Looking for Part One? It's right here...
Once I've gotten the outlines figured out, I begin adding the color. There's grass that runs all along the bottom of the cabinet, so that goes in first. Putting the background color down also helps clarify the design...and points out any glaring issues. Some of these issues include, but are not limited to; missing legs, incorrect proportions, frightening confirmation, etc. Of course, most of these things are only really noticeable to me, but yeah...I notice them.
After I've worked out the bugs (a process that never really ends), the real fun begins. It's pretty much a giant paint-by-numbers, only there aren't any numbers. During the drawing phase, I wrote each horse's color & pattern on them. This written instruction is more like a suggestion rather than an unbreakable rule.
I actually make up my mind about each horse's color as I go along. I wish I could tell you that it's all about "The Artist's Eye"(TM), or some other intangible artsy-fartsy magic. The truth is that I'm a cheapskate (otherwise known as 'frugal') and I hate to waste paint. If I have some leftover color after I finish filling in a horse, I'll add a little white or yellow or blue or whatever to change the color enough that it's not obviously the same as the original color. I'll then move over to another face of the box and pick a horse somewhere in the same color family as what I have just mixed up. My method isn't artistic, it's not scientific, it's economic.
Alright, this part of my method is a bit more on the pragmatic side, but stick with me...there's gonna be some fun and artsy-fartsy magic in the next installment...stay tuned!
Since 2008, I've been painting electrical transformer cabinets as part of the City of Fort Collins Art in Public Places program. This program, in collaboration with City of Fort Collins Utilities, has been beautifying electrical boxes throughout town since 2006. The program has been growing ever since, and 164 cabinets have been painted to date.
I've been lucky enough to be commissioned to paint nine cabinets so far, and I'm currently working on the 10th, titled "Pony Express-ions". This design is inspired by 2014 being the Year of the Horse with the CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital's Large Animal Clinic nearby. It also alludes to its location through the concept of travel with the MAX Bus Line and Mason Trail which run adjacent to the cabinet.
All cabinet designs begin with a sketch submitted for approval. This project began as a way to mitigate graffiti, so the idea is for the designs to be as busy and active as possible. "Pony Express-ions" handles this requirement by being as obnoxiously colorful and pattern-filled as possible...POW!
Once approved, the cabinet is primed and the hardest part (in my opinion) begins. Taking the design from the flat sketch to the three-dimensions of the cabinet is nerve-wracking. It's important to get it right...not necessarily an exact duplicate as the design on the page, but a design that works with the cabinet. As you can see from the picture above, there are A LOT of sketched lines that take me a while to draw...and then decipher.
Finally, I reach the step that I call "finding the line". I take all of those sketchy pencil lines and I decide which ones to actually follow. Fortunately, I also keep a small jar of the primer color to use as an eraser, just in case the line I find is wrong...which happens more than I'd care to admit.
Next time: COLOR!