‘I think having a purpose for the art, that it’s helping the environment, is what helps me overcome that anxiety.’
“I suffer with social anxiety, but I think art helps that. I have three murals on the Long Beach boardwalk. The whale mural had to be done in one day; the permit was only for 24 hours. I got up super early and the pressure was on. I was so stressed about the time limit. This is a 40-foot mural and I had to make it happen. My dad put together a paint gun for me to mimic my technique. I finished right before sundown. I was so anxious because everyone was watching, and everyone knew the clock was ticking.
At least half of the animals I feature are endangered. I focus on the ones that need a voice, and I try and depict them in a larger-than-life way.
“The hardest thing for me has been putting my art out there. Before I did the mural, it was almost like I couldn’t do it. The thought of people watching me while I painted it was almost debilitating. I think having a purpose for the art, that it’s helping the environment, is what helps me overcome that anxiety.
“It had such a positive response, and so many people messaged us saying it made them more aware of the environment. People would send photos of them collecting garbage on the beach. I didn’t expect it to have that kind of impact. After COVID, I was asked to do two more murals, so I did a green sea turtle and a sea lion.
“I come from an extremely creative and supportive family. My mom’s a professional photographer, and she was a black-and-white photographer, so I attribute the look and feel I use in my art to that. All our family pictures were in black and white, and I started to love that look. My grandfather was a professional illustrator. He taught me everything at the start of my career and was so influential in my life and art. I grew up in a very artsy family.
“I started to think about ways my art can have a positive impact. At least half of the animals I feature are endangered. I focus on the ones that need a voice, and I try and depict them in a larger-than-life way. Almost all the animals I draw I like to get my own reference. When I’m not drawing, I take birding trips and wildlife trips and photograph these animals. Of course, the giant squid I didn’t get a photograph of, so I’ll piece it together by looking through NatGeo and sketch from there.”
Interviewed by Tracey Cheek