When I first saw beautiful artwork popping up on utility boxes all over the city of San Jose, I knew I wanted to paint a box myself . So I got in touch with Cherri of ArtBox San Jose, and she paired me up with the Hanchett Park neighborhood to work on a pair of boxes at the intersection of Race and Park street.
The neighborhood wanted to incorporate the historical Hanchett Park pillars into the design, and sent me photographs of what the neighborhood looked like a long time ago. And they sent me the location of the utility boxes to paint.
I designed a piece that surrounded the pillars with flourishing local flora, fauna and animal life to represent the revitalization of this historical neighborhood. First came a quick little sketch followed by research into the bird, animal and plant species of the area. And finally, a pretty detailed line drawing of the piece.
Day 1: A good, thick coat of white primer, some rough pencil guidelines and I got down to drawing in my piece with an extra thick permanent Sharpie. I use a sharpie and watercolor for my sketches, but what was so different about this piece was the scale. This is a big utility box, about 5 feet tall. ( My sketches are rarely larger than 10 inches tall)
The line all done, it was time to add a first coat of flat color, coloring-book style. What made it so much fun at this point was all the volunteers I had to come paint with me. My niece Mohini, who I’ve partnered with on so many projects. And Jen, Giang and Pallavi all dropped in to help out. Acrylics are fun to paint with. And so forgiving compared to watercolors. They make the perfect medium for a bright, happy piece. These are images of the piece slowly evolving over Day 2 and Day 3.
And here is the final piece on day 4. Fur and leaves are fun to paint with bold strokes. Then it was shadow for depth and a second round of sharpie lines, this time looser and freer, to finish up the piece.
When I started out, I thought I was going to do a neat, “color within the lines” piece. But that was not to be. I couldn’t resist freeform wiggly lines and the box ended up looking so much more like my sketches than I expected.
If you’re in San Jose, this box is on the corner of Race and Park Street. And there are so many more beautiful boxes areound San Jose. You can see them all on this this map. And you can see all my photos from this project here on flickr.