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My Process for Making the Artworks for the Utility Boxes

I applied for the art wrap program over a year ago in Feb 2020. I had to submit a statement of intent, a CV and ten work samples. The public art program in my city selected a number of artists to be on the artist roster every two years.

Many cities have public art programs. Check out city websites and look for public art programs or call to artists. I signed up for their email notifications so whenever there’s an opportunity, I get an email. I look at the request for qualification, a detailed document explaining what they are looking for, to see if I am interested or qualified.

This spring, the program sent me the location of the two utility boxes that I would be making the artworks for. I was advised to respond to the location of the utility boxes. Since one of the boxes was outside a Gymboree Daycare/Preschool, I thought about making something with kids or animals in my initial sketches.

I superimposed some work samples that I have submitted to see how they would look. I also made some new sketches and photoshop’ed them on the utility boxes. I still had no idea what I would draw at this stage but I knew I wanted to have bright colours!

I went online to research anything I can find about the city of Richmond. I checked out the area on the map. I went to the utility boxes on location again. I remember getting the inspiration for my Art Column while checking out the actual column and walking the area. The utility boxes that I was assigned to were around the Olympic Oval very close to the Fraser River. I walked around the area, took pictures and made some sketches.

I remembered an article I read online while doing research about the conservation of eelgrass. Apparently, our Fraser River estuary has one of the most extensive eelgrass habitats in the world, providing food and shelter for a multitude of organisms such as juvenile salmon.

One of the articles I read said, for less than $6 per year per person in Greater Vancouver, it’s not too late to save 102 species at risk of extinction! It mentioned that five species of salmon, the white and green sturgeon are at risk. I decided to depict salmon and sturgeon with eelgrass for one of the utility boxes.

For the second utility box, I researched the other at risk species mentioned in the article and found the Western Sandpipers interesting. Millions of migratory birds from around the world use the Fraser River estuary as a resting stop to refuel during their long-distance flight. Western sandpipers consume diatom-containing biofilm covering the mudflats of the Fraser River estuary and they are at risk due to encroachment of shoreline habitats.  I googled diatom and found them to be out of this worldly beautiful!

Some artists even managed to arrange these microscopic algae into amazing art! You gotta check it out here.

I feel it took me more time and work to figure out what to draw than the actual drawing. Once I know what I want to make, the execution was quick. I had so much fun drawing, I made different art for all four sides and the top of the second utility box!

Once the art wraps were installed on the utility boxes, I realized the spec they gave me on one of the boxes was 11 inches short, so they had to cut off the legs of Western Sandpiper and most of my diatoms on one side. Thank goodness I did different art for all sides so you can still see the diatoms on the other side! Next time, I will double check the spec by measuring it again myself!

Finally, I had to submit an artist statement for the artworks and you can read it here.

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