Break Out the Champagne & Potato Chips!

The Utility Box on Scarlett Drive and Dublin Boulevard is DONE!

Signed and Done!

As a gift to myself, I am going to provide pictures and comments on every aspect of the utility box, titled “1953”. I am proud of this artwork and I hope my fellow citizens of Dublin enjoy it.

First, let me say, the location is awesome; my box is actually on the Iron Horse Trail! People bike and walk by it everyday. This is important, because I painted the box as much for the pedestrians as for the car traffic. I also want to thank the folks at Cook’s Collision who re-landscaped the corner this weekend. Gone are the weeds and trash, and now Burnt Umber tan bark to perfectly compliment my box!

Front Panel

This is painting of my father, John Billstrom, when he was in the Army. It just so happens that this utility box is located on the southwestern corner of the Camp Parks Army Base. Although much of the base has been developed into housing recently, there is still a functioning base at the center. The panel with my Dad in uniform and his old car is the picture everyone sees as they drive by.

My Dad and his old Cadillac exploring the backroads of California.

A passerby asked if the road was the one off the Altamont Pass in Livermore, and he was right! I have sketched and painted out that way and this was my inspiration for the wide open space behind my Dad and his car.

Left Panel

Detail of Left Side of box: Mom relaxing.

I have to put in people in my paintings and this is my favorite part of the whole utility box. The girls on the swing in the background could stand alone as a picture and I would be happy. The first figure I painted had a dog and looked like she was posing for a school picture. The next day I came back and scrubbed her and the dog out of existence. Then I sketched in the girl in the white dress behind the swing in less than 2 minutes. She just flowed from my brush as if she was meant to be there!

I tell myself little stories in my head while I paint. In this panel, the pretty girl in the white dress came over to play on the swing while her mother is picking something up at the gas station (Her mother is the figure in the doorway on the rear panel). The Mom in the blue dress on this side, (her daughter is swinging and her son is reading a book) has a day off of work and drove out to the country from Oakland. She was low on gas, so they stopped here and the kids spied the tire swing and begged to play on it. She is happy to oblige as it gives her a chance to read her book. Her son quickly bored with the swing and went back to HIS book. His sister and her new found friend are playing make believe on the swing and taking turns. Is this too much information? Sorry!

The box needed a plane. The theme of the utility box this year was “Transportation through the ages”. Air travel in the 1950s seems quaint and classy now. People dressing up to fly, being served meals on real dishes, and walking to the plane on the tarmac. Of course, the planes, especially the propeller ones, where insufferably noisy. Interesting to note, that when I started looking into aircraft from this age, passenger planes became jets around now. So, this will be a propeller plane taking a shorter hop from San Francisco to Boise, ID, say.

Detail of plane on Left Panel.
All the details together on the Left Side Panel.

Back Panel

Detail back panel of gas station

I will never stop loving Edward Hopper’s work and his influence is all over this painting. I wonder if he would have painted in acrylic had he been given the chance. Instead of waiting days between washes, he could cover them in minutes. But he might have missed the luminosity oil brings.

More stories here, there is the mother in the classy purple dress, gloves (!) and white handbag coming through the door. The service worker is just visible inside the garage. He is thinking hard about the car he is currently working on. You can just see the outline of the clerk inside the store. Two policemen are in there asking questions regarding a traffic accident the occured the night before.

California Condor visiting Dublin

I had to put in this beauty; it was the 1950s and these majestic giants soared over California then. I am not sure Condors would have chosen Dublin’s fields for their hunting, but this is art and I wanted to put him there. Think of it, he would have dwarfed the two turkey vultures painted on the Right Side Panel with a wing span of 9 feet. Hopefully, the breeding program will continue working well.

The Back Panel: Gas station and California Condor included.

Right Panel

Turkey Vultures soaring over the Nature Panel.

I had a lot of fun adding these two turkey vultures! I see them just about every day around our house and the hills of Dublin. It would seem very empty, indeed, without these birds circling overhead.

Deer beneath the oak tree.

I added the deer on the nature panel, in part because this is the side that faces the Iron Horse trail. So much wildlife lives along that trail, not just deer. I challenge all Iron Horse travelers to look for the turtles along the water line or the small foxes that dart about at sunset.

The Top Panel

Dublin is NOT Area 51.

I couldn’t resist inserting the flying saucers for a utility box from the 1950s. Originally, these objects were supposed to be on a side panel, but I moved them onto the top. They are really quite hard to see without a ladder, so that will be OUR secret!

That’s it for now. I am not sure Dublin will be able to support more utility boxes next year, they are short staffed right now. If they do, I will definitely put my brush in for painting another! In the meantime, if you are in the area, check it out!

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