Painting at Liberty Public Market - FX DOJO
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Painting at Liberty Public Market

Painting at Liberty Public Market

Thanks to Josh Zanow and Nancy Tokos for the opportunity to hang art at Liberty Public Market, San Diego! Knowing there would be thousands of people seeing my artwork inspired me to go non-digital and make a 3 x 4 foot painting.


My original idea was to represent the Japanese to English translation of manga sound effects in my artwork. I thought it was an interesting topic which was relevant to how I teach software. I often make analogies comparing new tools with old, familiar ones and it feels like translating. So I browsed through one of my favorite mangas of all time, “Akira” by Katsuhiro Otomo and found a page that I thought would look good scaled up.


I started by going to Home Depot and looked through their scrap wood bin next to the huge saw. I found two 3 x 4 foot particle boards and some 1 x 3s and some scrap beams. I got it all for free and built 2 paintable/hangable surfaces out of it! They ended up being about 45 pounds each which is pretty heavy for art, but hey – a canvas that size could cost $100.


Liberty Public Market is a modern food court inside renovated Navy Barracks. The building is made of concrete, steel, and wood. I wanted my artwork to stand out so I decided to use fluorescent green and pink paint. To speed things up I projected the image and traced it. During the concept phase I felt guilty about the idea of tracing, but to be honest it was actually really fun. The process was about how to get accurate lines with really cheap, low quality acrylics while wearing sunglasses and avoiding casting a shadow on my canvas.


Eventually I realized my painting was going to look like crap unless I could thicken the paint or at least get sharper lines. So I put masking tape over the whole thing. The masking tape is transparent enough that I could see my dried paint underneath so I used a razor blade and carved a stencil out. This took way longer than I anticipated and I stayed up for about 30 hours masking, peeling, and painting in order to make the August 4th 8:30am deadline.


The whole time I had this feeling of inadequacy because I knew I was really just enlarging an iconic character created and drawn by Katsuhiro Otomo. My friend Wattana had stopped by after my tracing and looked disapprovingly at my work in progress. He is a very accomplished painter and his reaction further convinced me I had to do more. His only comment was “does this glow in the dark?” That was it! I would make my crappy painting better by making it glow!

I traveled to Blick in Little Italy first. The staff were incredibly nice and searched through their whole store and stockroom but couldn’t find any glow-in-the-dark paint for me. I went to Michael’s and found three brands. Martha Stewart brand – doesn’t glow. Craftsmart and DecoArt – very very faint glow. Luckily I went to Home Depot again and got Rusto-Oleum which was the most powerful of all. It’s clear, looks better with at least two coats, and needs to be charged under light… but the glow is noticeable.


So I finished the painting by covering the white areas with the clear glow-in-the-dark paint. The sun was up and my body was really sore from working all night without sleep. The final stage of this project was then to hang the work which was actually a huge pain. There was a blackout that morning and I had to beg the guy at Ace hardware to let me buy screws that were strong enough to hang my extra heavy work. I dropped extra cash too because no registers worked and they said they couldn’t give me change. Then Nancy had to make a special spot for me where they made holes with concrete drill bits because they didn’t want the art to fall on anyone or rip the regular supports down.

Anyway, I had a lot of fun but my next project will definitely be back doing something digital~!! If you get a chance, stop by Liberty Public Market – there’s over a dozen pieces by the restrooms, and my piece will be up until the first week of September 2016!

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