Intersection of Coleman Road & Redmond Avenue, SAN JOSÉ, CA
sponsored by Phantom Galleries

A little while ago I got on an artist list for potential ArtBox paintings which recently resulted in a commission. The ArtBox Project is an effort to bring more art into neighborhoods by sprucing up overlooked-but-ubiquitous utility boxes. They’re usually at intersections like this one out on the west side of San José.

Anyone can sponsor an ArtBox! Sponsors can provide subject preferences if they like, and in this case the request was to incorporate flowers into the design (preferably purple). I thought of irises immediately. When I took a look at the location with the trees in the background, I figured that a watery backdrop would be a good match. To make it a little more stylistic, I referenced the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany to mimic a stained-glass effect.

I encountered a couple of challenges in painting this. The first was material. The utility boxes must’ve been painted quite a while ago because it was a little flakey. I scraped at the box with a piece of cardboard to get all of the flakes off along with dirt, spiderwebs, and leaves. Got to prepare the “canvas”!

The second was lighting. Direct sunlight affected my color perception a bit. While I was painting the green layer on, it looked more like yellow ochre…almost orange. I had to trust that it would look right once it dried and from a distance. The purple I bought for the irises also looked a little off though that was more of an error in my initial color choices. I had some leftover ultramarine blue which helped correct it.

I got a steady stream of attention from pedestrians and drivers while painting this. A few offered words of encouragement, and a few asked for more details about the project. Everyone seemed delighted that this was being painted in their neighborhood. Hopefully this encourages others to sponsor artists for their utility boxes too!