Going Up, Eastridge – Live Art

Live Art will always be somewhat of a struggle for an artist at any level – from emerging to established.  A live mural wouldn’t be impressive if it were easy to accomplish.  That’s why I keep working at it until I get it perfect.

Some tips: Prepare, prepare, prepare and don’t program anything that’s  too difficult.  These often go wrong in the planning stage by being overly ambitious.

This 3 hour project was a quick activation of retail space that momentarily pleased the crowd at Eastridge Center.


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Muraled Boxes


DO NOT BEWARE OF ART ON UTILITY BOXES.  THESE ARE A PHONE CALL TO YOUR UTILITY COMPANY AWAY.  Rather, beware or aware of important stickers, get the permissions and paint away.

That’s probably news to a lot of owners who hate the necessary nuisance a utility box can be.  In the past, this has been deemed too difficult to burn calories by utility providers.  But now, the people have spoken and won’t put up with a utilitarian box that encourages property damage when art is the simple solution.  This is easier than it once was to accomplish with City Art Programs taking back their signal light boxes and leading the way.

The conversation you’re going to have with the phone, cable, electrical or other company is going to be about the signage, keyholes and doors.  These are the small things that make this box work when people are working on it.  To a veteran artist, that’s pretty common sense stuff.  You wouldn’t want a non-functioning box or sticky doors that later crack to open.  The conversation you want to have with your professional artist is about prepping the box for the best execution and result afterwards.  Like a magician, I will not show you my tricks but it’s fairly involved.

Private Residents, I’m sorry.  Working with the City agencies is a little more difficult and burns a more calories, but please carb up and do it.  Reach out to your councilman or city hall and get that ball rolling.  The reward is worth it and fairly permanent.

These privately sponsored projects do a lot for a Community and its walkability.  The warmth is often overwhelming.  This program has been so well received that the utility companies have had to fall in line.

Once ran by Art Commissioner Tina Morrill, Cherri Lakey of Two Fish Designs and long time San Jose culture curator now runs the program for the City of San Jose.  Lots of other cities have followed this lead.  These small public art projects provide emerging artists with opportunities and helps them develop relationships with these governmental groups.  This is really the first step into Public Art for young artists out there looking for exposure and opportunities.

In either instance, though, this pop of public art greets pedestrians, provokes engagement of formerly dead space and deters vandalism almost absolutely.  I can count on 1 hand the stories I’ve heard of art boxes getting defaced.

Here are some artful boxes I’ve done.

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I learn from every job.  Sometimes they are large lessons and sometimes they’re little ones.  Here are the ones I’ve learned at 602 W. San  Carlos Street in San Jose.

Lesson #1 for girls and mural artists alike, you’re not there to make friends.  When you give people this impression, they follow you home and want to live in your colorful world.  Make sure you know to whom you speak.

Lesson #2, don’t opt for the expected.  Don’t anticipate your client’s want outside of your talents or strengths.  They found you for what you have to offer.  Don’t overlook that.  I pitched this fish tank and once the construction fencing was removed across the street, there’s an aquarium artbox.  Un-unique thoughts are precisely that.

Lesson #3, motorcyclists like artwork about streets and places.  A building collage is closer to what they experience than any one given scene.

Lesson #4, do one thing at a time and leave the pump at the gas station.


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Lawrence Station Center, #lawrencestationcenter


Through rich collaboration with clients, decent online research and a new confidence in color and self, my projects reflect sense of place and sense of self within that place equally.  The latest project at Lawrence Station Center features family heirlooms, shared experience, and modernity.  Because of this, the emotions evoked are nostalgia, curiosity and where’s my phone again?

Santa Clara is not San Jose’s little sister.  When the two cities where founded, they were far away and separated by horse rides and farm land.  Though the Mission of Santa Clara de Asis was founded in 1777, a year after the USA, San Jose built it’s own cathedral in California’s first civil settlement.  St. Joseph’s Basilica was built to serve practicing Catholics outside of the Missions.  Thus, the two were very separate and far away for a time.

Now, the one time Valley of Hearts’ Delight all grows together and we’re still adjusting to that.  We, this generation and after, will never experience the Community Spirit to Farming.  Everyone came together to pick fruit or else it rotted on the tree.  Today, you can drive from one continuous city to another now.  There are people who have been around to witness orchards being built over.

“Paving Paradise” holds real meaning to them.  These looks into Santa Clara’s and more specifically Lawrence Station Road’s past really pull at the heart strings.  Photos from the client made this difference.  A concise statement from the client in terms of tone and imagery made this a powerful project.  Though I am not Carmen, upon hearing that this is the label picked off the property itself, people are overwhelmed.  Meaningful artwork will never go out of style.

The centerpiece of this colorful mural is a 1935 roadway traffic map, evaluating where to eventually build Highway 280.  This would have different road names than today’s map.  Mountain View Alviso Road became Highway 237.  Alviso Road became Montague Expressway.  Some things subtly changed after World War II.  Stephens Creek Boulevard became Stevens.  Wolffe became Wolfe.  It wasn’t until the 1960’s that Lawrence Station Road became Lawrence Expressway.  We left it how we found it.

With North pointed towards true North, it confuses folks who stay close to home or only go South on 280.  People pause to find their house in the project, creating a sense of Community pride.  This geometric patterned map added the pop flare and curious conversation to this project.

The project is also littered with interactive elements like the compass.  A “you are here pin” with a heart in our map creates a photo opportunity that is too cute.  The statement created here is that the person standing here loves Santa Clara.

Welcome to Santa Clara became a fan favorite so quickly.  It answered a lot of questions about the other information showcased.  Welcome is the overall statement.  The people visiting this center are so proud to have something so cool so close to brag on Social Media.  Done well, you don’t have to welcome somebody up to take a photo.  People just get it.

Though an afterthought in the design process, bugs and birds help sell this Valley of Hearts’ Delight tribute with a little whimsy.  Hummingbirds are a symbol of the Ohlone creation story, so we have one centered over an untouched Valley.  We also have one perched with our Santa Clara Cornucopia because they are in our backyards every day.  Monarchs, ladybugs and bees of all kinds also buzz through the piece.  These pollinators are important for farmers and decreasing in population.  It is a real struggle for the farmers left.  Our Valley of Hearts’ Delight fruit array includes prunes, apricots, grapes of all kinds, peaches, tomatoes, onions, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, roses, mustard, acorns, oranges, lemons and blossoms.

This project has been a real blast.  I’m always learning and developing new skills.  Spraypaint has saved my project again.  This lifesaver continues to help me look like a Rockstar.

Here are some more photos from throughout the project.

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Interactive Mural Projects

Murals are generally thought of as beautifying a public or private space, but I’m here to tell you that they can do more.  I feel so strongly that this ancient art form take on larger roles in today’s society.  Lately, people have been asking me for this “more” in a mural in terms of engagement.

To me, public art’s engagement is the provocation of thought, emotion or interaction.

What I’ve done to maximize public’s engagement is create interactive murals.  You have seen these interactive public art murals already even if you don’t realize it.  Unsuccessful interactive murals don’t get photographed daily and don’t trend on social media however.  In this way, I’m a bit of an expert on the interactive mural and how to coordinate them online. Interactive murals aren’t unique to just myself and the idea came to me over time. It was not a magic lightbulb that clicked on one day. This recent trend in projects is super apparent to me.  An interactive mural is a mural that you complete or photo opt mural.  Think about the playful wings for a simple example.  These are not my wings, above left; I’ve never painted wings.  I decided over time to do more with this interactive art concept.  In this blog entry, I’ll tell you exactly where these interactive inspirations come from within my artwork.

The first time I personally conceived the notion of an interactive engagement was in 2013, over 5 years ago now.

At the famed San Jose eatery, the Falafel’s Drive In, it occurred to me that this would be a great place to create playful photo opts.  The topic is San Jose and this is a corky restaurant caught between the past and present, having opened in 1966 and being a local tech favorite.  The audience there is so playful and colorful.  People were fanatic about Falafel’s.  However, unless you are actively pushing people towards taking these photos, it’s hard to start that trend.  When I painted the Falafel’s Drive In, Instagram wasn’t the explosive social media presence it is today.  It was an infant, an idea.  In fact, this 2013 project was the first mural I created or even saw with tech overtones like hashtags, websites or url addresses.

If you’re going to all the effort of actively engaging with the audience in an interactive element, you ought to place them somewhere impactful and in public.  In 2015, I again had a little fun with a mural project in a public school, but I wouldn’t call this a success attempt at an “interactive” mural.

At Montgomery Elementary School in Evergreen, San Jose, I painted a 25 ft x 20 ft ball wall with the “History of Flight” – in honor of the school’s namesake.  This included everything from DiVinci sketches, hot air balloons, the Wrights Brothers, Amelia Earhart, WWII planes, commercial airliners, helicopter, the new Sophia technology and space travel.  I painted a giant moon that one can take selfies in front of.  Maybe I took this research part too seriously and took this opportunity to have a splash of fun.  The absurdity in making this interactive is that elementary school students don’t carry cellphones.  Teachers could partake in the engagement if they knew about it.  I made sure to tell a couple and trust that word got around.  The very active community utilizing the playgrounds, soccer and baseball fields and basketball courts would have the opportunity if they noticed it.  I went to the effort of creating this lunar landing for little outcome.

Smaller murals are some times more effectively interactive than great big ones because they’re so welcoming.

This piece painted in July 2016 at the Peet’s Coffee on the Alameda in the Rose Garden area is a great example of a simple interactive mural project.   This multi-artist series coordinated through the Exhibition District and the Alameda Business Association, this small bike mural made my niece try to grab at it.  I’ve seen cutest Instagram photos of kids and adult alike riding my bike.  My favorite thing has got to be the community member with this light blue beach cruiser parking it at the bike rack 10 feet away from the painting, making it the most 3D illusion possible.  It’s a “double vision” affect.

These smaller interactive elements paved the way and opened up how I thought about and designed my murals.

Last November 2016, I was invited to add to Downtown Willow Glen’s prestigious public art portfolio in San Jose, California.  This was my first true “public art” opportunity.  Commissioned by Councilman Peirluigi and the Willow Glen Business Association with property owner Michael Mulcahy, this historical and cultural retrospective is also a whimsical send up to Willow Glen’s agricultural heritage, Victorian highpoints, brimming commercial district and warm community spirit.  This public art mural, located at 1133 Lincoln Avenue, San Jose, had large scale historical features throughout.  This intentional selfie in white and black Willow Glen to the left and right was a way of soliciting the engagement I seek out.  Aft I pointed it out to passersby, people quickly caught on and took pictures in the past.  Success!  I still wasn’t anticipating what was yet to come out there on Lincoln Avenue.

Generally speaking, I love to get photographed while I’m painting on-site.  I’m a ham, but I am trying to provoke people into thought like the gentleman to the left, emotion or interaction.  That the engagement I try to program into each project.  Whether it be journalists, tourists or residents taking pictures, photography is a great indicator of the community’s reaction before you’re completed.  My ego doesn’t necessarily require this adoration, but it sure does purr when it happens.  When the public audience shows up to show support, takes photos or just takes a moment to let the project wash over them for the first time, it is a sign to me that the Community is buying in to the project.  Sometimes you know you’re painting well when others stop to take pictures while you’re still in progress.  About mid way through this Lincoln Avenue project though, on an fairly ordinary Friday afternoon, it all happened.  That’s when it all came together in front of my eyes, so I picked up my cellphone and started documenting what was taking place.  If there was a lightbulb, it clicked here.

Shrilly screams echoed into the driveway and heels came clicking after.  This gaggle of giggling, college girls went gaga for the colorful mural.  The designer handbags were dropped to the side and girls started putting on their duck faces and taking turns taking pictures.  Just as this obscene display of emotional began pouring out, the property owner passed by as well.  I just beamed with pride.

This proved a concept I hadn’t even considered for this artwork.  Of course I was trying to tell Willow Glen’s story.  I hadn’t ever considered the history of an area to be so beautiful it could provoke selfies.  To my surprise, that’s exactly what happened.  Whenever you can create a sense of place and add is this interactive feature, you can proceed to creative placemaking.  You’ve essentially turned a nothing, non-engaging wall into a destination.

If I had caught this Willow Glen project early when it began taking off for photos with the matching hashtag, I could have done more with the social media profile for this project.  It’s still gotten a hundred photos by others on facebook and Instagram, receiving several thousand likes combined.  People engage with this work in the ways I never imagined or intended.  It’s really exciting as the artist to see the audience engage their creativity.

East San Jose’s Eastridge Mall and Pacific Retail took a huge gamble on me as a commercial artist.  I had little to no Instagram presence to speak of.  I didn’t have a well rounded public art portfolio like the other cast of artists.  I was selected as their local flavor.  I initially tried to sell Eastridge Mall into my strength in local research and inspired design with something historical.  The LA based owners group wasn’t super into that idea, however.  Looking back on it, that would’ve been so boring.  Located at 2200 Eastridge Loop, San Jose, California, I instead had to improvise a wildly appealing mural solution on a scale I had never conceived of before.

For the first time, I specifically sold interactive murals, or photo walls as we called them then.  We didn’t have all the awesome buzzwords then.  Painted in April 2017, these interactive murals engaged the audience and dared mall goers to pose in the hall of color I painted.  Mostly spraypaints, this series of Eastridge murals tell the story of San Jose with some broader strokes than I’m used to.

As I finished murals, the public came in after and began its photography.  As I painted, getting the hashtags started wasn’t a problem.  People wanted to chat.  Pacific Retail ended up being a partner who welcomed and continues this social media coordination in the context of the artwork.

Complete with unique hashtags, social media handles, informational plaques and instructional floor vinyls, these Eastridge Mall murals are directly aimed at your interaction and engagement.  Their success can be found in the fun people have hashtagging their photos and videos on social media.  The Superman to the right by @veganninjawarrior is still one of my favorites, but the volume of these pictures is incredible.  #HeartofSiliconValley to the above left and right here is the most successful interactive project I’ve completed to date.

This series’ reception by the Community is unparalleled because it is decisively interactive and clearly created with San Jose, specifically East San Jose and Evergreen, in mind.  Things that effectively create a sense of place and provoke photos are the most engaging in my opinion.

Interactive pieces have suddenly become really hot.  I’m into it, too.  I’ve been waiting to see Art and Tech better coordinated and this is an easy starting place.  Engagement is my goal and these murals specifically provoke it.  I never thought about graphic designing interactivity until asked.

Recently, I’ve been asked about temporary interactive art pieces. Leadership Sunnyvale commissioned two interactive art pieces from me for the side of Macy’s on E. Washington Avenue near Murphy Street until its ultimately redeveloped.  Lucky for Leadership Sunnyvale, I have a little experience in this area.  The balloon design to the right, #goingup, was created for maximum engagement and the other shown below here, #sunnnyvale, creates a little sense of place.   Both are creative placemaking strategies in principle.  Both of these mural banners are totally interactive and engaging.  They will be unveiled at Macy’s tentatively in late April.

I’m pleased to announce that I’ll also be producing another couple interactive projects at Eastridge Mall.  I’m thrilled to continue to build this partnership of art, business and community.  Eastridge Mall, throughout its redevelopment, has been using Art as a catalyst for social engagement.  I’m proud to work with a large property owner who wants to make a positive impact in the Community they do business in.

Eastridge Mall and I will be reproducing in vinyl the #goingup artwork and continuing its #eastridgearts #eastridgemurals campaign.  The balloons will be activating the indoor, children’s play space in the center of the retail center.  I’m hopeful this will be installed in time for the mall’s reopening.  The balloons are so nice, we’ve used the design twice.  By a playground is probably the most appropriate home for this, too.  It’s “play” art.

I’ll be executing another project at the mall next week as well, across from the Mail Center and lower level escalators.  This is a gateway to their Community Center.  The next job at Eastridge will be participatory for the audience as well as pose for pictures with after.  At Eastridge’s Reopening Ceremonies, we’ll be having a two day event the evening of April 7th and 8th.  The citizens of San Jose will be invited to help execute.  We’ll be using dots to represent your homes and the people of San Jose on this oversized map of the city.  The following week at their Wednesday Art Night, I’ll be putting the finishing touches on this interactive piece.  You’ll be able to pose under this giant pin and share your San Jose pride.

Morgan Hill Mural

I can’t believe I’m lucky enough to wake up every morning and work towards another mural project.  Likewise, I am so fortunate to continue to grow professionally.  As my career progresses, the jobs become different.  When I first started painting murals ten years ago, I was painting a lot of children’s bedrooms, doctor’s office exam room updates and graffiti stricken schools.  The jobs I cut my teeth on were small in comparison to today’s jobs.  I appreciate each of those jobs still because they’ve prepared me for the bigger ones.

Nowadays, I paint new construction and “City” jobs.  These opportunities are special in different ways.  Any time you paint a new building, your mural is synonymous with the building visually.  It is a part of how that brand new thing will be known for all its days.  It’s the “building with a that mural”.

This Morgan Hill job was both on a new shell heavily under construction and a public art opportunity with the City of Morgan Hill.  A City or Public Art job is always unique is its formation, execution and inspiration.  Each city entity works a little differently.  The individual jobs are generally bigger by hundreds of square feet.  I haven’t been heavily scrutinized through the approval process because of the subject matter and intent of my work.  I’m not in any danger of making a controversial statement that enflames passers by.  Each jobsite is super specific as to utilities, work hours, etc.  The job itself is a little more technical.  Every public job is a rarity and a treasure for a mural artist.  It’s the fruit of our artistic labors – the years spent toiling in obscure bedrooms are repaid in these jobs where we become known in public.  Working in other cities around the Bay Area is the jumping off for a nationwide presence.  It’s how we as artists scale our careers.

In any case, I like to use these public art opportunities to create a sense of place by acknowledging the culture, the history and the highlights of the area.  It just makes sense to me.  It’s going into the City’s portfolio of Art.  If I can tie a fun bow around what makes a place cool, I’ll have succeeded – getting community buy-in and engagement.  That’s really what I’m aiming for as an artist.  I tried to creatively create a sense of place for City of Morgan Hill, but whimsically.  I can’t create that sense authentically or responsibly without doing my research nor without the help of very knowledgeable others.  The architects, property owners, tenants and city advisory committee collaborated about the different things that distinguished Morgan Hill from other cities nearby.  This included an agricultural heritage, historic architecture, their mushroom magnetism, a motorcycle enthusiasm, a wine trail and other Morgan Hill character traits.  I processed this input and delivered several different options.  Upon choosing to represent Morgan Hill’s residents as animals, it became clear that the animals either needed to be whimsical or needed to be indigenous.  A blend was too confusing.  I think you can tell which direction the stakeholders chose to go in.

To represent Morgan Hill, California’s rich agricultural roots, I not only painted larger than life fruits and nuts specific to Morgan Hill.  Covering the fruit packing industry, I utilized an early 1900’s Bisceglia Brothers canned apricot label that obviously featured Morgan Hill’s landscape from their Paradise Valley brand.  Upon seeing how stunning this was from a distance, I left it a little larger than intended and let its sunset shine over Mt. El Toro.  Morgan Hill prides itself on its wine tours so our spider raises a red wine.  Apricots, more common to the area, are featured in the upper right corner.  To further add to Morgan Hill’s produce history, more modern mushrooms were incorporated into the animals seated having coffee as the chairs and tables.  Though whimsical or magically creatured, the committee and I tried to keep this mural’s contents balanced between authentic and playful.

I don’t care where you got your art training from or how much of it you’ve had.  The chances are that if you’ve had two serious art teachers teaching a single 2 dimensional medium, you’ve been told to start with the farthest and work your way forward in one of those mediums.  Perhaps so many times, you shutter at its utterance like I do.  Art Teachers are smart people – they pay bills with their art and communication skills.  Don’t fight good information.  This elongated process will eliminate white spots and errors because it’s so clear what you’re working on.  Not all mediums allow you to layer.  This one does.  Not only is this back to front process just super smart so it eliminates errors and ultimately saves time.  Back to front is also the most dramatic presentation throughout the mural painting process.  Hopefully you’re not dropping a cloth down every day trying to hide and unveil your work.  If you have the time and money, it’s worth revealing to the public beautifully.

Over the last year or so, spraypainting is a skillset I have been acquiring some expertise with.  I have heavily utilized sprays on the last 4 projects, though never exclusively.  Don’t get me wrong.  Paintbrushes are how all my contours and details happen.  There’s still a lot of technical painting happening.  Spraypainting, however, has been another incredible time saver.  Beyond blocking colors and an airbrush quality shading, the affects one can achieve spraypainting are awesome.  The clouds feel fluffy.  The fruit looks shiny.  The background intentionally looks faraway with particle shading.  While elevating the quality of the work, spray also provides my whimsical mural here a lot of street cred.  I guess I’m where Street Art meets Fine Arts.  My colors are much more vibrant if I’m not risking the contamination that comes with mixing on a pallet to shade.  I also bring about 10 plastic, reusable pallets to a project and wash them daily.  Changing the spray tips and making sure those aren’t clogged can make a world of difference.  No one wants unintentional drip marks.

This mural is 28 feet across and 14 feet tall.  The mural will have 4 lights dropping down illuminating it.  It’s so large that it’s hard to get it in a straight on photo, except from the parking structure across the way.

This whimsical public art mural is located at 17280 Monterey Road, Morgan Hill, CA 95037, where several popular Willow Glen restaurants are expanding to.  This is across from the parking garage on Fourth Street, with this awesome, nay, inspiring spider made from motorcycle headlights.  You can see why I think this guy is a part of the Morgan Hill culture and is featured in the whimsy.  Can I also say this section of Downtown Morgan Hill is food heaven.  Coffee Guys is a mere few yards away from the project and Huntington Station Bar & Grille views the project from its patio.

I love talking to people when I’m out painting a mural.  I am painting for the public.  It’s “public art”.  If you can’t concentrate while being watched or can’t be gracious about kind interruptions, you probably should wear headphones while you paint.  It’s way more fun to get a vibe off of your audience and allow them to help you push through the tough times.  I always meet the nicest people.  The residents of Morgan Hill were so kind and encouraging throughout the process.  Not only did Katie from the City’s advisory committee come out and let me know how they felt about the mural in progress, but I found this on a Morgan Hill Community facebook page with almost 200 likes and more than 10 shares.  When the Community I’m painting for welcomes it into their lives, I’ve succeeded.  I have created something others can be proud of in their hometown.  My ego only requires that their is a public viewing and enjoying my work.

As for working on another working jobsite, the guys from Method Construction were amazing.  They clearly enjoyed working with each other.  I was never made to feel unwanted or wanted too much.  This was a great on site experience for me.  I couldn’t thank them more.

I’d also like to thank KRP Architects, Imwalle Properties and the City of Morgan Hill for this huge opportunity.  This one definitely helps grow my public art portfolio and allows me to grow beyond the City of San Jose.  I’m so honored to be apart of this beautiful project.  Photos coming from the Opening Events.


Successful Live Art Projects

Even though engaging people in the process of my artwork has always been important to me personally, I’ve not always had a great time painting out in public for Live Art or Events and Festivals.  The first time was so embarrassing.  Not everything is my strength.  You’d suspect because I used to turn cafes essentially into pop up booths and did real grassroots marketing to meet people that I’d be awesome at something fixed and planned.  I’ve spectacularly failed at Live Events  and thank you everyone for giving me that opportunity in which I failed.  It is great exposure as an artist and a great marketing tool for the client when done successfully.  It’s a ton of pressure.  I’ve done it now a couple of times spectacularly well but not until recently.

I used to sell things in booths and when I transitioned away from that, I sought out Live Art opportunities.  Both the City of San Jose and the County of Santa Clara, as well as many other organizations, have asked me out to paint in a booth because I’m generally pretty fun to watch painting a mural and I love people.  I loose myself in the moment when painting.  I can tune everyone out and I know if I’m doing great, I can talk to everyone passing by.  Knowing the difference is a lot of working in public, whether it be Live or Mural painting.  I dance to music for my own energy level.  I wave at people.  I’m athletic, so if I can lend something dramatic to the piece, I love that.  I pose for pictures.  That’s painting both a mural or a live art.  I bring all my portfolio materials for people to cruise through so they connect me to my other projects.  I make sure watching me paint isn’t like watching paint dry.  The potential to meet clients and inspire the next generation of creativity is too good to pass up.  Just because it’s difficult, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.  I really failed at booth sales.  After 15+ shows I decided this wasn’t my jam.

San Jose, CA – Saturday, March 11, 2017: Anibal Godoy celebrates scoring during a Major League Soccer (MLS) match between the San Jose Earthquakes and the Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Avaya Stadium.

I continue to take on these challenges painting live and work outside my comfort zone.  It’s the only way to grow.  The San Jose Earthquakes had me out to a game on July 29th, 2017, in which I painted a simple photograph of the players celebrating early in the 2017 season and was presented by Kelly Moore Paints.  Start to finish this took 3 hours and 30 minutes.  Even though I had some hiccups getting setup and therefore started, this was the best Live Art showing I’ve ever had.  The Quakes are keeping the 4ft tall, 8ft long piece for players to sign and auction off later.  That makes me so proud as an artist, especially with the client also hiring me for a mural in Japantown later this month.  I’ve definitely grown in this area and have troubleshooted how to professionally paint in a live event setting.

What’s the difference between Live or Event Painting going well or going poorly?

Somehow I forget each time that my expertise now is really painting walls outdoors, not painting canvases outdoors.  One oil paints in a controlled environment.  Though ventilation is a concern, you’re probably not working outdoors unless you’re working from real life.  Why is because there’s dust, sun and wind that turns canvases into sails.  There are too many variables to track and paint well.  Even though I’ve painted hundreds of canvases training, murals are my absolute jam now and almost exclusively what I do.  Mural painting is so unique in that the surface is fixed permanently, whether it is indoors or outdoors.  A wall doesn’t blow away.  Dust sucks, but it’s why you prep and take care of your mural site.  I have a power blower and hundreds of feet of power cord I use to mitigate this.  You can’t guarantee the cleanliness of the site live painting.  Never go with oil paint for a Live Event because it doesn’t set fast enough to complete anything dramatic and you can’t transport anything large without harming the work.  Anything but oil paint for Live Events.

Don’t use canvases of any size for live pieces outdoors.  Go for it in the center of a mall or in an auditorium.  The last thing you want is to be mildly annoyed by your canvases blowing away, instead of happy to be there and gracious to everyone you meet.  Check weather conditions if canvases is really the way to go and do everything you can to sandbag and weigh down the work and tents.  Instead, you could think about priming and prepping a heavy wood construction.  It’ll be larger than any canvas and at least 1/3 the cost per square foot.  A stable wood construction will stand up to wind as well.  Measure your car first before buying wood and if your car is little like mine, bring rope and bungy cords.  Construct something smart on-site.  Don’t wing that, mark it up in advance so you don’t struggle on-site.

Through doing Sales Booths and Live Art at Festivals and Events, I’ve learned a little about presentation.  Black table cloth is easiest.  Have a lightweight table just in case.  Prep the ground.  I love paper because it’s non slip on whatever surface.  Pack well.  Pack too much.  Buy everything you’re going to need.  Bring extra towels.  You don’t need to freak out in front of all these awesome people you’re trying to make lasting impressions on.  I just expect with every outing to have hiccups or things go wrong unexpectedly and I mentally prepare for that.  Meditate in your extra moments.

In public, don’t use recycled materials unless it is really what your art is known for.  It’s not as dramatic as clean and white starts.  Your artwork is first but your dramatics and presentation is a close second during Live Art pieces.  Yes, artists struggle to handle all the expenses, but this is exposure and you can’t expose people to second rate work.  This is your time to sparkle.

With all of this going on, constructing and unloading to ensure it goes well, arrive on-time if not earlier and know where you’re supposed to be.  You’ll use any extra time to be extra prepared for doors to open and people to arrive.

Do not over commit artwork wise.  This won’t be the work you can critique and really polish unless you’re a rockstar.  This isn’t going to be your most detailed product, but it’s still awesome to see what you got in a short amount of time.  You’re still more talented and better trained at this than people walking by.  Relax.  Choose an artwork you’re known for or something you can feasibly do in the amount of time given.  It’ll always take you longer if you’re chatting people up too.  Drip art is feasible and dramatic.  Spray paint is feasible but it require prep and space.  Plan it out.  Have a punchlist.

If you’re going to paint live, remember to breathe, stay in the shade if possible and stay hydrated.  Relax.  Things are going to go wrong.  Your job if you choose to accept it is to smile through and remain in your comfort zone.  Ohm it out.  Also, people aren’t always nice.  Get ready for a lot of Thank yous you don’t really mean.  Go with the flow.  You can’t control a whole lot of what’s going on at a Live Event.  Enjoy the wave of people and emotions.  Breathe.


Young artists, What they don’t tell you…

I love meeting young people in the process of painting a mural.  Taggers, budding artists and cool little girls, I enjoy them all.  I wish I could sit down with each one of you and spend a couple minutes fostering this interest in the Arts or the spirit of creativity.  I asked for advice early on and I wasn’t told things I could use.  No one kept it real for me.  I do Career Day whenever possible for whatever grade level will listen for that reason.  Let me spend a minute telling you young artists and entrepreneurs what I wish someone had told me before I made some huge life choices.

Art School and 4 year Degrees rock, but they drill the creativity right out of you.  You meet your professor’s expectations, not your own.  You will always be creative and your work will be honest cultivated on your own.  More valuable to a full-time, working artist who freelances is business courses.  Take them both.  Put yourself in a position to follow your passion.  Business development is crucial and you’ll want to know all the working parts of a successful business.  On-site education in the right place is every bit as powerful as the right college degree.

Artists work hard.  They train hard.  If they meet expectations and become successful enough, they’re able to paint somewhere you might meet them out in public.  Until then, it’s about ten years of real struggle to afford housing, find clients who value you fairly and find exposure that doesn’t cost you money in the process.  You probably won’t have a lot of control over the work you do.  You’ll paint a lot of bedrooms and residential murals.  You’re at the mercy of clients, pestering or being non-communicative.  You will spend 80% of your time finding clients, negotiating and designing, 10% marketing and 10% painting.  You’re gonna have a lot of strange roommates.  Get ready for that.

If you’ve met a working artist and they were less than gracious, it wasn’t me but let me apologize on our behalf.  Artists are sensitive.  Announcing you are also an artist and comparing work can cross artists the wrong way.  Not that you’re not an artist or aren’t talented.  Everyone is an artist like everyone is a human being on planet earth.  Talent only matters if you’re willing to make money with it and risk your reputation on it.  That artist worked really hard to curate their career to work publicly and negotiated that contract which isn’t always fun.  That artist painted over 50 murals before you met them.  They’re also very busy and concentrated.  I’m sorry if we’re not always awesome to approach.

Want to be a full-time working artist or an entrepreneur today?  I hope you like playing with your cellphone.  Start your Instagram and facebook accounts early and begin building a following.  Their likes and purchases will show you where the market for your work is.  This is a network you can get paid for later.  You’re an artist.  Your life is colorful and your creativity is online content.

Separate yourself from others, artistically and/or professionally.  Offer something different.  Find your niche clients.  For a long time public schools were my niche.

Do not wait for opportunities.  Go make them.  Find clients and projects you want and follow up on your sales calls.  Your tenacity will be admired by those who are successful.

Festivals and Boutiques sounds like a great idea, but unless setting a table is really your jam, they’re more work than they’re worth.  You are committed to one place and one smile for hours and hours.  Unless you’re really moving product, it’s not fun.  I really failed at this.  It makes me appreciate the little successes so much more.

Be a student and a professional, but always save some of your best energy for your own creativity.  Stretch and grow within your imagination and continuously discover yourself through your craft.

Don’t be defined by your failures.  Allow them to inspire success.  Don’t like someone’s reaction to your idea, start over and work better.  Think about your audience but put yourself into your work.  Take a negative feeling and use it to your advantage.  Change opinions.  Have conviction.  Have faith in yourself.  Leave room to grow and fail.  No one died of rejection.

The Photo Wall(s) at Eastridge Mall

Everybody has seen someone posing in front of a pair of wings.  Photogenic murals aren’t entirely new.  It’s a way to engage people walking by and an invite to take a moment for frivolity.  There’s hundreds of angel wing murals around the world and it’s a beautiful message every time.  My wings, however, are adapted and inspired.



If I couldn’t do my historical timeline for Eastridge Mall, I was going to have to fall back on my modern art and develop full walls with meaning meant for photography.  The wings we’ve all seen lack a little something.  It’s the middle and the background.  You wouldn’t photograph them on their own without a person standing there.  By creating a centerpiece you can stand in front of as well as photograph on their own, you provoke people to pull out their phones.  It’s not as simple as just big to make a photo op happen, though.  Subject has a lot to do with that provocation.

For me, these all represent different sides of San Jose, but I’ve already discussed that at length.  What I think San Jose as well as, if not more so, East San Jose and Evergreen need some identity and a little confidence boost.  San Jose is awesome.  Why is it only the Sharks we boast?  What the world needs is love, so let’s start that at home.  I’ve wrapped my W shaped area with overwhelming displays of San Jose affection, past and present.

What’s been outrageous is the reaction and the immediate engagement to all 4 “photowall” murals.  Every time I finished one of these, soon came the photographers behind me.  I even had purse drops.  People asked me to get into their pictures and I adore a silly moment.  The love from Eastridge goers has been pretty universal but not all have time or desire for a photo shoot.  It’s spectacular because I believe public art should be for the public and not difficult to comprehend or get in touch with.  I had people explaining to me on #heartofsanjose where their houses were.  People told me about their baptisms at St. Joseph’s Basilica or about their pre Sharks game traditions.  On #valleyofheartdelight, people who grew up here mention their nostalgia for orchards everywhere.  People living here in Evergreen and working elsewhere appreciate the city they work in being represented in #heartofsiliconvalley.  This series makes people pause for one reason or another.

The photo murals here are the first series of photo walls created and we’re going to continue to activate them with social media and programmed details.  Here’s a slideshow of all the love our San Jose inspired photowalls have inspired already.

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The major mention here, goes to @veganninjawarrior, who found the best angle to photograph #heartofsiliconvalley.







First gigs


I have a couple pieces in my portfolio that might get overlooked as small jobs but really started it all.  The trust of these early clients allowed me to build a portfolio at all.  When interested artists engage me about painting murals professionally, I tell them all about this part of the process.  You’re going to have to lean on friends and family to find opportunities and room to grow as an artist.  From there, you make your own future by doing your best work and following through on your commitments.

We all start with residential projects.  No one jumps straight to Public Art Murals without ruining some carpets and haggling with homeowners.  Of course, look around your house and if you’re lucky enough to own, you have canvases at hand.  If not, you’re going to have to work out with your landlord how these walls get restored to white/eggshell when your lease terminates.  That can take sanding down and multiple coats, based on your color choices.  Besides my fantastic parents, who raised and support this artist, I have two other people to thank.

Lila in Action- Original Ceiling Sun

So, when a coworker at your property management, real estate gig asks you to finish off her totally awesome craftsman, Rose Garden area home with a mural, you take it seriously.  Mr. and Mrs. Pennington used awesome, bright colors in throughout their rooms and really handcrafted their craftsman.  The orange breakfast nook took my head clean off at first.  Coupled with yellow kitchen, it settled down for me after a day or two.  With the incorporation of purple into their light fixture sun, I would never think about color the same way again.  This made tied their home together.  A clean white outline tied the mural into the white trim.  The asymmetrical, organic lines were what the client wanted.  The light fixture into the center of this was far too creative for me to have conceived this early in my career.  This project really helped me feel confident about my own appreciation of color and line.  I’m only this cool now because I allowed cool people into my life and to truly inspire me.  Guys, this lady did awesome teal in her hair before y’all were on to pink.  Trendsetter.  And she’s my first paying client.  How lucky am I?

Now, there was a time when I didn’t have a construction job and sold hand drawn shoes out of Starbucks.  This was an awesome grass roots marketing strategy and I didn’t even know it.  I would also take the odd job making balloon animals and face painting in restaurants for tips.  This is where the next client entered.

I met this family eating dinner out who had just purchased their dream home.  I wore my favorite of my own shoes so I could talk about my Art naturally in conversations at each table.  I had cards in each pockets, one for balloon twisting and one for my artwork.  They took a chance on this artist, who used her side job to talk about her aspirations.

The parents’ first concerns were making their boys feel at home.  We signed a Time and Materials Contract, because I honestly had no idea how long it would take.   After working in construction, I love a good contract and it feels really professional for those who have and haven’t used artists around their home.  I was to copy a Beatles’ album cover with little customizations.  We agreed on my hourly rate and the project began acquiring add-ons, such as the record.  As happy clients, they kept me working around their house for a few more weeks.  Unfortunately, there was no way to photograph this straight on, but I swear that record is circular and that album is rectangular.  I executed this in less them than imagined.  My father, an avid Beatles’ maniac, was so proud of my work, he became one of my best promoters.

A couple jobs really change the scope of your possibilities.  Chaboya Middle School allowed me to use function and Montgomery Elementary School really changed the how I viewed my role in the Community.  Falafel’s Drive In changed my artistic voice.

Without these early clients, however, those other opportunities aren’t possible.  Love up your clients.  Allow them to inspire you.  Enjoy their friendship long after.