Rafael López.

I’m an artist and illustrator originally from Mexico City. In the late 80’s my wife Candice and I moved downtown. We ended up at the Pioneer Warehouse Lofts as I did a series of large paintings in trade for 6 months rent. We connected with the neighborhood and several years later, relocated to the top floor of the Simon Levi building looking out at what is now Petco Park. We ate lunch most days at the Farmer’s Market in the Western Steel building. Amelia’s albondigas soup made me feel close to home. I play several instruments and am a huge fan of Latin jazz. In those days, we danced salsa in the basement of the Old Cafe Sevilla and watched soccer games with Brazilian friends. I was asked to create posters for Street Scene and the performances we saw during those years were incredible. Cafe Tacuba when they were just getting started, Ruben Blades, Willie Colon and Tito Puente performing live. Years later I created the Tito Puente stamp for the United States Postal Service as part of the Latin Music Legends series and the energy at that concert fueled the art.

After saving our money we decided it was time to stop renting and put down roots. We bought a loft at the Tenth Avenue Car Garage and lived next door to visionary Wayne Buss and Beth Kennedy. They moved away to the Carn but we continued to get together and see concerts there like Poncho Sanchez performing live.

My wife teaches graphic design at San Diego City College and we had the idea to develop the Urban Art Trail in 1997. The idea was to use art and design with neighbors and collectively bring our community together. I designed several large murals in a simple graphic style that was like a giant paint by number so that untrained artists, students and children could all be part of the effort. A children’s book I illustrated called Maybe Something Beautiful chronicles the effort. Now I’ve created murals around the country in urban areas, at children’s hospitals, public schools, under freeways and at farmer’s markets. We still live and work in the East Village.

Photo and text provided by Candice López and Rafael López.