The artwork in this exhibit was created by young men ages 9-17 living in foster care group homes. Working with professional teaching artist Salvatore Leo, the boys designed an album cover illustrating the story of their life. The resulting artwork embodied their journeys and struggles. As one young man put it, “Painting this helped me start to heal from the pieces of my life that are hard.” The boys then met with graphic designers who re-imagined the boys’ paintings as professional digital images.
Zachary, Age 12 (left)
Artist Statement: Drifting Heart is a painting that illustrates my heart breaking off from my family and drifting away. In this painting I used the Northern Lights, which have beautiful colors that symbolize my passed away ancestors looking down on me. The icebergs in my painting represent how my family and I broke off and how I am drifting off away as a broken heart. Also, the water (ocean) is very cold and symbolizes that “it’s a cold world”. Painting an album cover helped me to realize that I’m not a shadow and people care about me. It has given me the opportunity to show the world what I’ve been through. Painting an album cover made me feel very special and important. It impacted the way I always wanted to be treated and showed me that art really heals!
Zachary’s creative mentor – Jon Arvizu *right
Bio: Illustrator, art director and versatile artist, Jon Arvizu, strives to create and appreciate art in everyday things. Jon has been professionally involved in the graphic and fine art industry for over 15 years, and has had a love of all things artistic since childhood. His illustration and design firm, Trapdoor Studio, has worked with clients large and small since 2002.
Artist Statement: I felt Zach put together a thoughtful and powerful narrative in his original painting. So I wanted to use my personal style to accentuate and put a slightly different spin on his concept. I set up symmetry between sky and water to show a connection and make the heart a focal point. I also used bright, bold colors with heavy black line-work for a more graphic look. The reds also visually connect the sky with the warm heart below. This piece is about the beauty that comes from overcoming obstacles.
Alfonso, Age 13 (left)
Artist Statement: The album, Family, tells a story of my life when I was in a group home and it took a long time for me to go home. The people in my painting are my three brothers that I really love. The environment around me and my brothers is desert because we grew up around it because we grew up on the reservation. Painting made me feel sadness and a sort of happiness, and helped me realize how to be strong while I am away from my family. It helped me to become stronger with my feelings and it made me feel happy because it allowed me to express my feelings. It impacted the way I feel about my family because I miss them.
Alfonso’s creative mentor – Todd McQueen
Bio: Todd McQueen is a graphic designer, illustrator, and author. Whether through writing, visual art, or the spoken word, he loves telling (and hearing) a good story.
Artist Statement: There’s just something about the very idea of “home”: it’s a place to belong, to be safe, to love and be loved, and when we’re away from it –even if only a little while– we’re
incomplete… and it makes the notion of returning, of being there again, almost magical.
Heart of the Dead
Artist: Alex, Age 9 (left)
Artist Statement: The album, Heart of the Dead, tells a story of what I have been through in my life. I love to play football and basketball and my grandpa helped me play football and build a passion for it. In this painting I used a heart and wings to represent the love I have for sports and to show how grateful I am for my grandpa. The Cardinal symbol is my favorite team and I admire players such as Larry Fitzgerald and Patrick Peterson. These two players on the Cardinals are a great influence in my life. Painting an album cover made me feel excited.
Alex’s creative mentor – Stephanie Stafford
Bio: Stephanie’s passion is to make ugly things pretty. With a degree in Multimedia paired with Fine Arts she has carved her path through the advertising world. Starting her career as a designer, she eventually found her real passion in the conceptual side of advertising. In fact, she won Art Director of the Year for the 2013 Phoenix ADDY Awards. Over the years she has worked on an assortment of accounts from travel, Healthcare, education, retail, technology and several other industries.
Artist Statement: This piece is a symbol of the things that drive Alex’s heart. A simple game of football with his grandfather in the backyard has turned into what inspires and motivates Alex.
His love for football gives him reason to work hard for his future. He sees Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals as his hero and wants to become him one day. His grandfather who is an author by trade plays the role of coach in this child’s life. By doing so he has inspired his grandson to reach for his dreams. From that I was inspired to create this for Alex.
Artist: Jamie, Age 15 (left)
Artist Statement: The album “Indestructible” tells a story of my life, how a lot of bad things happen to me but no matter what I don’t let it affect me or my future. Indestructible is a painting that illustrates the fire and the destruction that’s not affecting the man because he is not accepting the bad things, he’s learning his way out of all of it. In this painting the fire represents the six main stresses and problems that are always going to be in his way and that are probably going to stay on top of him or stick on him for the rest of his life. Painting an album cover allowed me to realize that, no matter what, you can’t let anyone tell you different and it put my skills to the test and impacted the way I think.
Jaime’s creative mentor – Anthony Rayl
Bio & Artist Statement: I have worked for Fortune 500 companies, large agencies, and small independent businesses for over 12 years. I have developed everything from identities and print campaigns, to interactive presentations and websites. I often work independently but have done many projects both as a member of a team and as a lead for a team. Collaborating with other talented people is one of my favorite aspects of my job. I’m one of those lucky people that truly loves what they do. Jaime portrayed himself as a dark figure standing against a backdrop of hardship. I told him I wanted to focus on the figure that represented him in more of a comic, illustrative style and he told me to “make him strong”.
Man In Maze
Artist: Rodrick, Age 9 (left)
Artist Statement: This painting illustrates my home, my family and my culture. The house is my grandma’s house where I live with my mom, my auntie, my sisters, uncles and cousins. When I’m there I feel happy. The feathers are symbols of my culture. The mountain is “etoy”, our creator, who lives at the top of the mountain in a cave that is dark, but not that scary. I liked painting this because it represents my family and my culture. The only people who could understand this painting are my family members.
Rodrick’s creative mentor – Bob Case
Bio: Bob Case has been illustrating, designing and animating for 25 years in Phoenix. His illustrations have been honored by The Society of Illustrators New York, Society of Illustrators Los Angeles and Communication Arts Magazine.
Artist Statement: I wanted to pay homage to Rodrick’s painting in my piece. I absolutely loved the story he wrote about his piece and what the elements he’d included meant to him and his family. I wanted in my piece to respect what he’d written about – so I kept all the elements he’d included and altered the composition. I wanted to make him the center of his story, connected to his family and surrounded by his beliefs. I also liked the title he’d picked and wanted to bring that to life a bit more so I included a maze of cholla to the sides of him and several winding roads that could (or could not) lead to the cave in the mountain. His knowing smile tells you he knows which way to go.
Artist: Rodriquez, Age 12 (left)
Artist Statement: The album, Native Pride, tells a story about having pride in yourself and bravery. In this painting, the objects on the canvas mean my culture and my pride. Also, the objects in the back mean my life and tell how close I am to the gods (heavens). It is called the man in the maze. It also means I have to fight through life to get to heaven. Painting an album cover made me feel great because it is really good to share a piece of me and that I have pride, heart, bravery, and power. It has given me the opportunity to share a piece of me that explains a piece of my life. Painting made me feel very good because it shows how I see the world and life. It impacted the way I take pride in myself.
Rodriquez’s creative mentor – Cameo Hill
Bio: Cameo works as a freelance graphic artist here in Phoenix. Her past credits include designs for the City of Phoenix 7th Avenue Streetscape (Series 4-6) and Stray Cat Theatre.
Artist Statement: I was instantly drawn to Rodriguez’s choices of color – the bright rich red with a tinge of orange juxtaposed against the soothing warm purple which covers the landscape and beautifully stages his story. It thoroughly and effectively conveys his pride in his heritage. I especially like his use of the Man in the Maze in showing his journey through life — it is an element I chose to place front and center, elevated above the mountains to show his connection to the heavens and the universe. The colors are direct references to
Rodriguez’s strong, engaging painting and I’ve added the title of his album, “Native
Pride”, to round out the composition. It has been an honor to be paired with such a brave and talented young man and I look forward to seeing more of his wonderful artwork.
Artist: Brandon, Age 13 (left)
Artist Statement: The album, One Ocean, tells a story of my life because I love the ocean and I drew this piece because in the future I want me and my dad to be on the beach, looking out in the horizon. In this painting, the people represent me and my dad on the beach, the wave represents all the things that happened in my life, so that’s why it looks like a mixture of something, the sunset represents the horizon and the color in the background is just a new thing I wanted to try out instead of having a regular sky. Painting an album cover made me feel pretty good because I never did something like this before. It impacted the way I feel about my life and my future.
Brandon’s creative mentor – Roberta Hancock
Bio: Roberta is filled with wonder at the world and paints anything that amazes her, makes
her laugh or brings her joy. She has been a professional artist for 35 of her over 50 years. If it has involved art in any form, she has probably done it and with luck, made a living at it. Except music – she wisely has left that to the pros.
Artist Statement: I loved Brandon’s piece the minute I saw it and was so happy to meet him and hear about his dreams and aspirations. At 13, who knows where we will go with our lives?
Most of us have big dreams at that age though. Brandon’s vision appeared so clean, simple and focused that it delighted me! I feel very fortunate that he gave me such an already well thought and coordinated piece to “tweak” with my own style.
Artist: Michael, Age 14 (left)
Artist Statement: The album, RIP Joseph, tells the story of my life after my big brother was shot and killed. I used the bullet holes to show how many times my brother was shot. I see that my brother was a pure soul and he shall Rest in Peace. The bullet hole with the blood dripping out is to show that he shed it as a final goodbye. The score on the mainframe is to resemble the number of kids he had. I feel good that I get to express myself and tell a story about my brother’s death. I feel that everything has a meaning in life and that one is not to kill. Painting allowed me to realize that everything happens for a reason and gave me the opportunity to express myself. It made me feel bright and expressive and impacted the way I feel, and I hope for nothing but good along my path.
Michael’s creative mentor – Mark Zvonek
Bio: Mark is an art director at Off Madison Ave with 14 years of experience in print,
collateral, branding and digital.
Artist Statement: My interpretation of Michael’s work is: Healing from tragedy allows light to be shed on the darkest of times while memory allows a person’s strengths to live on.
The Eye to the Soul
Artist: Robert, Age 17 (left)
Artist Statement: This album tells a story of my life. It has to do with me, my background, and my dream. It’s not just some good drawing, it’s my way of expressing myself. All the items in this drawing have to do with me. The color is just to give it more affection. I used to go to so many different churches, my mom used to wear a bright red lipstick, I used to work at a tattoo shop as an apprentice, I used to have my siblings’ old clock. I love roses because you can get really creative with them, the skulls are because you see people come and go, the spray can because me and my brothers used to always mess with them, the candle because I like messing with fire, and it’s the candle I used to see at church that brightens things up when it’s dark, the eye over the city because someone’s always watching you, no matter where you are, bullets because I used to always hear them in Mexico, diamonds because the world cares more about money than anything else. The wrapped up heart because you have to learn to forgive and move on, the world with the broken heart because people go through so much in this world and it leaves them heartbroken. Painting an album cover helped me realize that I’m really creative. It gave me the opportunity to show people what I can do. It made me feel good about myself. I’ve gotten so many compliments that it makes me think that maybe I’m gifted or talented. It impacted the way that I think. Now I kind of know what I’m capable of, and how I can fit every little thing in my life on a piece of paper. People see it as a good drawing but to me it’s not just a drawing, it is who I am, it is everything I’ve gone through. It’s my background and a dream.
Robert’s creative mentor – Dan Shewmaker
Bio: Dan Shewmaker has been working in the Graphic Design and Advertising field since 1990. He has worked at various agencies and design firms in California and Arizona. He began as a retouching photos at a printing company and moved to multimedia and design. From there he progressed into videography and motion graphics.
Artist Statement: Robert’s piece is very detailed and contains many elements that are significant to his life. Part of design is to simplify and refine visual ideas until they embody the symbols contained in the art. I’ve tried to take Robert’s ideas and symbols and give them the same weight and significance as they have in the original piece. By giving the symbolic objects space or, visual ‘air’, we allow the viewer see all the elements with even more significance than when they are competing for the same visual space.
Artist: Matthew, Age 15 (left)
Artist Statement: In this painting I used a heart that is broken being formed back together with a ribbon. The ribbon symbolizes my family because they are making better choices. The background symbolizes a river in California with a dirt path on the side with a road next to it, and that has trees next to it. This place is special to me because I have memories walking home from school and it brings me peace for the future. Painting takes me back to being with my family and it makes me feel good that I can express my feelings in a painting or a drawing. It releases my memories and feelings and makes me feel good and open to get in tune with my experiences. Painting an album cover impacted the way I express my feelings and share them.
Matthew’s creative mentor – Albert Barroso
Bio: Albert’s work focuses on typography, specifically, type as image. He tends to focus on
the carrier of the message as an image rather than the image being the message. Different lettering styles allow him to express different ideas.
Artist Statement: My interpretation of Matthew’s artwork revolves around his use of a ribbon to mend a
broken heart and the word “Unity” that he had placed within his piece. I reinterpreted
his ribbon element to spell “Unity” and focus on the healing process he mentioned about his work. The backdrop river landscape represents the path along the river that Matthew would take from school leading him home as a child.