This year several new books took flight from my drawing table. This one hits home.
Maybe Something Beautiful written by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell due out this April from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
The genesis of this book was a personal journey that started in 1997 when my wife Candice and I bought an old car garage in an edgy neighborhood at that time, the East Village of downtown San Diego. We were in our thirties and put down all our savings to make it happen. My mother in law cried when she first visited and couldn’t fathom our choice of a first home in a such a challenging part of town. Undeterred we rented two industrial wet vacuum cleaners to scrub the car grease off the floors and began digging car parts out of the back yard. For ten years we worked with our friend Daniel to transform our home into a live/work studio where we could create and dream. In 2007 we stood back and took a deep breath. The once cold, dark 3,200 square foot space at last felt warm, and inviting. We were happy, sort of.
You see there was a big issue all too evident the moment you opened the front door. Drug dealing and related violence ruled the streets. That gray darkness outside extended into our home. We noticed that most people in our neighborhood walked looking down. They were sad, depressed or perhaps just afraid to make eye contact. The signs of struggle were all around and the few families who lived nearby rushed across the streets to get inside quick and lock their doors. Not knowing what to do we put up flyers and held a meeting at a local school to try to figure something out. We decided the best thing to do was something we knew. To use art to transform our neighborhood. After many meetings in our loft which became the paint station and staging area, the Urban Art Trail was born. It started with the painting of electrical boxes once used as makeshift offices by drug dealers. I developed a series of large murals that worked like giant paint by numbers so untrained artists could be involved. The trail grew to include benches, sidewalk poetry, sculpture, urban bird houses and mosaics. Working together with neighbors, children, students, graffiti artists, teachers, designers, residents of women’s and homeless shelters and many others we transformed our community.
The East Village today is a great place to live and work.
As this is based on our own story it felt right to take some risks and try new mixed media techniques that blend original photographs I shot of the East Village, digital, watercolor and acrylic on wood. I look forward to sharing these techniques in future posts.