The picture above was commissioned by NewTown Art in Pasadena. The commission was part of a community billboard project which matches 10 artists with 10 residents who were active in the community of northwest Pasadena. The object of the project was for each artist to spend time with each resident and create a portrait of the resident depicting how they viewed their community, or how they viewed themselves within their community.

My muse was Renee Rubalcava, a 48 year woman who lived in northwest Pasadena her whole life. I thought this aspect of her life was very special, due to the fact that she has seen 48 years of change in one geographical area. I met with Renee a total of 10 times over a 3 month period. I discovered quickly, during our meetings, that Renee always talked about the past, and always with nostalgic overtones. Like the past was a snapshot of purity, or of innocence lost.

I decided at this point that the image should capture this sense of nostalgia and innocence. Then Renee showed me an old photo of her and her sister, when they were 2 and 4 years old, I knew immediately this photo would be the foundation of this portrait of nostalgia. Next I had to figure out how northwest Pasadena would fit into this concept of a nostalgic past. Sitting in Renee’s backyard one day, I noticed the various types of citrus trees in her yard. I commented on the trees and she told me her dad had owned some orange groves. This is where the piece came together for me. In the early 1900s, Pasadena basically consisted of mostly orange groves, and during that period emerged a lot of orange crate art. So I thought mimicking the style of the orange crate art of the early 1900s would be the perfect solution for integrating Renee’s concept of nostalgia and history in relation to the community she grew up in her whole life.

I started first by restoring the photo in CMYK color space using curves and channel blending techniques to bring the image back to life. Next, I created a layer mask to separate the foreground (the girls) from the background. Concentrating on the background, I used painting techniques and multiple images to create a digital composite for the right side of the image. Next after isolating the girls, I placed them on their own layer. Then with a series of duplicate layers and blend modes, I was able to make the girls more cartoonish tying the piece together. I oversaw all aspects of this project from image conception to art direction to printing.

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