Here Today, Gone Tomorrow: Alamo Square's Ladybug Art
You might have taken a stroll through Alamo Square Park within the last month and noticed something a little out of the ordinary: a line of small, bubbly beetles that seemed to be marching across the pavement in single file.
Here one day and gone soon after, the ladybugs were a cheerful, albeit brief, addition to Alamo Square's winding paths and overgrown gardens.
Here's another look at the ladybugs as tweeted out by the artist, known simply as fnnch:
The art installment has since been painted over by maintenance crews, but the artist behind the work is still going. We got in touch to have a chat about the ladybugs, the street art lifestyle, and the artist's creative influences.
Hoodline: What inspires you?
fnnch: “I find nature inspiring, particularly birds, bugs, and vegetables. But aesthetically I prefer solid swaths of color and solid lines. My artwork, at some level, is just the fusion of these two.
“I’m also inspired by a lot of artists, some well-known, some not. On the more famous side are Frank Stella, Keith Haring, Andy Warhol and Ellsworth Kelly. I’m also a fan of prominent street artists Banksy and Roadsworth.”
When did you realize that street art was how you wanted to express yourself?
“Sometime in early 2013. Up until then I’d never held a can of spray paint, and so I started working on canvas to get my chops up. A few months later I ventured outside with the poodle in Duboce Park.
“I gravitated towards multi-color stencil paintings both because I like the aesthetic and because I saw a few pieces that inspired me: a tabby cat painting on 14th near Sanchez; the lotería paintings in Little Chihuahua by Gavin Worth; and, most of all, the hundreds of koi on the sidewalks of San Francisco by Jeremy Novy.
“I also gravitated towards multi-color stencil paintings because I thought I could use them to do something new and unique.”
What area do you live in? Does that have any effect on any of your projects?
“I moved into the Mission a few months ago, and I find the area inspiring. Not only are there a lot of murals, but there is a whole scene of tagging and sticker art ('slaps') of which I was previously unaware. While I’d consider most of this activity vandalism, there are a few folks I really enjoy, like Zamar, Cry Tuff, Mynx, Sad Cloud, Creeptopus and Plantrees.
“I’m not sure yet exactly how this is going to affect my projects, but I’m definitely thinking about it. I’m mostly excited to work in the area because there are a lot of other artists active around me.”
How did the ladybug art idea come about?
“It’s surprisingly hard to find things that make sense when viewed from above. When you think about it, you look at most things from the side. This is what struck me as so clever about the koi — they make perfect sense on the sidewalk.
“I have an informal rule that I only paint on public property (or on private property with owner permission). And there’s a lot more horizontal public property (e.g. roads and sidewalk) than vertical (e.g. walls). So while I was painting on park walls and Muni walls, I was brainstorming ideas for the ground. First I did the fried eggs, and I painted a few of those around the Mission. Finally I came up with the idea of doing bugs, and the ladybug was born.
“I try to create art that people in the community will appreciate. Big graffiti letterform pieces are great for the Inner Mission but not (in my opinion) for Alamo Square and the Divisidero corridor. That’s just not the vibe I get from Nopa or Bar Crudo or The Mill. I’m hoping people view the ladybugs as a complement to the park, not a detriment."
The ladybugs were painted over. How does that make you feel as an artist? Is that part of the process for you?
“Having your artwork painted over is a reality of the medium, but that doesn’t mean I like it. My goal is to create pieces that people will love and want to stay.
"There are some things I’ve painted that the city is literally preserving. They will cover up graffiti on the same wall or on the same sidewalk but leave mine alone. I’m not sure how this happens, or who makes these decisions, but it’s incredibly gratifying. There are other things I paint, however, that I know will be removed within days, like the Dr. Seuss fish flying down the Muni stairs. In this particular case I liked that concept so much, and so many people saw them in those few days, that I was happy with the outcome.
"In the case of the ladybugs, I’m honestly a little disappointed that Alamo Square didn’t decide to leave them. But three weeks is a fairly good run, and the park isn’t going anywhere.”
What sort of reactions or experience are you hoping people who encounter your art have?
“I want people to view them as beautiful art. I want people to smile.
“One of the aspects of street art that I love is that it is up to the beholder to decide whether something is art or vandalism. Two people can look at the same thing and come to two very different conclusions. I want people look at my works and think they are art.”
Are you planning on more Alamo Square projects, or any other projects in the area?
“I am, but I’ll let them be a surprise!”