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Sailing to Success with the Linwood Howe Vikings

Recently L Star Murals was contacted by a local public school, Linwood Howe Elementary, to help create a large visual component to a program they are launching this semester.  The program, Sailing to Success, introduces the students to many opportunities to help them through primary & secondary schooling and bridge the gap to a college and/or career training program.  It seeks to serve as an inspirational springboard for getting students to envision and ultimately achieve big academic goals for themselves.

I was asked to create an 18' mural in their all purpose room (cafeteria/auditorium) which illustrated their vision of kids sailing towards the future, with versions of their professional adult selves in view ahead of them.  They sail on a viking ship paying homage to the school's mascot, the Vikings, and metaphorically playing on the notion that the children have begun a lifelong journey which requires courage and hard work.

This mural marks the first project I have worked on with a school.  I was really surprised to find that it brought a lot of things to the surface for me.  Not only was the Lin Howe community welcoming to me and passionate about the their academic pursuits, but they had the distinct feeling of being a big family full of caring parents, administrators and teachers.  They seemed to be the embodiment of the "it takes a village" philosophy.

As a product of a struggling district in the public school system in Pennsylvania with similar convictions, I have always found myself an advocate for public schooling.  I have seen the magic of teachers transforming lives of kids around me who didn't have anyone else that seemed to care about them. I have had my own creative fire ignited and stoked by two very amazing teachers that I was blessed to study with in high school. I have seen miracles happen in forgotten classrooms.

But, during the past many years I have been out of the system and had no real connection to it.  During that time I have heard so many bad things about the state of the public school system: that art and music classes were ditched, test scores have become more valued than actual education, teachers were unhappy, students were unhappy, schools were breeding grounds for violence, and metal detectors & armed guards were the new norm.  Perhaps these stories have always been in circulation, but without a direct connection to the system they seemed to ring true.   I thought perhaps the impassioned, creative learning environment that I experienced as a student in the William Penn School District was a thing of the past.  I am thrilled to find out that is not the case.

Upon completion of the mural, over a 4 day weekend, I was invited to join the unveiling ceremony for the entire school of 500 students, plus teachers and some parents.  I had covered the whole mural with giant sheets of butcher paper the day before, so we actually got to dramatically tear it off for a big reveal.  The crowd was so excited and very generous in showing it.  It was a truly transcendent experience.  I felt like a total superstar, even if it was 8:30 am on a Wednesday.

I looked into the crowd and I saw my younger self in the students.  I looked at the teachers and principal and saw my teachers, my principals. It was a project that became close to my heart over just a few months.  I only hope that the creation of this mural, along with the many efforts of the Sailing to Success program shall ignite many little fires within the hearts and minds of the students.  That every kid knows he/she can have a fair shake at the vast bounties life has to offer if they have persistence.

Many thanks to the Linwood Howe PTA for sponsoring the project, as well as the smooth navigation from co-chairs of the Sailing to Success program Rebecca Williams, LaShon Rayford and Principal Dr. Kim Indelicato.

Murals on Hungry Investors TV show

I had the fantastic opportunity to design and create some hand painted decor for the makeover show Hungry Investors (on Spike TV) at a restaurant only 10 minutes away from my studio!  This magic little place is called Tamale Man in El Sereno.  I had 2 days to come up with designs and slap the paint on the walls, just as the freshly stained wood was drying.  I had the pleasure of working with another phenomenal crew on this one, as well as meeting the gracious family who owns the restaurant.

Portrait of the original Tamale Man

A tender moment with the family next to the portrait I painted of their patriarch.

This full episode of Hungry Investors (episode 103) can be viewed on Spike TV's website.

Murals for Kitchen Nightmares

This season I had the pleasure of creating murals for the craziest reality television makeover show- Kitchen Nightmares!!!  There is nothing else like working overnight on a show of this variety.  The clock is ticking from the minute you get the call.... until the last brush stroke on the wall- and you always wish you had just 5 more minutes.  But that is also what makes it such a blast!  The art department was so talented, fun and fast.  Here are some shots of the walls I designed & painted over the course of about 12 hours.
Probably about 2 in the morning...

And a few hours later, with some lovely assistance on wall #2! 

Cut to the big reveal: Owners get their first look at their new restaurant design

Chef Ramsay dubbed the walls "Amazing Pop Art. Quirky, colorful and cool" on air.  Well, I'm smitten.  Wall #1:

Wall #2:

and more wall #2:

One of the sweeping shots of the finished walls
at the end of the show.

The full double episode of Kitchen Nightmares (season 6 episodes 7&8- "Zayna Flaming Grill") can be viewed on Fox's website:

Lego Mania!

Recently I was asked to design and paint several Lego themed murals for a 7 year old boy's bedroom, and this is what happened...


 This is one lucky kid.  I am so glad I got the opportunity to create this cool world for him!

Hand Painted Signs for Miles

Have you noticed that more and more companies are going for hand painted signs for their businesses these days?  They are popping up in unexpected places all around us, especially here in Los Angeles. From storefronts to hand painted awnings to 15 story painted billboard ads... there is a type of business that wants to reflect a certain type of craftsmanship and attention to detail that a hand painted sign offers to their customers.  I feel this is a really positive shift, (I may have a horse in the race...) as it seeks to balance out the numbing saturation, scale and overall repetition of glossy mass produced advertising images our eyes see in a given day.  It suggests that one slows down for a moment and take notice of the details around us.  But why?  Because a person (a crazy person?) took the time to dip a paintbrush into a bunch of different colors to create a brief experience, a suggestion, a feeling out of nothing?  Yes.  That's why.

I have had the pleasure to work with an interesting variety of Clients to develop, design and hand paint signs for their businesses.  It truly is one of my favorite things to do in the world!  I have had a chance to work on signs for so many lovely folks over the past few months.  I thought I would post a sampling of my favorites...

 Design-wise I have worked in two capacities.  Some of my clients have a logo design and simply need the skilled hand of a sign painter to paint it with some minor design solutions or color accents.  Other times I get to really dig in and get super creative from start to finish with my own designs, lettering choices, custom-cut shapes, color palettes, etc.

Sometimes it's a textured wall...

 ... a perfectly smooth one...

... or a custom cut substrate. 


A hand painted sign shows evidence of hours of time, skill and concentration, and because of that conveys a certain type of warmth.  While it certainly is not the fastest method, it is a symbol that even in this busy world some things are still best made by hand. 

B-ballin' Off The Walls in Bel Air

I just wrapped up a pretty exciting and big project for some fantastic new Clients!

I was asked to design and paint the inside of a basketball arena, specifically
the Los Angeles Clippers' home court, to serve as backdrop to a backboard
that was to be mounted in a little boy's bedroom. Pretty much a young boy's fantasy 
bedroom. The family requested to have portraits of several of the immediate and extended family members in the front row, too.  

I was totally excited by the task at hand.  I took some photos along the way to show some of the transformation!

Before pic, with a swatch of the red that was being tested out for the other walls.

Day one, I hit the ground running with background blues.

Abstract people, the arc of the arena and a little of the layout starts to permeate the surface.

The Clippers "backboard thingy".  Yes, ok, I still don't know the name of this piece of equipment that holds the backboard up even though I googled different word combos for atleast 2 hours looking for a view from the free throw line on the Clippers home court.  Apparently they don't let photographers run all over the court, like I was hoping!? Sometimes you must let your imagination fill in the gaps.  But it got the nod of approval from my Clients, who, did I mention were:

None other than Jada and Chris Paul from the Clippers!  That's CP3, man!?!?  Check out the shoes he's sportin' here!  Won't see those on shelves for a few more weeks, people.  You saw it here.
It's not everyday L Star Murals has breaking news on the latest shoes!

Back to the progress shots:  I had several days of floating heads, glowing eyes 
and dismembered body parts before this crowd started to come together.  I found that after days of only painting faces, I was creating identities for these little people, and laughing about it in my head. "Stern abuela on her night off from the grandbabies" "Attention-seeker who's just trying to get on tv- oh wait- that's me in college! Ha ha!"

I worked under a plastic sheet for a little while the rest of the walls were getting mudded.
It was a pretty funny set-up.  Well, atleast it is funny now. ;)

 Jada and Chris has this awesome regulation NBA flooring installed, so their son little Chris can really play ball in his room.  I wanted to continue the flooring into the mural, so did my best to match the wood grains where they met.

 I painted big b-ball fan Jay Z in the front row for fun!  
Then I found out that Chris is friends with him. 
Totally normal. Totally chill. (FYI, I travel.)

 Finished view of the mural!  11 days of painting to complete.

 Detail from the left side of the crowd with Chris, Jada, and their little cutie-pie Camryn.

 Detail from the right side with both sets of grandparents, Jay Z and a somewhat Sheryl-Crow-looking-Beyonce.  Again with the sneaks... check 'em out on the 2 granddads!

Well, what can I say?  I really feel like I got really lucky on this one.  Jada and Chris were so easy to work with, not to mention incredibly kind, supportive and patient while I basically camped out at their place for 2 weeks!  And I'd do it again in a heartbeat!  Hope the scouts get word of little Chris on the court!  And hi Jay Z and Beyonce! Hee hee!

Coming Soon to Grand Central Market!

 I've been working with Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles 
on several signs for their upcoming vendors to the market.  Pizza, cheese, oysters,
meat and more!  The market is making a really impressive transformation,
making downtown LA a real food destination again. I'm so honored to
be a part of it.


Living the dream.  Obscuring my paint encrusted fingernails.

The Not-so-Little Mermaid

 I had the pleasure of painting a little project at Seaside Luxe's cute seaside cottage in Santa Monica over Labor Day weekend!  If you can't tell already, they kinda have a thing for orange.

Did a little mailbox customization.... well as their mermaid logo on a fence right out back!
To top it all off, the ladies were very sweet and I got to feel an ocean breeze 
on my neck all day long.  Man, I love my job!

Rise and Shine, yall!

 Got to paint this blue ombre with 6 ft. tall letters on two 
nice, big walls at the office of Omelet in Culver City.



When it comes to painting a blue fade 45 feet long,
things get pretty Zen, fast! It was a fun challenge
to work so big with a high level of precision.  The folks
at Omelet that I met were all so sweet, it made me feel
right at home from day one.