Marketplace Depot, Prescott Arizona

Hello, National Stage!  Hello, Everybody’s Hometown!  This was my first commission outside of California, which is a huge milestone for me professionally.  Being so grand an opportunity, I wasn’t prepared for how enjoyable this would be to do.  I will forever have the fondest memories of Prescott, Arizona and Depot Marketplace, @depotmarketplace.

Now, for those driving the 10-12 hours out there, it’s North of Pheonix, South of Flagstaff and there’s not much around it besides Route 66 and Sedona.  That said, if you’re looking for the best road trip ever, Prescott is on your way.  Along with the Americana scenery getting here, this high desert town is the Old West before it was tamed by automobiles.  It’s a cute town with a lot of personality and plenty to do and see.  There’s lots of hiking to take advantage of.  There’s plenty of good eats and great shopping.  This is a tourist destination artists can afford to live in and set up storefronts.  I’m impressed.  Furthermore, the day excursions to be had with Prescott as your epicenter are incredible.  Sedona, Grand Canyon, Williams, plenty of artist communities and national forests.  It’s not a one day trip.

Now, I’m from the Silicon Valley and that heavily informs my creative process.  I took a first stab at the artwork and really appreciated the history of the area.  The actual property was the Santa Fe Train Depot to the right built in 1883.  This depot work up as spot on and we even made it 3 dimensional.  The second piece, though, wasn’t my best attempt.  I don’t think the client had strong opinions against it, but I knew I could do better to create “sense of place” and therefore better create placemaking. There’s definitely something to this sign and cow skull but maybe not the cornucopia of culture next to it.  The entire property compromises the historic train depot building and the adjacent cattle yards, with the tracks ran through the street.  I started investigating Prescott itself and found some of the prettiest rock formations nearby, the Dells or the Granite Dells.  What I didn’t realize was that the entire town is covered in hills and these pretty things.  This really represents Prescott while being beautiful.  It is also the first time I offered to paint my rainbow style into natural subjects.  I like it so much, month after the project and it’s still up on my wall.

It was an inspired move.  This was the first portion to be painted and it struck a cord with passers by immediately.  People felt all the colors the sun casts throughout the day across their rocks.  I didn’t realize how spot on the cow skull was either until I started shopping downtown.  This is a legit decoration around these-here-parts.  I was just thinking of the historical aspect.  The clouds make the most interesting streaking shapes over the mountain line and into the high desert.  I definitely tried to paint their clouds and even started capturing them at sunset for social media.

The train depot came out awesome.  I fought myself over the boring sky at first, because it’s never just a blue sky.  I added clouds at first.  I added steam behind the letters and it was too much.  Ultimately they competed.  The steam was the more dynamic of the two.  I also added Prescott’s “Thumb Butte”, a popular formation and hiking destination that rises above the town and ends up being the symbol for Prescott.  Tumbleweeds jazz up what’s on the ground.

After spazzing out over the train itself, rails run out from the largest train quite seemlessly.  Simply running straight lines with a vanishing point around eye level works mathematically over both the horizontal and vertical surfaces.  I’m so glad I was able to sell this optical illusion.  They thought it couldn’t be done!  Well, laymen walking by couldn’t envision this 2d train entering the 3 dimensional field.  The different ways to engage here are pretty endless.  You can selfie with an oncoming train, run away, lay on the tracks, raise the lettering, be an engineer on the train or on the tracks…. you can really play with this baby.  They might at a little ding ding bell to the train for kids.  Wicked fun.  This is good for everyone, except that one lady who told me she almost got hit by a train.  That’s probably not her cup of tea.

Depot Marketplace totally got our social media activated.  Through the efforts of Michelle Berryman with Kayyem Marketing and photographer Kimberly Marsh, this project already shines online.  I heard Santa recently made a stop here on a reindeer test flight. Kim was amazing!  Her work is so good, I took advantage and got great headshots and professional project photos taken.  We did a bunch of Press in Arizona!  It was awesome.

I tremendously wasn’t prepared for how friendly people would be or what an artist and art appreciating community this is.  I got a warm reception from the whole town, which is a contrast to Silicon Valley and people caught in the trance of their phones.  People were so gracious.  I geeked hard over their old-fashioned Veterans’ Day Parade with nearly 100 float entries.  I stayed in town a little longer because there is so much to do and see.  Shopping is wonderful because it’s an artist community and the high desert provides interesting hand-crafted fashions – like cowboy boots, hand-knit hug-warm sweaters and handmade jewelry.   I handled Christmas in November handily.

WEATHER – Californians, it’s a real thing across the rest of the country.

  Arizona’s Sun feels enormous on the desert and it feels larger in the high desert.  Prescott has real winter weather.   The client and I did discuss that we couldn’t do the project any later in the year because it would snow at some point.  Though I narrowly escaped the coldest of weathers (snowed a week later), Prescott got hail and rain while I was there.  Any weather was covered by our awning and building but COLD has no cover.  Freezing was anytime the sun wasn’t up which meant everyone tries to run errands before 6pm.  And thus all the fuzzy sweater and hat options.  Though showers come on as quickly as they go, there was plenty of sunshine and cloud formations as well.  Thunder, lightning…. weather is rocking hard in Prescott. Dress accordingly is right.

Here’s the rest of  footage from Arizona.

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Forward Thinking – Urban Catalyst Mural

I have some of the coolest clients.  Urban Catalyst, a young group of developers in downtown San Jose who were just announced to be on the Forbes List, did a project with me in September.  I had a smaller mural downtown already, but this was a big 50 footer on Second Street near Santa Clara Street and a real presence for me in Downtown.  This is on the parking lot in Fountain Alley, and a difficult one to GPS being on the Second Street side of a First Street building, 30 S 1st St, San Jose, CA 95113.

In this over 50 ft cartoony, loose or abstract composition of Downtown San Jose facing west as the wall does, we have painted longstanding landmarks and future buildings from the Urban Catalyst portfolio.  Not to toot my own horn, but it’s so large and so high, I couldn’t project to scale on to the wall.  Alongside the California Theater and San Jose Museum of Art is the Valley Title Building.  With St. Joseph’s Basilica front and center, the Bank of Italy prominently displayed alongside City Hall, San Jose’s clash between past and present is visually discussed.  Cranes line this San Jose’s skyline as they do presently and for the foreseeable future.

More forward thinking still, I was asked a couple of times by the client to add more people to the open spaces.  First, blah the grey!  The Artist in me was happy to oblige this request.  Secondly, the thought behind it was that we wanted to see San Jose as a bustling, vibrant, pedestrian hotspot that Urban Catalyst and others are trying to create.  We ultimately tripled them.  It’s a vision of a city that people can access – without cars – and play in; a family place as much as a business place.  Formally titled Urban Playground, this mural is a colorful rendition of the San Jose for tomorrow.

The bottom portion of the building is physically proud and we were already thinking about what to do with this area.  At first, the client liked the idea of a  boring logo on blue like a business card.  When the possibility of doing something more for social media arose instead, we had to take advantage of this space at the ground level.  The dripping city is a nice touch.

I hesitate to write this blog post in case the next step of Urban Playground’s engagement comes to life.  I love that they were even open to the new bright idea in murals.  This may not be all from the depths of downtown.


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Fairgrounds – How did you manage?

As you read in an earlier blog, I had a good idea I was able to bring through to fruition with the help of Santa Clara County Fairgrounds Management Corp and the County Supervisors. During this 6 weeks hustle, I coordinated prep, contracts, artists, and final presentation of over 6,000 square feet of murals along Gateway Hall facing Tully Road. Here’s how it went out at the Fairgrounds.

SPOILER ALERT (also posted later for the unspoiled)

A magician doesn’t share all their secrets but I got to blend my strengths together with this project. When we, Santa Clara County Fairgrounds Management Corp and I, considered when funds became actually available, I actually couldn’t do the whole wall in that timeframe. That wasn’t feasible, but hiring this out in a meaningful way is easy. Supervisor Chavez gave me the opportunity to present my idea, but Supervisor Cortese also sponsored it. I kept my presentation concise – because it’s such a strong idea, it doesn’t need flowery language or explanation. I formatted a contract that I as an artist would want. I value my peers enough not to low ball them and expect their best work simultaneously. I began heeding the hiring advice given and interacting with cities and artists. The measure passed unanimously. Away we went hiring artists and managing the contracts.

I sought out mid-career artists from each city in Santa Clara County. I couldn’t see hiring a lesser talent and having this come off as a Gemellos Showcase. This is for the County. There was some hesitance with busy artists. Other artists rose above their fears and took me on the project. The Management Corp and I reviewed black and white sketches and made very few requests of artists once submitted. There wasn’t any hurting of feelings over redundancy, tone or interpretation. I asked for larger interactive pieces and that’s what I got. I didn’t have to manage the art.

Furthermore, each artist interpreted their hometown in their own way, creating a more interesting dynamic between them. Some artists chose many topics to discuss, some handled a single topic spectacularly. The organic nature of this was so fruitful. I didn’t have to manage that. We lined up the cities in the order they came into being within Santa Clara County and there again, I didn’t have to manage the line up. Don’t I seem diplomatic? Everyone looked confident next to their neighbors and again very different.

Armed with 6 social services interns to help me manage, our placemaking sense of place presentation came out beautifully. I could better recap this experience, but they got to choose the colors that went in between each mural and sealed each one. This final presentation across 6,000 sq ft is a giant task for 6 teens on their first job experience. More importantly, though skeptical at times, by the end of their summer they felt like they had been apart of something larger than themselves. Their loved ones saw them on the news.

Here’s our progress line up video better recapped by the bios and slideshows below. You can drive the project, but not quite all the way around. I kept it short.



On the Eastern end of Gateway Hall, as you enter the Fairgrounds to the right is Santa Clara County’s murals, painted by yours truly, Lila Gemellos. Gemellos represents Santa Clara as its 50th Best of Show Art Division winner and Public Artist throughout the County. Here painted is a historical timeline of Santa Clara County, from Ohlone wilderness, to the Spanish Mission period, to the Valley of Heart’s Delight into the Silicon Valley.


The City of San Jose was represented by Exhibition District @the_exd and artist Mario Dimas @dimas_ii. The Exhibition District, closely affiliated by San Jose studio Local Color facilitated Mario’s creatively landscape of vibrant city.


The University of Santa Clara assisted us with finding Professor Kelly Detweiler @kdetweilerart. Assisted by Fine Arts students, they brought forth not only a piece of their campus but also the epicenter for the City and County of Santa Clara, Mission Santa Clara de Asis in its present day.

GILROY – 1870

Gilroy’s Gateway mural painted by Dabble Art Center director and instructor Sheryl Cathers @sheryl_cathers. Sheryl’s collage of Gilroy’s landscape and culture is instantly indicative of her hometown and South County.


Los Gatos’ Township offered up a name of an artist they really enjoyed working with recently on their Art Box program. This Gateway of Lexington Reservoir complete with technicolor Bobcat was painted at Bhavna Misra, @creativitycornerofbhavna.


Palo Alto Public Art regular, artist Megan Sara Stevens @artistmegansara brings us this mandala created from natural, native flora and fauna from the North County. This sketch was originally a photograph.


This Gateway Mural was painted by Bay Area juggernaut Edward “Scape” Martinez @scape.martinez. Downtown’s skyline can be seen nestled amongst circuitry and clouds. See what he did there?


Morgan Hill was represented by educational artist Artist Paul J. Gonzalez @artistpauljgonzalez. This vibrant look at Morgan Hill’s agricultural landscape, Mt. El Toro and El Camino Real is a great way to capture the City of Morgan Hill.


This collaboration was facilitated by Art Judge and Mayor Larry Klein of Sunnyvale. Led by Deepti Nanawati with ArtCircle Studio, The Sunnyvale Arts Club was able to raise funds for sustainability and events whilest bringing an urban rainforest centered around Historic Murphy Street to our County Fairgrounds. Artists Penny Nolan, Angelo Lopez, Jenny Tang, Ishwarryah SR, Lavonne Carrick, Kanchan Paranjpe, Ketaki Adi, Neela Shukla, and Jayashree Sadashivan participated.


After 40 years, Santa Clara County adds another city to its roster and we invited this phenom to represent where she owns property and a business, where she raised her family and where she calls home. Morgan Bricca @morganmurals painted a Gateway that is a vintage map with her lovely daughter busting through. Truly a piece of her heart. Cute tidbits about Morgan Bricca and this project: a) she was a real long shot in my initial estimation and the project couldn’t be as successful without her; and b) 3 city governments felt the same way about her.


Also founded that year, we add Campbell and Campbell Public Artist Pam Mossing @pammossing to our mural walk. Pam’s experience in graphic design is evident with this bespoke creation for the Orchard City, lifting the highlights straight out of downtown.


This Gateway Mural was carefully researched and stylishly painted by Francisco Ramirez @fco1980. A Mexico City transplant, Ramirez grew up along the Milpitas/San Jose border and felt strongly discussing its Native Americans and rush to incorporate into a City, alongside its historic adobe, Ford Factory and classic rolling hills.


Cupertino’s Gateway mural literally completes in a gate with the title of the City. Joseph Demaree @idiomism painted this conceptual masterpiece complete with Silicon City of Cupertinos being plucked from the orchard and technology assisting in that harvesting. This is a statement on where Cupertino came from and where it is today.


This was probably the most literal Gateway painted in our collaboration. Representing the City of Saratoga is Saratoga Contemporary Artists led by Dr. Greg Cheung. They used the challenging space to the max with 4 brick arches opening into Saratoga’s iconic landmarks.


Hesitant facilitator Foothill College, weighing the opportunity and summer school schedule, sent us student and Foothill’s own professional graphic designer Tanya Fish @tanyabunny. Her interpretation of Foothill and Los Altos Hills is spot on, along with the interactive deer that often halts traffic on campus.


Although we couldn’t successful secure an artist from the town of Monte Sereno, we did find an artist to pay tribute to who best represented the town and the County’s artistic heritage. Thomas Kinkade inspired 5 artists to pay homage to different facets of Kinkade’s personality, artistic prowess and commercial success. First time mural painters Kachan Paranjpe Khadilkar @kanchan17 and Ketaki Adi @ketakiadi knocked it out of the park with a pair of bridges over the doorway. Joseph Demaree captures his life studies while Francisco Ramirez and I covered portraits of differing personality traits.

Here’s the spoiler video from above if you’ve made it this far. This was a tremendous experience with the exception of the events leading up to the Fair and its depressing the turnout. We didn’t get the audience we deserved but we’ve got a tremendous piece of placemaking on our hands that each city and town in Santa Clara County can feel ownership of. It’s an incredible feat and an incredible experience. It’s a must see.


As you know, I’m a complex individual and simple isn’t my strong suit. You know what is? Copious amounts of research and preparation. So even though this mural was always to be simple in its bicolor tones, there was a lot to get excited about within its creation. For me, the more meaningful the project is the more rewarding it is.

I was painting electrical boxes at Santana Row and a lady stopped me as she was getting coffee. We get to chatting and we ultimately discuss a job lead she had working with her client and a brand new home. I owe that lady coffee wherever she is now. Earlier in my career, I wouldn’t hear back from people. Now, each lead is a good lead and the very interested clients reach out or follow up with an email to get it going.

That said, I met a virtual stranger on the other end of this lead and ended up with a plum gig. New construction is always fun but being the artist the weaves the perfect themes throughout the home is awesome. Finding clients who want to express themselves thoughtfully is so cool. So this lady building her dream home met with me to share this Indian style called Warli. I’ve been on a tour of a large chunk of India but I hadn’t seen anything like this yet. I threw together a style sheet and saw way more than stick figures happening here. It may be shapes but it builds a beautiful story and energy.

We met again and she decided that the perfect Warli mural is one that’s meaningful to them, not a knock off of someone else’s design. These mean something to the people inside the homes they exist in. Good. You found an artist who wants to make her clients happy. The client described to me the village her husband grew up in and we started with that for layout. After creating the original elements for the piece, we met again to open up the photoshop and composed a real village with a temple in the northwest, below working fields and highway leading to the village and community. In this way, I am painting a piece of first home in their new home.

Our final consultation was in the finished home and with her art consultants, aka. close friends with knowledge and experience in Indian murals. This was awesome. This was the final tweak of the artwork and the final proposition. It needs a pop of color but what? I had a novel idea – cue the lightbulb and click. We went with silver and gold which is in use throughout the home. It makes what could be considered highly tradition so modern. Some of these were blue, red or mustard in background with white. Only some white and black but this was absolutely one of a kind.

Added meaning: This composition centers on a tree of life and completes with circle of life symbolized by the dance spiral. Also, there’s a son and daughter swinging around playing together that symbolize the family. There’s a little girl with a dog on a leash, which I didn’t see in India. This was the mother’s way of keeping peace in her new house. There’s not also a new puppy but there’s a symbol of you and a puppy to fixate on. There’s also the addition of the a boy shooting a basketball.

After all was said and done, I really enjoyed this job! The whole family was beyond lovely and the setting and environment was top-notch. Sometimes clients who work from home micromanage, check in on an hourly basis and interrupt the creative process. Maybe that’s my need to say something anytime someone’s watching me. Painting on a wall will always feel naughty and the first instinct is to stop and explain one’s self. Here, there was a lot of silence or family business as usual which thrills me to no end. It lets me feel like I didn’t interrupt their lives in this process. There was also a lot of hospitality, flexibility and kindness bordering on love. I can’t wait to work with this couple again!

Here’s how this meaningful Mural of Life came together.

Laurelwood Wordle

The Laurelwood Elementary School Lions in the Evergreen Elementary School District wanted the reverse side of their ball wall to indicate the culture and principles of the school. This time, we did an oversized wordle shape. It was another inclusive design process, being the catalyst for student expression and school pride. Students and teachers provided the words that populate their school mascot being the ultimate symbol of unity and school pride. I then fit that content inside of the school’s logo and created this graphic masterpiece for their Ball Wall.

Many of the words provided me were redundant, but not the ones you’d suspect. I was pleasantly surprised. These students and teachers want to focus on being helpful, respectful, nurturing, and trustworthy. If the children are our future, our future is in good hands. I couldn’t be prouder of all the words included here inside our lions, using 95% of the material provided me.

This is also a graphic success for me. The opposite side of the wall is extraordinarily different in content and composition. The principal trusted me with the design after the concept was ironed out. She was ultimately so pleased with this result however, I’m turning the raw graphic over for the school’s t-shirts next year! It’s not been a strong suit of mine, but simple is a strength on to itself and simpler is great on a shirt. More importantly, the school is so proud of this collaboration, it would like to use the image on its notecards and other school items.

Here’s the oversized school mascot wordle we collaborated on at Laurelwood Elementary School in San Jose coming together in sequence.

What’s next, Lila?

Yours truly, Lila Gemellos, is administrating a mural project for the County of Santa Clara Fairgrounds and the 75th Anniversary of the County Fair! It’s my idea, my effort and mine to run. I am tremendously looking forward to and prepared for this opportunity. Its name is the Gateway Hall Murals (Project).

Concept and layout

The project: I have hired 15 other professional artists and arts groups to paint a gateway into each Santa Clara County city to create the draw from audience members beyond San Jose. It flexes some of the professional muscles I have from administrating construction projects on behalf of developers and contractors alike. This prior experience has enhanced my art career in ways I’m only beginning to understand. It also allows me to build bridges between artists and communities while creating opportunities. Sixteen artists will always be better than 1. I found artists I wanted to work with and admire professionally. I’m really proud of how this project is formulated to address communities and needs while being spectacular to look at.

The Gateway Mural Project seems like the perfect fit for the Fair and I, Gemellos Murals, to partner together. I wonder if they knew that when they asked me about murals at Gateway Hall or if I was just the go getter willing to fail to get it done. It was originally to be a single long mural by Gemellos, but this is way better.

I was clued into meetings at the County Fairgrounds because it’s a big one and if I can help, I’d like to. I’m also a powerful collaborator and creative problem solver. The gift of vision comes with a responsibility to share so I do. In this regard, I was offered all the walls and instead saw a way of fixing the audience draw to the Fair, aesthetically and through social media and public art. I’m from San Jose and bring people from San Josee to the Fair. That’s not of great benefit. An artist from everywhere brings everyone. I’d love to work with more non-profits, creating the change I’d like to see. I bring some unashamed creativity to these long tables.

That’s this photo

What the Fairgrounds management didn’t know is that I have a good Fair story – making me a passionate advocate for the 75th celebration. I was Best of Show at the 50th Annual Fair as an eight year old and that I sold my first commissions from the walls of Gateway Hall.

This award certainly kept me pursuing arts through my youth and onward to college. It was a skillset and a confidence I had to reacquaint myself with when construction and real estate industries were downsized.

This project hopefully allows me to consult and administrate other large mural projects for companies who might not explore this as an option because of the calories burnt internally interfacing with artists. That can seem too daunting to handle, whether your staff is stretched thin or not. Luckily, I’m versed in artist nonsense and property owner lingo equally. This is my jam.

Students of the World Part 2 – Welcome All

For Students of the world, what says welcome to school like a literal welcome to school? Better still, students, parents, community members, staff and faculty from all over the world are able to connect with this larger than life wordle! It truly welcomes all.

This school project is again interactive. We have book ended Dove Hill’s office entrance with color and play! It passes the Gemellos test! This mural will be fun for photos not only in front of the little words themselves, but Dove Hill is perfect for full classes and staff photos. The Bear/School Mascot is awesome for graduations and one off photo opts.

Here’s how that all came together.

Story times with no picture ( because it’s a school and there are rules about taking pictures of other people’s children ) :

1. A little Cambodian girl came up with her teary eyed father to take their own picture in front of the mural. He asked me if I knew that was Cambodian and yes but only because my brother did time in the Peace Corps in Cambodia. He took a moment to tell me he feels so welcome and so good sending his daughter there. On another occasion, the daughter told me she wasn’t like the other Asians and it made her feel so proud to be acknowledged.

2. There’s a large Indian demographic in Evergreen. I’ve been to India twice and there’s huge portions I know nothing about. It’s a subcontinent of distinct cultures. I’m such a novice about it. So when a Punjabi gentleman correctly my spelling and thanked me for including him, I was really grateful to him and touched by his kindness. Sometimes these things don’t go well when all I’m trying to do is acknowledge other cultures. He was so gracious.

3. I threw in languages with funky letters specifically to break up all the English looking ones. Cambodian, wonderful for that. Likewise, Japanese, Chinese, the Indian sandskrits, etc. So Russian was one of those in this neighborhood that I thought no one is going to recognize but it looks awesome in the mix. So, when the redhead came up and read it to his Asian friends, it was pretty special for me. We smiled and had a moment. He asked me how my day was every day.

Technology – changing the craft

Frida Kahlo

I have a very specific style that has everything to do with how I was trained in Fine Arts and how I’ve allowed technology to enter my life. My style is color like Andy Warhol. It’s line like real life. It’s Fine Art while also being Street Art. It’s different. People sometimes stop me and ask about my previous work because they like another piece I’ve done so much, they’d hate for someone to copy it.
It positively wouldn’t look like technicolor or free range, however, had I not grown up in the late 1980’s in the Silicon Valley.

9th Birthday – Best of Show 1994

As a child, I experienced lots of 2d and 3d medium that were simple at the Museum of Art. Their art class program was robust at the time.
My parents exposed me to museums when the bug bit me. When I was 8, I began oil painting in a private studio, selling small canvas works and winning ribbons in the County Fair. We also had artists working in our classrooms with our teachers and plenty of time running around the Discovery Museum as children. Art used to be a thing in schools.

Back then though, the internet wasn’t in every household in the country. In fact, it was called DSL or modem and it traveled through your home phone line – making an awful cacophony if you picked the line up. Graphics were in their infancy. It was a lot of written word. My grandfather loved it. Saving all kinds of money on stamps.

We, painters and students, were clipping and photos from books, magazines and calendars. We were keeping a portfolio of things you’d like to add to your portfolio. Oil painting was, in my studio anyways, painting what you could see – nothing more. You gridded an original, gridded your canvas and tried to recreate it. I always excited my paintings with vivid color. That’s not new. What came next came too fast for Pappou.

When clip art came into scope, it was the digital expression of anything and everything. They were like rubber stamps you didn’t have to buy. Clip art became the simplest interpretations computers were generating. They were absolute abstractions until image processors developed. Fine Artists were still in business. We had access to blurry photos. It wasn’t enough to change what we did until college.

First Digital Camera 1975

Photos, thanks to tech, are no longer processed in dark rooms and pharmacies – unless you’re into that kinda thing. Polaroids made photo opts worth while with a physical picture to take home. Then, there was the digital camera – super expensive but of the same quality as professional grade photography equipment without the film. For a time, people had both because there were artists with lenses. Nowadays, everyone is a photographer and you can take pictures on any cellphone. Phones are smart – unlike Pappou’s flip phone. The quality of the pocket cameras keep getting better and pictures are easier to transfer throughout your devices. Take a second and describe “the cloud” to a grandparent. It’s good fun.

early 2000’s relic

With the progress of technology, processing images has shifting eons further that any artist hanging on to magazine clippings could imagine. In my lifetime, I’d watch the internet enter every home in America. Thanks AOL, born 1985, for getting us hooked. GeoCities created the clear path to social media, Yahoo and AOL gave everyone the instant gratification of email and search engines answer questions for curious people everywhere. Before Google Maps, there was Map Quest, before which you phoned a friend. This thing called Photoshop, used to create graphics, became more accessible and changed photography forever.

What does any of that means for fine artists?

Eastridge Mockup

My success is 100% in fusing my creativity with technology. My color shifts like the swipe of an ipad or click of a mouse on Wikipedia. It’s made to compete with how we’ve engineered people’s attention spans. I use everything – tape for straight lines, projectors for outlines, spraypaint for shading and photoshop for mockups. The more I can adapt, the leaner and meaner I work. Text communication can actually clarify a lot of crucial confusion, especially with photos. My strength will always be my Fine Arts skillset but technology allowed the canvas to grow larger than myself.

Imagine if I was on Instagram back then

My generation of artists had to learn how to use the internet and social media. All of it and each individual wave as it came out. We had to code our websites and learn where to post our products – Etsy and Zazzle were not my jam. If you come to the table too late, like I did with Instagram, you’ll have a hard time catching up. Audience isn’t something you can track in the physical world. You can’t have a staffer there counting how many people paused in front of a mural. Online, audience is a clear indicator that you’re considered a good artist, a cool person, a good networker and probably pretty reliable. No matter how dope your website looks, no one important could be going to it. Your clients know that. It’s a good portfolio to have on your phone. Business is happening online. We’re a visual medium. We’ve got to take advantage.

Falafel’s Drive In Engagement

My generation of artists also got our minds blown stepping into a college classroom, seeing ideas composed on photoshop and painted in 2d. Or trust fund kids with great drugs and real pain to express. The quality of thought that could be in the image and the composition of color and layers were all progressing. There were 5-10 years of college students perfecting photoshop before us and the internet hadn’t widely spread these ideas yet. High School didn’t offer PhotoShop. The software was too expensive to ask partners to purchase. What people expected of their Fine Arts was changing. And great. I’m 18, I’m classically trained for 10+ years and I can only paint what I can see. I can only take the image from here, make it bigger or smaller and put it there. I can’t conceive of anything that’s never been seen before. That’s where my storytelling style comes from. It’s the composition of thoughts rooted in absolute history and reality woven through a color and depth to mimic searching the internet. Through this, I get the response I want. I get engagement for seconds if not minutes with a mural. There’s something everyone can relate to and now scales meant to play.

Now, the artwork, the scale and the style are blowing up. I can paint anything you can communicate to me. This constant process of acclamation will probably never stop but at least it doesn’t leave me behind. There’s a spraypaint machine I can’t wait to try.

Students of the World Part 1 – Community

There’s a huge part of being an entrepreneur, a creative professional and all around executive decision maker that is over looked.  That is the skill of vision or rather know good ideas from bad ideas.  I had 2 principals say the same 1 word – Community.  Although the other principal explained her vision and I designed for the rocky texture of the wall, the project was scrapped.  That said, it was brilliantly designed in its simplicity and easy enough for a child to paint on a different surface.  The brilliant vision of one client thrown away was indeed the treasure of another client.  Without losing time, I was able to bring this awesomeness to fruition.  Don’t throw out good ideas.

This mural was already programmed to say “Community” and the coming together of students in play.  Additionally having every student in the school partake in a little bit of the endeavor stacks “Community” on Community.  One boy asked me what the meaning of this artwork was.  In simplest terms, I told him it’s “to remind you that you are apart of something larger… so you’re painting something larger than yourself.”  He then asked me if I thought I was funny and I do.  We agreed to disagree there.  I just make very nerdy artwork.

We had students 5 at a time spend 5 minutes filling in the people, the Earth and nebula until every student had an opportunity to paint.  I do not think kids and spraypaint mix together well, so I did that after hours and over the weekend when they weren’t present.  We kept this project under control the entire time.  I had no behavioral issues from K-6.  No one spilt paint.

Funny story: T-K, the class before Kinderarten for those born after school starts, came out and dutifully painted without saying anything silly to me.  Their teacher, however, came out afterschool to the wall and said her students explained to her that they painted a mermaid but there was no mermaid on the mock up she had seen.  They painted this to the left and we had a good laugh about it.  Interpretation is everything.

Here’s how it all came together.

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Matsumoto – Students Design

We’ve all been kids and we’ve all known them.  If you’re a marginally good person, you have warm feelings about children and childhood.  Left to their own devices, children can be equally brilliant as they can be devastating.  That quiet afternoon a child spent entertaining themselves in the other room can be reading a good book or creating their own mural in crayon on the walls.  I was a walls kid.

What I’ve learned though is the wall drawing or recess screaming is all in an effort to be heard and feel valued.  Children only feel confident when they feel heard and valued.  This particular mural process not only helps students unify as a student body but feel individual and respected.

Dr. Nguyen at Matsumoto Elementary School gets it.  She armed her Student Body Council to make the decisions and administrate a drawing competition school wide – focusing on the events, charms and mascot of the school.  Each grade was tasked its own subject and Student Body selected the winners.  This was diplomatic and very easily decided.  This yielded the most unique interpretations of the material and therefore the most stunning composition of ideas.  Although there were 7 grades (K-6), I used almost 15 drawings to create this new ball wall mural.

I literally use their drawings to create the elements within the artwork then make informed artistic decisions about color.  Regardless of the margin of change, the students feel so proud and so strongly about their work.  They own it.  That’s their feeling once it comes together.  That’s really the best maintenance program on Earth – the Community’s youngest members being advocates for this artwork throughout their lives.

Here’s the mural coming to life.

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Are you a principal who would like to empower their Student Body with a project like this?  This is a 20 ‘ by 15 ‘ ball wall which the District seals to protect from graffiti.  You’ll need a budget of at least $2,500.00, subject matter for each grade and a leadership group or staff member willing to facilitate entries.  Larger projects will cost more, smaller less.  Sealant costs extra if I’m applying.  Generally the district likes to maintain and insure this at a school.  Charter schools will differ.