Art Box San Jose. A Public Art project

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.hanchett_history

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.

day3_WIP_meAnd 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 interested in the local species of birds, animals and plants in this piece, I marked them here:

And finally, a big thank you to everyone that came out and painted with me. You made it so much fun!

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.

About Suhita Shirodkar

obsessive-sketcher. graphic designer.
This entry was posted in Animals, california, Close to home and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Art Box San Jose. A Public Art project

  1. This is really cool, Suhita! Kudos to being one of the artists!


  2. Wendie says:



  3. saidja says:

    I love your work, whow!


  4. Béliza says:

    Looks wonderful! And what a great idea!


  5. Meta Karmin says:

    This is wonderful. I love it. It’s exactly what I’ve been talking about – prevent graffiti by getting artists (some who can also be graffiti ‘artists’) to create solicited/approved works of art on public spaces. There’s a lovely one on Meridian near Drycreek, on the way to the post office. Thanks for contributing to the beauty of the city.


  6. mirobolante says:

    Congratulations ! Great idea, great work.


  7. Jaci says:

    What a beautiful piece! I love there is a bit of nature in the city!


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