Desert dwellers : painting on a utility box

It's finally real, after nearly a year my desert dwellers design is now on the utility box near the Hollywood Palladium! Turns out there's quite a bit that needed to happen behind the scenes to get the city's approval and push it through the different departments. But that's ok. With all the rain we've had this year it's not sure I would have gotten around to it earlier anyway!

 

 

With four sides totaling around 60 square feet this project was a bit of a leap for me cause I've never painted anything that big before. So my goal when making the design was for it to not only be cool and fit the neighborhood but also be simple to execute.

It definitely helped to see artist friends posting pictures of similar projects on Instagram and also talking to my neighbor, who painted a box before, to have an idea of what to expect. That's how I learned to get paint samples from Home Depot to have a number of colors for a reasonable price.

I was also lucky to have the help of my friend Keith, who besides pushing the paperwork with the city took care of the materials to prime the box and also picked up a brush and painted with me for the whole 2 and a half days.

 

 

Here we are on the first day of painting. We got the design on the box by tracing over carbon paper placed underneath 8.5x11 sheets with the blown up design printed from Photoshop on my little inkjet printer. Then it was more or less a matter of painting within the lines.

I was pleasantly surprised by the accuracy of the colors, which pretty much matched what was shown on the Home Depot's website. After trying different brushes it turned out the small synthetic brushes were the best, not only for painting edges and details but also to get a smooth surface without streaks.

 

 

Painting outside was for sure a learning experience. It was a bit windy so my hair would get in my face and the sun felt brutal at times. The paint formed a film on the surface within minutes so we'd have to stir it constantly to avoid it become too thick. And when I had to mix different paints in the pan to get a specific color it would dry really quickly so I had to use it as fast as possible.

We learned our lesson and the second day wore hats and sunscreen. Although we worked way passed daylight, until 10pm, to get done on time so the city could apply the anti-graffiti coating before the weekend. At night we carefully wrapped the box in plastic with a ton of tape to keep it safe.

 

 

By looking at the pictures it would seem we were on a quiet street with not many people, but that's only a trick of the camera. In reality there was activity buzzing all around us the whole time. El Centro and Sunset Blvd is a really busy intersection of Hollywood! Pedestrians, skateboards, scooters, bikes, cars, you name it. There's noise, there's fumes, and a lot of curious people.

It was like being inside a Instagram feed in real life. Like in the app there were many quick comments -"that's cool", "I dig it", "so pretty!", and "good job guys!", smiling faces emojis, and here and there there would be a few that stopped by to engage in a conversation.

Many wanted to say they were artists too, asking how they could also paint a box (contact the neighborhood Council for Hollywood studio district or search for the one in your area) , but a lot of people were just curious cause they've seen the painted boxes everywhere and never one being painted before.

This made me realize people really like to see the process of making art, no matter what it is. Maybe because it demystifies it? Or maybe because it's motivating to see someone else do it, makes it seem doable I guess.

But also there were a lot of sincere "thank you for doing this", and my sense is that it wasn't just me they were saying thanks to, but since I was the one there it's like I represented all the artists who gave their time and imagination to add a little beauty to Los Angeles. Apparently the city people noticed there's actually less trash around the sites where boxes have been painted, which is kind of cool.

All and all, it was quite an experience! Many asked if I had painted boxes elsewhere or if I would do other ones. Yikes, I don't know, this was a ton of work. Then again, it's always easier the second time. But in any case, I'm very happy to have done this one.

 

 

 

 

 


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