My painting teacher Mark, who probably had the greatest influence on my still life painting, introduced me to him. His Last flowers The paintings have an incredible story. He was on his deathbed, his eyesight was failing towards the end of his career. People sent him flowers and he painted them. It was such a beautiful story and you can see this series of paintings and that really touched me.”

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Noah began working on still lifes, first with small panels, and continued from there.

“I painted a little rose, simple floral things. Back then, it wasn't really about food. I was looking for things that would entertain me if I sat there and painted them. I have a painting of a little bottle of Grey Goose Vodka and a bowl of Goldfish Crackers. Nobody was doing that kind of thing back then, but I did what came naturally to me. And I liked to paint quickly, something I could do in a couple of hours. The more I did it, the more I thought, 'Damn, this is interesting.'”

That's when Noah started experimenting with combining household items and food. “That was probably my first little insight into this subject.”

Noah worked for a while to sell his work while also teaching as an adjunct professor at various schools, and he remembers it being a particularly tough time.

“Also, that part of how hard it is, I never tell. I don't tell because it's hard for anyone to find a job, no matter what industry they're in. But in the time after I stopped teaching, I was able to really focus on my own work and find all these crazy topics.”

Noah wasn't a fan of social media, but after encouragement from others, he started sharing his work on Facebook.

“My work was well received and shared on Facebook, especially some of the unusual subjects. I did local subjects like magnolias, which are very common here in the South, and other flowers and stuff. That caught on pretty quickly for me and I thought, 'Wow, there's actually an audience here. There are people who are interested in art.'”

Noah had just gotten used to sharing his work on Facebook and Instagram when he received a message from someone alerting him that his work was going viral on Reddit, a platform he had never heard of until then.

“So I went to Reddit and found the person who had shared my work – sunflowers in a jar, no food yet. I confronted the guy and he was like, 'Oh, excuse me, do you mind?' I didn't know anything about Reddit, so I agreed. Then I went there and started sharing my own work.”

There were even more art lovers on Reddit, as Noah was able to quickly sell several paintings to interested buyers.

“I woke up and one of my pictures was at the top of r/pics with millions of views. It was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a glass of milk on a pink background. It had thousands of comments, thousands of likes, thousands of shares. And then people and brands started reaching out to me, so Reddit was the first big thing for me.”

His first brand deal was with NYX Ice Cream, which immediately exceeded his expectations.

“NYX contacted me and said, 'We want you to paint 15 paintings for our corporate headquarters.' And that was after they saw my peanut butter and jelly jar, my glass of whiskey and my stack of gummy bears.”

Noah was asked for advice by artists. After leaving teaching behind, he told the truth.

“I said I'm just following my instinct here. I'm just here to share things, and it just exploded.”

Often the artist himself “couldn’t believe” the recognition he received.

“It went on and it took one, two, three years in a row. I'm very conservative and I always thought, 'This is just a fluke.' But after another year and another year, I had done it,” he explains. “I knew I was a good painter. And that's not because I'm conceited, it's because I practiced like crazy in school. I worked my ass off to improve my skills.”

Noah continues, “I made a commitment to do it. I quit my job. I had obligations, I had to slog every day. I did what I could. I got up every day. I sat down with my sketchbook. I sat down and painted. I also did a lot of side jobs, whatever I had to do to be able to keep making art every day. I stayed true to an idea, a goal, to have a new idea every day or every other day and find a way to make money from it, to sell it. And it really just grew from there.”

“I didn't think a painting of grilled cheese would take off, but who knows what does in art? It was super surprising and weird, but exciting.”

Noah got into the swing of things as he continued to explore “different concepts around food.”

“I wish I could say something specific about why I used food and fast food. But I just do the things that I find most interesting. I tend to stay authentic to what I think. And that doesn't just apply to food – it can be anything. It's about having a passion for what you believe is authentically connected to your personality.”

“The first brand that approached us after NYX was Popeyes. Then Taco Bell approached us to do a project and that was great. Then they used the painting that Taco Bell did for Girls Club – Be careful, they bite!

He continues: “It's only in the movie for a split second, but the fact that it was in Regina George's house is a joke. It was really great working with Marken, but the situation with the movie was crazy because it was so much more than I expected. I was just trying to make a living from my work. It was all unbelievable. It was all like a huge surprise and it's a big deal for me.”

Noah attributes much of his success to social media, noting, “It's hard to get into galleries and magazines. On social media, you can be yourself and be seen for who you are and what you do. I thought that was just incredible.”

Being successful and having his art appreciated has been a profound process for Noah.

“It taught me to figure out when I need to make an important decision. I'm lucky that my faith has a lot of influence and support for me. But it taught me how to take a leap, how to take a risk.”

He continues, “As an entrepreneur, you have to take risks, and as an artist of this nature, you do. I can lean on my faith to guide me, but it's about listening to that inner voice that gives you direction and makes you feel comfortable. I knew God would provide for me on this risky journey. He wanted me to try to develop my talent. I couldn't orchestrate the Reddit thing. It's things like this that you can't take responsibility for, things you can't take credit for. Sometimes it just comes to you.”